The rishta ordeal: “Quick, name all of the different kinds of pulao that exist today.”

Published: January 27, 2015

Let’s face it. The rishta process is all about hooking the right fish.

When he first sauntered into the room, his family in tow, I was spellbound. He had these beautiful eyes, the colour of milk chocolate, and a smile that could illuminate an entire block. He had just the right height, and by the way he acknowledged my mother, I could tell that he was quite a gentleman.

Instantly, I was certain that this was it, that after many exasperating months of encountering families and their obnoxious sons, I had finally met “the one”.

And then he went and ruined it: He opened his mouth.

He could have said anything, really. He could have said that my eyes twinkled in a way that made him think of him of stars in the night sky. He could have said that my perfume reminded him of sweet clementine in the winter. He could have simply commented on the aesthetics of the room, and how the furniture was coordinated so well that it brought good Feng Shui into our small abode.

But instead he said,

Chai achi hai.

(The tea is good.)

And that marked the end of our relatively brief relationship.

Let’s face it, the rishta process is all about hooking the right fish. It’s about permitting the invasion of your home and your privacy, about keeping your mouth shut unless the conversation has been directed towards you – which dictates your future role in his house, seen but not heard – and most of all, about looking like a China doll, because every mother-in-law wants a delicate bahu (daughter-in-law). You need to have the appetite of an anorexic girl, the face of an angel, and you must not be taller than the boy because, Heaven forbid, he looks like your younger brother.

I could see my potential mother-in-law eyeing me throughout the small talk, mentally crossing off a list of things that I should have been but was clearly not. It suddenly dawned upon me that she no longer wished to be there, that she had walked into someone else’s dwelling expecting so much better, that she had not prepared an exit strategy. And just like that, we both suddenly wanted the same thing; for their family to leave.

I had found an ally.

I suppose the irony in all of this is that she had been the one to insist on meeting in the first place. I could tell that the conversation displeased her; that she had imagined a scenario where she would have done most of the speaking instead of sitting quietly, clutching her tea cup with white knuckles. But I was relieved. Had she been the one to direct the conversation, it might have gone something like this:

“Quick, name all of the different kinds of pulao that exist today.”

“Yes, I do want a religious bahu, but tell me your star sign anyways.”

Haye Khuda, no woman in this family has worked after marriage! But you do have a Master’s degree at least, don’t you?”

“A math degree? Circumference? Two Pi R? Save it for the rotis!”

“Women? Equal roles? Working? Astaghfirullah! Azfar, take me back to Hamid’s house. At least his daughter didn’t know how to speak this angrezi wangrezi.”

“Yes, I understand that you think that saving the endangered polar bear species in the Arctic is important, but right now, all I can focus on is how you didn’t make these samosas!”

“You must at least be able to tell me the difference between kaleji and kalongi?”

“Oh, co-education? I see. Chalo, Azfar, we are leaving!”

While I would have liked to see her storm off after hearing about my opinion on co-education, and hence put an end to this terrible episode, I instead resolved to see how the rest of this would play out. I mean, if you asked me, I think that the rishta process should be a two-way one. If they can stop by and window shop for a bahu, we should be permitted to do some sight-seeing as well.

If they can interview me and dig into my personal life, shouldn’t I be allowed to poke around their backyards too?

And then I heard my father question the young man on the number of zeroes on his pay check, while my mother’s face contorted as she tried to guess the price of the suit he had been wearing. And suddenly, I wasn’t so certain about who would suffer more throughout this ordeal― me or him.

At the end of the day, when complexions would take precedence over convictions, and prosperity would be more valuable than dexterity, I certainly hoped that they wouldn’t judge me by their inability to comprehend my diction, or my feministic notions. I hoped that they would see past their absurd standards of how tall or attenuated I should be, because they themselves had neither features, despite their own reservations.

But what the rejection could be based on, what would make it acceptable and understandable, was the fact that a rainy day could make me think of nature’s profound diversity, while all they would think of would be pakoras and hot pudina (mint) chai.

Insiya Meherally

Insiya Meherally

A 17-year-old aspiring journalist who is a perfectionist when it comes to making desserts. She is an avid cartoonist and an infuriatingly humble troublemaker.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Almas

    Awesome Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Kinda getting tired of all the women/pseudo women who think that they are “abused” during the rishta procedure.
    Here is a very very very very very very small , miniscule and generally tiny glimpse of what the boy goes through.
    Does your suit fit you like Brad Pitt’s? no?
    Are you light skinned? No?
    Do you own any land? No?
    Do you have any investments in any good company? No?
    How much do you earn? Above 1 lac?
    How much do you earn? Below 1 lac? Good bye.
    What is your caste? (Insert any caste here cuz no matter what the answer they will demean you). (insert any derogatory word here)Recommend

  • bleh

    arent you a bit too young for the trolley trauma to begin?Recommend

  • Asad

    Good job, girl! *salutes*
    Study well, follow your dreams and be someone in life. Everything else comes later!


  • soharab

    I really did like the chai :-). mommy thought you were too “Modern” though.Recommend

  • Saeen

    You have amazing observation AND Imagination!Recommend

  • Malik Abdul Rehman

    this is so bad even “supriya arcot” won’t like it Recommend

  • Ann

    Sweetheart you have a great talent for writing. Keep up the good work and don’t let any Aunty ever let you down.. (y)Recommend

  • hira

    You’re 17. Focus on the books!

  • Shoaib

    A rishta for a 17 year old? Good lord! What has the world come to! Anyway, best of luck to the author on becoming a journalist.Recommend

  • dirtybeam

    Liked your writing style and sympathize with your/his ordeal. But you let me down when I came to know that you’re a 17 year old kid who agreed to an interview for marriage… Is marrying at that age even legal?? Even if it is, don’t do it! Get an education and a decent job first… form your perspectives about other aspects of life too! Else you’ll just end up as a baby factory… you can do better than this! :_(Recommend

  • Malveros

    In reality women should know how to cook and make tea. If they are a disaster in the kitchen then they are unfit for marriage.Sorry to say it but that is how it is. It is the responsibility of the mothers to train their daughters from the relevant age.Recommend

  • Muhammed Waqar Younis

    Guess life is a hell huh…Recommend

  • “But what the rejection could be based on, what would make it acceptable and understandable, was the fact that a rainy day could make me think of nature’s profound diversity, while all they would think of would be pakoras and hot pudina (mint) chai.”

    Well said! The only valid reason to forgive someone for coming into your house, judge you, and leave.Recommend

  • Working Woman

    CO education??? seriously.. almost every other school in the street of Lahore is effering co-ed environmentRecommend

  • Rameez Zafar

    So you are 17 and still going through the rishta thing?? and those type of questions are utter exaggeration!Recommend

  • Rameez Zafar

    Well these are the typical topics you have to write on before you can enter the bloggers club. Next comes a couple of pieces like NFP and Bang you are a Paki Blogger. Ready to brag about it in your social circle.Recommend

  • Miss syed

    Let’s put it this way. I am a journalism student, working full time in an MNC as a Service Manager. One potential mother in law calls up my mother and asks her if i were a student of so and so school, upon receiving the reply in the negative she simply said, they weren’t interested. I mean Cm’on!
    in other instances, a Mother in law said, she need a shouq and chal chal larki ( yea right! ) because i happen to be a bit sober.
    As a person in the HR department. I have to say one thing.. People Are Weird!
    good luck to everyone!Recommend

  • Muhammed Waqar Younis

    All I know that Women need nothing but Cooking and Tea making skills and Beauty which perhaps every women has without even Knowing it, and Men need Money, Car, Land, House and not to mention Super Handsome looks to go thru all this, Mother in laws have no place in Relationships so they will ALWAYS Criticize…Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    The ET mods removed ALL the answers which the people give to boys after hearing a “No” response. I have no idea why ET editors edited my comment to its present shape. As it contained nothing demeaning to anyone and was based on personal accounts of many of my friends I was pretty sure it would have been put through.Recommend

  • Grace

    As for your comment of caste, I think you are mistaken with India. People in Pakistan care about race and tribe but “caste” is not an issue among native Pakistanis. I know that Urdu speakers in Karachi (maybe like the author) look for “Syed” caste but I know my Pashtun relatives only want to know what tribe another family is from and their financial or educational status. No tribe is considered high caste or low caste like in India.Recommend

  • Amrita Yasin

    In reality everyone should know how to cook and make tea. If they are a disaster in the kitchen then they are unfit for marriage.Sorry to say it but that is how it is. It is the responsibility of the mothers to train their children from the relevant age.Recommend

  • I haven’t read anything from a “pseudo woman” yet. I also didn’t know they were on the rishta market in Pakistan; we must be more accepting than I thought.Recommend

  • L.

    On wow. Sorry bro. Recommend

  • annaZ

    i enjoyed ur rightup good job girl!!Recommend

  • Rizwan Liaqat

    You’re 17 and you have a Masters degree. Right.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Err .. Am flattered by your attentions and observations about me …. When I dont like something , I simply dont comment . Now coming to my comments.. I like the writing style but I find the sub a bit cliched and boring . :)Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I am afraid you are mistaken. Perhaps I have written caste and you are thinking about the caste system of India. I am sorry about the ambiguity.
    In Pakistan we have castes such as “JUTT”, “Rajpoot”, “Syed” etc etc. And most of the time you will be rejected on the spot if you are not from the caste which the rishta people are looking for. Some castes do marry other castes but even those will only marry into specific castes.Recommend

  • Np

    The term is chanchal NOT chal chal.Recommend

  • Gp65

    A 17 year old with Master’s degree? This should be in the poetic license section.Recommend

  • Malveros

    Nope not everyone or all children. The topic in discussion is women and the the writer is a woman. Stick to the topic.Recommend

  • Hameed

    Good writing skills but very old and done to death topic.Recommend

  • Name

    This is actually the best “rishta” blog I have read so far.Recommend

  • samira

    Excellent work!Recommend

  • Maria

    What’s really odd is that you expect that the type of people who propose to a 17 year old teenager would behave in an educated manner! After all what type of questions do you expect from people who are looking for a teenaged bride?Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    No it does not work like this Pakistan.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    umm, yeah it doesRecommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    Maybe yes a small fraction does that. But it is negligible. So NO, it does not work like this in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Khawar

    You’re right, it does. A lot. Recommend