Love in a time of rishta aunties

Published: November 4, 2010

Is wedded bliss about love or getting everyone to shut up?

I am strongly resisting the temptation to make sweeping statements, but as a general rule I find nowhere else in the world is individuality and free thinking penalised as it is in the land of the pure.

From school when the teacher frowned at your blatant use of ‘imagination’, to the fear inducing lessons with maulvi sahib, to adulthood when society already has your course of life charted out and heaven’s forbid if you should dare to deviate.

Yes, I cannot think of a society that has a more perverted notion of life; fervently abiding to religious practise whilst ignoring the spirit behind it, reducing education to vicious competitiveness not self growth and enlightenment, harbouring absolute deference towards dictators and absolute abhorrence for our representatives. Point being that this is the essence of Pakistaniat; a deep mistrust of free will and thinking and firm devotion to conformity and empty practise.

We may believe we are cocooned from this perverted psychology until it begins to infiltrate our lives, shape our perceptions of ourselves and influence the most important decisions we will ever make.Nobody can cheapen and corrupt the institution of marriage like we can. Just look at how it’s played out; you are inducted into the rishta meat market like a commodity to be traded, meetings with rishta aunties ensue so they can appraise your value in terms of your ‘vital’ statistics i.e. age, social status, what your daddy owns, whom your daddy knows, so on and so forth.

Once you have been sized up and appropriately labelled, the hunt for the ‘suitable’ bachelor begins and soon you’re inviting total strangers to your home to scrutinize you, gauge what prosperity this match could bestow upon them and then politely depart only to wait for them to pass judgement.

Even those who have not wilfully inducted themselves to be traded like bakras are not insulated from the pervasive rishta culture. Increasingly at weddings, iftaris, heck even funerals you come across women, barely familiar with your name, having no qualms in assaulting you with disturbingly personal questions. It is almost as if, having dared to not conform to the societal norm of ‘settling’ before twenty five warrants punishment in the form of a Spanish Inquisition of your personal life.

Some argue, isn’t this the norm the world over?

Are not most women foremost identified with their roles as mothers or wives? No man is safe from the incessant pestering by his family to settle down; then why give Pakistan a bad rap? Well my gripe is not with this pressure but how in its wake a misogynist, downright repressive culture has taken shape that is not only corroding the institution of marriage but perpetuating a highly class based mindset and society.

Not to suggest that the rishta game is a joyride for the guys, but speaking from a female’s perspective I have to say that it proves especially detrimental to any sane woman’s sense of self worth.  A woman maybe a lecturer, an entrepreneur, an activist; she has qualities at par with any man and is most certainly celebrated amongst her peers for her intellect, abilities and nature. However when it comes to the rishta market she is stripped of all this and judged on only the labels that matter; age, looks and who her daddy is?

The most demeaning thing is how we are packaged and advertised on the basis of a few labels, which in no way define the depth and richness of our true nature. If I were to send out an advertisement for a best friend, how can I possibly quantify which characteristics and ‘labels’ that person must possess to qualify. I mean barring all those with a perversion akin to Paris Hilton, most of us would agree that a true friend has nothing to do with superficial labels like their education, number of siblings, income; then why does this disgusting psychology dictate us when we are looking for one of the most significant persons in our life?

Possibly because the goal of the rishta game is not to find a companion, but a person who can effectively fulfil a certain role i.e. bread winner or home maker. This approach is losing relevance especially now since for many couples both partners shoulder the financial burden and participate in domestic work, the distinction in functions is beginning to blur.

On the contrary as women are becoming more self reliant and rounded individuals, the need of the proverbial knight in shining armour is diminishing. Implying they are no longer motivated by the need to be saved or financial security alone but the need for meaningful companionship and emotional security. How can this be gauged through the rishta game where all talk is about salaries, status and financial responsibilities is beyond me.

As a society our standards for valuing the worth of an individual are upside down and the rishta game is the most telling example. I bet many of us can think of countless incidents when a rishta was rejected because the girl’s parents were divorced, her brother was jobless, were not Jatt or Syeds; curiously this rishta brigade punishes individuals for circumstances they have inherited and have no need to be apologetic about, but overlooks glaring faults that might be entirely their own doing like materialism, superficiality, small-mindedness.

In order to evolve as a collective we need to question this rishta mentality and practise. Who is it serving? Is the overwhelming feeling of inadequacy over your ‘flaws’, the  fear to get hitched before your ‘expiry’ date or the hideous obsession with fitting into some socially acceptable mould resulting in successful marriages or happy people? Finding a partner like choosing a career path should be a journey of self discovery. You should operate from a place of inner peace and strength, not fear and close-mindedness.

Surely the more myopic your vision, the more petty your mindset, the more likely you are to live a life that maybe ‘great on paper’ but so very lacking in every other way.


Farheen Hussain

A development activist based in Lahore. She is also training to become a documentary filmmaker.

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

  • Tippu

    An excellent article.

    Fully agree with your view that the thought process of our society is warped with excessive focus on money and status. And as a guy, i for one was shocked when asked point blank how much i earned by the girls moms in pakistan. And after the initial few rude assaults of this nature, i delibrately started understating my income just to judge reactions. And they still wouldnt stop pestering and kept at it!! i felt like throwing up and im sure most guys do. Especially those not used to the societal norms back home.

    There is no harm in the rishta brigade. If nothing else, it taught me which women would NOT be suitable for me. It is fairly easy to determine a persons values in a few short meetings. And pay heed to the danger bells if they start ringing.

    At the end of the day, it is our own fault if we make the wrong choices based upon materialism and reject values and character. The focus on wealth is the norm is pakistan and the country is going down the drain for it. Same applies to rishta brigare and marriage. But it is easy to break away and choose values, materialism be damned. I did.Recommend

  • Aliyah

    I completely agree with you. A lot of girls in Pakistan can relate to your article, but that said we pretty much have to live with this system the way it is. Even if our parents care for us and dislike the way things are, we have to go through the motions anyway in order to survive in this society.

    A lot of people will be able to appreciate the article, but too bad no mix of words can change the way things are. Good luck on getting a Syed to marry a non-Syed and thereby pollute their blood and progeny with that of lesser, less holy mortals.

    It’s funny how there are so many desi guys like you said, totally ready for the joyride, demanding a girl tall, fair, “sharif”, when they themselves are short, chubby, dark, and morally corrupt. Not going to change. I hope for the sake of all girls out there that God keeps them safe from all the sickos out there…but this part of the world is overrun by them. Recommend

  • Hamza A. Khan

    Bla bla bla bla bla. Kuch samajh nahi lagi what was the point you were trying to make.Recommend

  • Atika Rehman

    I echo your sentiments completely. Honest and well-written :)Recommend

  • Raza Zaidi

    Nicely written, certainly making the point, though IMHO we need to visit background/root causes for a better comprehension of current scenario, as a matter of fact our society is in transition, priorities are changing rapidly mainly for socio-economic reasons, lots of changes are getting social acceptance however the issue under discussion is complex being extremely important for reasons well known to us, we can see many good or bad practices fizzling away, perhaps societies take more time and effort to change certain habits side by side, we need not to forget that contemporary western social system of choosing significant other is not very successful and not producing good results in promoting family oriented lifestyle, maybe its better to be cautious and try not to rush things in the name of change Recommend

  • Farheen

    Thanks guys, i’m glad you appreciated it.

    @ Hamza if you dont see the point, you dont see the pointRecommend

  • Amer

    Well said Farheen. Totally agree with you.
    Sometimes if a guy wants to marry a girl of his choice or the other way around, the family or the parents would object to it no matter what but if the parents would have found the same rishta then it would have been all good and wonderful. The point I am trying to make is that there is no appreciation for individualism in our society & mindset. But there are also alot of predators in the society who would feast on the naivety of young people, so a decision that would affect you for the rest of your life should be made with the consent of the parents as well since they are more mature etc.Recommend

  • SadafFayyaz

    Very well written and balanced write up……………..loved the last para spe……….Recommend

  • Muhammad Rameez Javed

    i cant agree more…. it seems that the writer has written every single word,what i wanted to say….. great one….. :)Recommend

  • Summaiya

    ‘Likes’ :)Recommend

  • Amer

    Reading your article the only other society that was coming to my mind is the Arab world in general and Saudi Arabia in particular. I have spend some of my childhood & teen years in Saudi Arabia. Although I never mixed opened with the Saudi people except for the kids who used to hang out at study places (library) etc, I always had the feeling of being trapped in a cage when I was a teenager. Now that I have matured more, I understand that societies like these use anything in their power to shoot down individuality & try to control their members by any means possible. In the land of the pure and the Saudi society, this is mostly done thru the distorted interpertation of religion and culture.

    Below link is a case in point:

    This story from Saudi Arabia shows that a society can go to any lengths to squash freedoms if they don’t approve of your individual choice, no matter how valid your choice maybe. They will use any means to do so.
    I am not all against the rishta culture either, not every one has to fall in love or find the right person at the right time etc. But the way that this rishta business has evolved in our society is despicable. Recommend

  • Adil

    Very well said Farheen! Our society can’t stoop lower when it comes to rishtas.

    Girls unfortunately are treated as commodities, rarely given the opportunity to voice their preferences or permitted to disagree with the decisions of their so-called “elders” more importantly.

    I just hate at how most rishtas are made, with the girl and guy hardly knowing anything about one another. In fact, instead of calling it a rishta market, a Rishta Casino would be more appropriate. Gambles take place every day, with some winning and the rest losing. And u cant hedge your gamble either, cuz our society despises basic freedom and the right to divorce.

    I just hope young guys and girls get hold of more independence and choose what they want instead of succumbing to societal norms and living in hell for the rest of their lives…. Recommend

  • Yasser Chattha

    …Ms Farheen, a nice attempt if picture had one side only. We being a society expert to be shelter ourselves in the shady umbrella of self-pity, lose sight of the bigger picture. You’ve very well portrayed the ugly scene from one gender’s perspective. But you know, the hollowness of our ‘towering personalities’ exposes itself also when it comes in the case of boys searching for a soul mate through these rishta-brokers. Many people have really reduced such vital task of life just a Sunday Bazaar; not seeing what’s compatible but as an important ‘business’ opportunity to maximize their social, economic capital.Through this they seek not finding two people having same ‘mind frequency’ but envision how a Mammon’s paradise can be negotiated. It’s disgusting that parents of boys as well as of girls little see origins of happiness beyond coffers of money.

    Marriage should be shown mercy to remain just a viable relation ; it must be shunned as an instrument for social mobility. Girl-boy both side’s parents most often are found morally exposed on such a vital ‘life’s milestone’.Recommend

  • Salman

    @Farheen: Seems very heart felt, if you are single though, get in touch, this might just be the way our families get off our backs. If I have to conform to societal standards, then be it, I am well travelled, earn fairly well, and my dad used to know a fair few people – he’s now retired.


  • Adeel Ahmed

    Its sad but true.

    We are stuck in between morality and lack of it.
    If we try to have a love marriage… it most certainly leads to or starts off with immorality. Lets not deny it. Honestly.
    If we try to be “moral” and have an arranged marriage… we are subjected to the trauma above mentioned… girls more than guys (but trust me, even guys don’t like going to females and getting introduced only to then reject them later, or get rejected, or even worst, liking the girl and the family saying no)…

    Is there a middle ground though? Cant we have both? A completely moral, Islamic love marriage? Recommend

  • Mohammad

    It is a question of and how long society takes to accept that change. We will see a turn around in the middle class in the next generation. Though, I am afraid, the majority of our country will continue to deal in live stock ( brides to be ) .

    It was this sickening system that eventually saw my family taking a stand and simply not giving a damn about our society. My sister married an Irishman and I myself married a Russian.

    We have a beautiful family and its amazing to see the diversity which we all really cherish. We still get the odd looks and the typical “desi” personal questions. Fortunately, we are not polite with such people and they seldom tread the same path again with us :)Recommend

  • Ali Usman

    Lol, let me guess, the writer has faced “many a rejections”, hence the disillusionment :pRecommend

  • Akbar

    Agreed and these things are part and parcel of a Hippocratic society!Recommend

  • Beenish

    Thumbs up! Well written!Recommend

  • Shumaila

    Individuality has a lot to do with being individual. What I mean is, if you can’t think differently about marriage and stand up to society’s rules, you won’t. And those who truly value being individual are going to do so whatever names society calls them. Why decry the system? It will last as long as it is required.

    If you are confident enough yourself, the rishta market with its hassling aunties should not affect you. They don’t determine your worth – you do. And individuality is about confidence.

    So though you’ve written a good article, and while I agree that the rishta business is tedious, demeaning and entirely too class-based, I don’t really see the point of reasserting what everyone already knows. Recommend

  • MK

    Good going Farheen :) As a female, who’s been in the “uncomfortable” drawing room situations numerous times, I know just how awful it is to be looked at and evaluated on a 5 minute conversation – I assume its not easy for the guy either. The problem, thought, as you rightly point out, is not with the existence of an ‘arranged marrage system’ per se. Rather, the problem pins down to what parents and at times even the groom/bride to be, WANT in their potential partner. Unfortunately, no matter what economic class you look at, it boils down to your family status, money, and obviously looks. Who cares about values, kindness of human nature and your personality? Case in point – just have a look at the matrimonial section in all newspapers – all they wants are ‘tall, educated, fair, slim’ cookie-cutter cows..oops i mean girls. Its time we try to change what we desire. Recommend

  • Komal

    Amazing. Thanks for writing this.

    The point about enlightenment being the goal of education is especially pertinent. One possible beginning of a solution to this problem might be to introduce philosophy lessons in school, or at least in university (we don’t even have that, for Christ’s sake!).

    There is no civilization without philosophy.Recommend

  • Jahanzeb Afzal

    I’m impressed with your vocabulary but please try to write with some simple words.Recommend

  • Beenish Tufail Cheema

    couldn’t agree more.Recommend

  • Rehan Khan

    Hard hitting article .. sometimes hitting below the belt. Your critical approach to certain situations is based on your assumptions and undocumented assertions. Your analysis also lacks any quantitative authentic and verifiable social demographic study.

    From a literary and academic perspective it is sad to realise that, as it is, your stance is heavily one sided.

    Although it is a well written article, yet there are irregularities in your structure of the piece as well.

    It cannot be helped but felt by the reader that you are targetting the whole of the Paksitani nation when you talk about this interesting issue that you chose to write on. This is a fallacy and a bad arguement when looked at from a logical perspective, called a fallacy of generalisation. You have generalised your observations over 170 million Pakistanis and sensationalised the issue in order to gain majority of the public approval. Thus, in doing so you manage to generate more readers i.e. by writing articles that shove mud on your own country.

    I am sure there are more universally acceptable ways of writing that you may be aware of better than me. I implore you to write carefully. You have what it takes to write, use it wisely so it is more constructive rather than destructive. Criticise with some recommendations as well so that you give an alternative solution.

    Warm Regards

    Pakistani a reader-

  • kk

    @Hamza A. Khan:
    Read it again. Recommend

  • Atif

    Good article but as usual the self-bashing. Guess this doesn’t happen in India, Banglades, Maldives, Sri Lanka, etc etc.

    So baring the self bashing of “pakistaniyat” agree with most of the other parts.Recommend

  • Falak

    @Ms. Farheen:

    You know what the junk food is?
    The food that may satiate your appetite but may not be good for your hunger!

    Two thumbs up! Keep up the good work! Recommend

  • Farheen

    Thanks everyone, i’m so touched that it resonated with so many people, especially women :) had so much fun reading through all your comments.

    @ Rehan: If i was submitting an article for an academic journal i would’ve done the required qualitative and quantitative analysis you’ve mentioned but this is a blog post and at no point am i pretending its a scientific study. Btw academic studies on arranged marriages/rishta meat market actually do exist and their quite enlightening.

    @ Atif: self critique or analysis is not self bashing. If I had more word space I would have been able to more clearly link how the rishta mentality stems from our general inclination towards conformity and close mindedness. this mentaility rules most of our major decisions in life. How many of us have been tortured to choose only those careers that will translate into fat salaries and prestige, instead of taking the time to discover what genuinely excites us and giving it our everything? Just like we put societal acceptance/’honor’ above our own wellbeing in choosing a partner, we do the same in choosing a career and many other things. we should do away with this stupid obsession and question who is it serving at the end of the day?Recommend

  • Rubab

    @Ali Usman – Lemme guess, you are a smug “raj dulara” of some bling-flashing, fake-smiling marriage-mart-hunter auntie! :p

    Great work Farheen. You echo the sentiments of most females around, even if they may be too cautious to voice these views themselves. I’m happy though that an increasing number of women are refusing to subjugate themselves to a shelf life label and making smart choices.Recommend

  • Yasser Chattha

    @MK….Laurels to you, you’ve touched the nerve centre of all the malady but your take may not find space in ours print or electronic media as they need digestible and appealing to an average cognitive stomach’.

    @Rehan….dear, Ms Farheen had rightly defended on yours extra-contextual use of analytical tools. With due respect, you’re sounding fine but in an ‘unright time and out of place context’.

    @Many Female Readers: there’s more self-pity sounding in your comments than the situation warrants. It isn’t only one gender’s issue. The girl-gazer mother too was once a daughter and an elder married sister of a brother too’suffere(d) the slings and arrows,,,of (the) outrageous time; but when she and an elder sister adveture drawing rooms armed with the same shining weaponary they show themselves up too as ‘Dames sans mercy’ as if they were to avenge themselves on yet another poor soul and thus perpetuating the stink.Recommend

  • Khurram

    @Hamza A. Khan:

    You’re that guy who takes the microphone at every event and has to ask a question, purely for the sake of a question, right?

    I think we’ve met before.


  • sana naseer shaikh

    @sana naseer shaikh:
    well said!Recommend

  • Adnan

    Probably one of the best articles I have read in a long long time… You are so right…. Recommend

  • Anum

    This is a well-written article about a rather well-know state of affairs; pertaining to match-making in our society. It raises up a lot of points apart from the subject matter of the article- and those, I believe, deserve more of our attention. Simplistically speaking, as a society, we are becoming increasingly materialistic- for whatever reason- perhaps because of the prevalant insecurity/ instablility in the country or just because we are losing sight of what’s truly valuable in life- and hence, overly focusing on material gains. That said, this materialism culture is what is reflected and prevalent in the rishta-seeking game which is not necessarily inappropriate in itself- but it is the approach that people have to seeking a rishta, that is, as the article points out, giving value/ importance to things that shouldn’t truly matter all that much- money, looks, age.
    Secondly, only we can be held responsible for falling prey to these unreasonable ways of society. In order to break free of the norm, you can’t afford to be like a sheep in the herd. One can make good choices for oneself by not succumbing into this rishta-rhetoric.
    Moreover, I agree with Komal- what we truly need is education (And philosophy would be a great subject to have in classes- teaching and encouraging us to at least learn to think- and think for ourselves- and importantly, be open-minded to ideas and possibilities). But it is not just going to schools/ college/ universities that is enough. Educating oneself also means to remain open to learning no matter what your age- for example, in this context, one may say that most of us (espeically unmarried people) do not truly think about or know what a marraige is all about- because no one ever seems to question it much. In our culture, it is assumed that you would ‘just know’ how to make a marraige work and what companionship in a marraige truly means- but I think that whereas some of us are gifted enough to ‘just know’ what to do- most of us are likely to be confused and coping up in ways that make us unhappy. It doesn’t have to be like that. And educating ourselves is key to these problems.
    In the West, there is a greater rate of divorce- even as people have the liberty to choose their own life-partners. This is reason enough to ponder that a successful and happy marraige is not just about having the liberty to choose a life-partner. One may argue that in Pakistan, women/ men may be more enduring- stay commited to marraige even if they are unhappy and hence, the lower rate of divorce. Regardless of the argument, the point here is that one needs to give marraige some serious thought in order to understand it for what it is. This is important I believe because afterall, all this hassle is regarding marraige- and it is only wise to know what one is doing before taking the plunge. I’d recommend reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book- “Commited: A skeptic makes peace with marraige.”Recommend

  • Sanya

    Very true.

    Marriage is not a strong institution of the society like it used to be previously. Its the fulfilment of a contract. What could be more .. stupid?
    We are becoming increasingly unrealistic and are heading towards this insane form of materialism. We dont really care about the person, just about his/her looks, age. It’s like the human intellect has been lowered to the worst possible way of thinking and yet, it doesnt realize the dangers associated with it.

    All of this has led to people – including me – look at the institution of marriage with skeptism. It doesn’t interest me anymore. It’s just two people coming together because aunties and parents want them too. There is no exchange of ideas, words, passion. It’s just ridiculously unnecessary social events and aunties butting in.

    @Hamza A. Khan, You are a simpleton. Nothing can be done about it. Stop wasting your time on these blogs. Go play.Recommend

  • Rehan Khan

    Dear Farheen,

    Yes i am sure there must be literature on your side of the debate for sure. I am simply pointing out the other side that your article does not address.
    Some believe healthy debate is the essence of intellectual growth. The article did generate enough interest amongst some readers to comment on it. It is this diversity ( of opinion, action, belief, culture, insight ) that does seem to be bring richness to a debate. Some might find it difficult to digest a one sided perspective, wouldnt you agree ?

    Although, such pieces are popular, yet some would argue that it is not always the popular perception which is the right one. There is an emerging body of authentic, verifiable literature suggesting ideas like Media and Sensationalisation, Media strategies to enhance sales which may prove to be an interesting read. Media and ethics ( which includes researched work ) is what makes the essence of a responsible media.

    Sure the issue ( although it seemed the writer attempts to take up all issues in one ) does exist, sure the piece managed to attract attention, yet it is unfortunate that like so many authors it also criticises only to make a name for itself without putting more directioned effort in, and in the process further depletes the image of my country ( Try reading : Paletz & Schmid, 1992). I wonder what the reasons are behind this culture of writing being fast accepted in Pakistan? It is also documented by Hall, through employing methods like Content Analysis, that articles ( blogs in this case ) further magnify a sense of urgency / chaos / loss amongst the local masses
    and thus brings character / image depletion of the country in the international arena. This has intense implications like a fall in FDI, international tourism etc (Ref: Regina Schyvens).

    I am all for freedom of the media but it is the responsible media that matters. Hope my research findings put a dent, even if a meagre one, in the stronghold of a brewing culture of ill-directed criticism which also happens to be un-verifiable.

    Please try to re-feel the heaviness of the responsibility as a writer. Try looking at this issue while standing in my boots.

    Warm Regards Recommend

  • Shahid Batalvi

    Love it. Well said and well written.
    Here you go Farheen:
    This is one rishta aunty who has my vote.Recommend

  • feather brained

    @Jahanzeb Afzal…. this is what i was about to write…. =D
    @Hamza A. Khan….. go back to sleep! (”,)Recommend

  • Anum

    @Rehan Khan:
    This is a very interesting comment- and I just read your earlier comment as well. It would be no surprise to find out through actual studies (if they are ever conducted) for this article to be highly misrepresentative of Pakistan/ Pakistani culture… because… if I am not mistaken, over 60% of the country’s population belongs to the rather impoverished villages and this article may not apply to how marraige works in those regions. Even as this happens to be a blog post, writing with more sensitivity would indeed be plausible.
    p.s: Mr. Rehan, you appear to be a psychologist and hence study everything under close scrutiny with your Psychology Microscope :) …most of us tend to just pass by these little but pertinent obervations of our daily life which are so telling of who we are and how we behave- and not to forget the whys? :)Recommend

  • Farheen

    @Rehan: Firstly I have looked through your references and found they were referring to a seperat issue on ‘terrorism and media’ that has nothing to do with what you are saying. This aside your criticism would be warranted if I were using my opinions in a policy brief, academic paper or some commissioned study. But I am not, this is a blog, its point being to voice your opinion and open it to public debate. It may resonate with some and others may rip it apart. Its just food for thought and I think its about time that we open up such taboo issues to public debate, this is the hallmark of a free thinking and progressive society.

    you’ve said that my writing borders on sensationalism and such criticism results in image depeletion of our country in the international arena eventually resulting in loss in FDI and tourism ???? You are right from now on for the sake of upholding a ‘soft image’ so the tourists dont run away lets all maintain a facade of perfection and sweep all the dirt under the rug. Self criticism and analysis is such a downer.Recommend

  • Seher

    we know – we condemn – we weep – and yet we surrender!

    it isnt a tale of yesterday – it has been more like a forever story!Recommend

  • Pocahontas

    so true seher!!! =\Recommend

  • Klues

    A common blunder we Pakistanis do when looking for rishta is let girl know first thing she is being considered for rishta. They should to their homework first and then approach. First thing they see the girl then find excuses and mismatches. Imagine putting someone in position of being rejected multiple times. I think Islam teaches against being inconsiderate toward other’s feeling. We need to change. Recommend

  • Lover’s quarrel

    Hello Farheen,

    I understand all too well the pressures of the rishta game. Although, I overcame it. I am happily married to a white convert from Europe, and I’m as desi as desi can get (geographically). Alhamdulillah. I did however, grow up in New York, and developed a rather religious lifestyle, so some of my first priorities were of course, piety, a good character, good sense of humor, etc. I couldn’t care less where the person was from or what race he was. My parents cared a lot.

    There were times when a rishta guy would qualify for me, and I got slapped back with a reason like “I’m not ready to get married yet.” My sympathy goes out to the guys who have parents, without consulting them, seek brides for their son. I had to go through a series of disappointing levels of rishta games from the time I was 16 years old. I figured this isn’t going to work for me. I had to prepare myself to overcome FEAR, fear of being reprimanded, shunned by my community, disappointing my parents, being disowned, etc. Granted, that took many years of weeping and feeling helpless. It takes a lot of courage to overcome that fear. There were times my fears were so irrational that I contemplated on giving up altogether, but for some reason I kept at it, slowly but surely overcoming these fears.

    An emotional rollercoaster. Who knew finding your other half would be so challenging and emotional? But Alhamdulillah, my parents always considered my opinion and my choice. My dad is really easy to talk to, and he gives me great advice. We would discuss marriage often, it wasn’t a taboo subject in my household. They listened to my concerns, my requirements, and continued to look from there..but the search was still limited to these shallow requirements like salary, looks, family ties, etc. While my requirements were there, there was no shying away from racial discrimination. It irked me to no end that my choices were so limited, and the ones I did take an interest to always had a catch.

    And then I befriended my husband, never had I related more to a person than I did with him. He is amazing, and never ceases to leave me in awe. He is caring, loving, has a great sense of humor, so pious Alhamdulillah, and has a wonderful character. Looks were the least of my concerns, but I was gifted with a little extra — his piercing blue eyes and blonde hair and beard. MashaAllah. We have been married a little more than 4 months now, and my relationship with my parents are good. I also have a good relationship with his parents. They are Swedish, and the friendliest people I have ever met. Very caring and honest. I chose..and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do for a girl who has been pushed in so many directions, never stopping to think what she really wants.

    I don’t blame my parents, nor do I blame the vast majority of people who are victims of these cultural ideologies. I try to put myself in their shoes, because to them, this is all they’ve known, this is normal. They don’t have same access to our line of thinking, where it comes from, etc. Their entire lives are based on a social and community status. It’s really hard to shun what you’ve known all your life, and I empathize with them on this.

    That’s not to say that there haven’t been some very successful rishta inspired marriages, and I applaud two individuals despite how they come together, who try to maintain ties and open their hearts towards making their marriage work.

    Committment and trust are vital keys. I’m pretty sure my parents’ rishta inspired marriage went through some hurdles, just like any marriage, but what gives me hope is how long they’ve managed to stick together despite it all. I admire and love their courage and committment to each other, and I hope only to emulate these traits in my marriage as well.

    -Lover’s quarrelRecommend

  • O Mirza


    A well written article indeed. But I decided to raise my hand as soon as I read the following statement: “Just look at how it’s played out; you are inducted into the rishta meat market like a commodity to be traded, meetings with rishta aunties ensue so they can appraise your value in terms of your ‘vital’ statistics i.e. age, social status, what your daddy owns, whom your daddy knows, so on and so forth.”

    I think you’re missing (ignoring?) the first step of the entire equation – which refers back to the mentality that the girl’s parents hold. An individual (obviously, female, in this case) wouldn’t be ‘introduced’ to the so-called rishta aunties had it not been for the parents (most often, the mothers). Only where there is a demand for such aunties, is the supply created. That’s where the problem lies – the demand, in fact, stems from one’s own home! Despite all the education, open-mindedness, and simple practicality that the girl may have attained, this is clearly in contrast with the parent(s). Hence, the invite to the notorious aunty.

    This, of course, is a personal observation – clearly, others will differ. Nevertheless, the internal dynamics within a girl’s family (and their personal mindset) has in fact let to the flurry of these profit-making rishta aunties. Hence, the blame, in many (not all) cases, probably lies within their own four walls. Only once that changes, can there be a societal change (one which your article aspires to achieve).

    But, yes, a well written article indeed.

    Happy writing,

    O MirzaRecommend

  • the pinnacle

    A very nice article i must say. Much respect for the writer.

    I am a guy and i have suffered in somewhat similar situation in the sense that my “rishta” was pre-decided by my parents to a girl i didn’t know. When i tried to get to know her it became pretty clear that we were worlds apart. This act wasn’t appreciated by my parents. But when i tried to resist I was met by a firm resistance which included blame for any consequences of my parents’ ill health, by my parents, in case this does not happen.

    The point of telling the long tale is that yes we do raise our voices sometimes but it’s virtually impossible for someone to take the blame for something like that. For women it’s ten times worse since majority of the family consider them as their property on which their pride depends. Unfortunately the thought prevails in even the most educated people and rural areas are much much worse.

    So, maybe a very nice way forward for the people who have hit a dead end, like me, is to make sure that this doesn’t happen to their children or siblings. It requires a major change in thinking of the people. It requires embracing the true essence of the religion and giving everyone their rights and space and above all value human beings.Recommend

  • the pinnacle

    And I find myself in serious disagreement with Mr. Rehan Khan. The logic of the article not fulfilling the academic criterion and your mention of the “other side of the story” do not make sense. The article is meant to highlight a problem in us as a nation. First step towards finding a solution for something that is considered a problem by a few would be diagnosing it first. Equating it to sensationalization or country bashing is not being patriotic by any means.Recommend

  • Mehreen

    The game is rigged, the rishta-brigade just a pawn.

    The class oriented mindset wouldn’t be so prevalent in Pakistan if a high level of education, intellect, and abilities guaranteed you a dignified life, as opposed to your father/husband’s wealth or connections. In a country where daddy’s connections get you the job, where your children’s opportunities in life depend on their proficiency in English, and your safety and security are ensured only by living in a wealthy part of town, it is hardly surprising that people place so much emphasis on superficial characteristics. Meaningful companionship and emotional security are the last thing you care about when the electricity’s gone and there’s no back-up generator to sustain you. Your own financial independence is terribly limiting when there’s no driver to send to the butcher’s and you feel awkward for being the only woman there. Money can’t buy you happiness, but in Pakistan, it’s pretty much the only thing that can buy you a dignified life. Recommend

  • Usama

    As much as I appreciate the author speaking for most of the people my age, I don’t agree that it’s only the ‘females’ that are humiliated and harassed in the process and that “it’s a joyride for guys”. Just because in the past guys used to reject girls based on looks or for whatever reasons doesn’t mean that the case is the same these days too. Our society has evolved much over the time and men and women studying/working/living together is not considered a taboo anymore. That being said, even though it’s the ‘females’ who are sought after by the rishta aunties, even the guys get humiliated by the same aunties when they are trying to fix them up with “khoobsoorat and shareef” girls.
    I also blame the parents who rely on the advice of these aunties. They open up so easily to these aunties and are ready to gamble their child’s lives over the name of “rishta”. Such aunties are why marriage is not considered a pure and honorable act these days as much as it’s considered an inevitable endeavor of our life one must get into.
    As for the love part, we all must realize that we live in an imperfect world. All we do is try to find Mr or Miss Right around us. What we forget is that such beings don’t exist. We all should be open to compromises because surviving with an ideal mate is easy. What’s worth doing is growing with an imperfect mate and keep on making yourself and him/her perfect in the process.Recommend

  • A.A. Haji

    Salam Madam.

    How are you first. Second, I want to advise you to get married so that you can prosper in the worldplace. I want to suggest Minhas to the marriage. Rishtas are great for success and happy.


  • Be the change you wish to see around you!

    You’ve highlighted one of the evils of our society, quite skilfully; but the million-dollar question remains: How would you rather our society behave to find the bahus/damads for their children.

    What social mechanism/protocol would you like to see in place to accomplish the daunting task of choosing the near perfect match for your child in Pakistan?

    My purpose is Not to criticize, or undermine the nuisance value of this system, but to explore a NEW one. I’d be pleased to read an article which portrays a solution, and invites people to share their visions.

    and oh just so you know, the whole ‘love is a time of rishta aunties’ is no walk in the park for men either. Recommend

  • Anisa Dar

    A commendable attempt to elaborate the “looking for rishta” scene through the girl’s perspective.
    But I feel it’s more suited towards indian families and traiditons, as it was never in Islam to introduce a “rishtay wali khala”, but we descend from a time where our ancestors have lived with Indians for a long time,a lot many elements of their matrimony culture have amalgamated with ours. (including dowry i.e. dahej and mehndi/dholkis)Recommend

  • Asad

    Its just sad how you are trying to act too cool for school.. Dont forget ager ap buha modern ho gaye hain tu better move out of the country cuz this is how it happens here.. there is no way girls can go out on a boy hunt themselves as its not allowed in our society or religion ! This is not the only method of getting married and it is one of them .. which even your mothers , aunts.. cousins etc and everyone has gone through n are living happily as they are.. success or no success.. even in love marriages success isnt guaranteed and even if you date a 100 men ..sleep with a million..youre not sure if you ll end up marring them ! Look at the divorce ratio abroad n here .. you ll know the difference.. its no harm if your parents try looking for option from which ever sources.. they arent your enemies.. bakras.. hah .. please its better than being a whore who out to hunt a man down! yes if you find one good for you if you dont no harm in looking for options through the right ways .
    so please cut the crap n snap youre a muslim so talk like one ! non sense Recommend

  • Syed Mohummed

    Assalam u Alaikum,

    Agreed ! 100% true. Its time we must break this ever aging tradition that has no relevance or significance. When planning for marriage we should accept each other just as we are irrespective of our education, background, social status, nature of job and / or income etc

  • Quraishi

    you are a perfect example of one who makes an uneducated association of Islam with the South Asian culture and those who do not comply with these traditions are deemed Un-Islamic/non-muslim! Let me get this straight Islam encourages marriage irrespective of social class/status and all the criterias put down……at other hand social class/caste is more of a Hindu culture. What I find really offensive is what you call women who find their own husband as “whores who hunt their man down”….all I got to say is……just incase you didnt know Khadija; Prophet Muhammed’s (PBUH) wife was the one who initiated the marriage proposal and it was one of the most succesful, sacred, respectful marriage dated in Islam. Think before you speak and give fatwas; we have enough fatwa problems in this country already!
    In general perfectly written by Farheen about the dilemmas of the latest generation of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Hibah Naz

    Love it. Have nothing more to add.
    The only thing is that the youngsters should realize that parents also have a limit to interfere in life. At least give kids a break when it comes to deciding a life partner. Sheesh!
    Kids themselves should speak up for once and make the elders realize that there are boundaries. We will ask for you opinion and for help in making a decision. Doesn’t mean you can impose a stupid law on us that has no grounds. The thing I hate is when elders, rishta aunties give lame excuses and take the support of Islam and the Quran to shut the youngsters yap.
    False statements are given and fake maluvis are asked to do the istikhara. Very lame!

    Anyway. This is very nice. I so wish everyone understands that the topic you’ve written about Fareen is an important and crucial in life. It plays it’s role for more than a half of people’s life. It’s not a joke. Generations get ruined because of such things.

    Thank you. Recommend

  • Jammie D

    Good article, and well written. Just to qualify this I think, by saying that many other societies have similar social mores. Indeed in India and across the middle east it is even worse in parts! For your next article I beg you discuss, what is the alternative!?!Recommend

  • Demril

    Farheen I dont agree with this…..I dont believe in finding the right person…I am single but i know many couples who were once in love…n had found their mr / ms. right and now they are cursing love marriages…and I also know people who got married through these rishta aunties and now they are living happily together…i dont find any fault in arrange marriages…and i think people who look for their mr. right or miss right are dreamers lol…hope they find them…but farheen i want u not to forget that you are also a product of ARRANGE MARRIAGE…lolRecommend