Dear Pakistani mom, why must I fear not getting a proposal?

Published: February 27, 2016

What imaginary line must I tiptoe around for fear of not getting suitable proposals? PHOTO: AFP

Dear Pakistani mom,

I am your beloved daughter, slightly spoiled but mostly a responsible, caring individual who would go to great lengths just to see a smile on your face. One who would run to the medicine store to grab some medicines should my ailing grandmother’s health so require. Please remember ‘you’ raised me so.

You raised me to be a thoughtful, caring, independent and confident individual.

You taught me not to follow the guidelines of learned female helplessness by waiting for the sympathy of my three brothers to get medicine in case I suffered a bout of respiratory infection. You raised me to believe women were equal to men in this world. The message of equality of genders was drummed into me by you. Both genders have the same importance; the same rights are your values that I believe in.

Women are able leaders, you should be by example. After all, since the moment I opened my eyes I saw you, a woman, leading my house very effectively and efficiently. You created the perfect balance between father and yourself.

Father was the authority, the crowned king of the dominion, and impactful on the larger decisions of life, but yours was the silent command over matters. You were the one without whose input, no decision could be undertaken. The decisions on everyday matters such as whether to shop for groceries from the humble Delhi colony or the huge supermarket Hyperstar, or whether to hire the honest ‘dhobi’ or the super-efficient one, came under your domain. These were the decisions which ensured the smooth running of the house, which all the family members take for granted.

These were subtle messages of gender equality I received from ‘you’. While I was growing up you never let me feel or believe I was inferior to my brothers in any way.

Why did this change now when I need this reassurance and confidence the most?

Unfortunately it is you who robs me of my self-confidence by not allowing me drive down to the pharmacy after sunset. It kills me to return to remarks like this,

“This is not America, girls should not be so confident that they drive alone after sunset, and that too without a male patron. You should have taken someone along, either waited for me or for your elder brother to take you there, or at the very least taken the household helper.”

This household helper is several years younger than me, barely-out-of-teens helper boy who plays the role of my bodyguard. I find this offensive on many levels. Can he really protect me if I was a victim to a street crime like mobile snatching?

Many of you will defend her saying that she is mainly concerned with my security. But I wonder if security is her only concern?

Is she not trying  to conform to the norms of the traditional patriarchal Pakistani society where a woman’s every move is observed, judged and permitted or disallowed by a man, be it the elder brother, the father, the husband or the household helper. The household helper of course, does not have the liberty to declare his opinions about the women of the house openly, but be not deceived, for he is sure to share them in the company of his equals.

Maybe, her real worry is that the people, who see me driving that car alone to the pharmacy, may form an opinion of a liberal and spoilt daughter not acceptable as a future daughter-in-law for some respectable household, and that opinion, spread by the uneducated, idle, gossiping bystanders might soon become standard public opinion.

If you, the average person believes that she is doing so purely out of security concerns, then to you Sir, I salute. I am impressed with the naivety of thought with which people can exist in today s modern era and I smile at the sweet rush of youthful innocence that you have reminded us all of.

I am saddened at this change in your behaviour. I know you reflect the views of society that questions or rather objects to a woman’s confidence and independence. What imaginary line must I tiptoe around for fear of not getting suitable proposals? Does this imaginary line even exist in the minds of men or is it us women who impose traditional ideas of womanhood?

I plead you to rethink these ideas, the times are changing and the unspoken laws and limits of society that may have been true in your youth may not hold as much salt (or weight) today. Please have faith in the evolving Pakistani society.

In what direction, you ask. Ironically, only we, the weaker sex can determine.

Take care Mom,

Love you always,

Your Pakistani daughter

Maira Shahid

Maira Shahid

The author is a doctor by profession, a sportswoman at heart and a wannabe healthcare/scientific/social entrepreneur.

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