Doctor se Rishta: A modest proposal

Published: July 28, 2011
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A screenshot of the home page of doctorserishta.com.

Recently a friend posted a Facebook link that read:

“Gift-find for the single South Asian women on Facebook.”

Falling into all the above categories – South Asian, female, and single – I felt obliged to follow his instructions, which led me to an online matrimonial service.

Great, I thought. Just what the free world needs: another run-of-the-mill, Shaadi.com spin-off promising compatibility in the form of a mutual love for puppies, aloo ke parathay and Bollywood.

But, after giving the website a proper look-see, I realised I had miscalculated. This was not your typical vanilla, hackneyed online dating site. No, this website came with ambitions. It promised to fulfill the grandest of promises by bringing to you the grandest of rishtas. This website, dear customer, guaranteed you a Doctor Se Rishta.

Now, allow me to assume my reader has been living under a proverbial rock and is unaware that marrying a doctor runs parallel to becoming one on the List of Awesome Things All Desis Aspire to Do. This makes www.doctorserishta.com – which guarantees a marital partnership with at least one doctor (maybe even two!) – a categorical win-win for all parties involved.

Why doctors are afforded so much prestige as quintessential potential spouse’s is a question that has received its lion’s share of attention across social and academic circles.

So, what makes a spouse in the medical profession so appealing?

There’s the obvious allure of an elevated social standing and the belief that material comforts would be easily taken care of.

Then, there are the less obvious variables to the whole equation and these more discreet benefits spell out positive things for the health of a relationship. For instance, having gotten in-and-through the gruelling process of med school means your spouse would possess some degree of intellect. And, having dedicated a decade (if not more) of their life to this one thing would make for an individual with a very healthy attitude towards commitment.

Projects like www.doctorserishta.com have good intentions. (Even though, in order to turn intention into action, it will charge you a monthly fee). By addressing the difficulties in finding a suitable match (and a cute love story) while working in remote locations for long hours (to cite just a few obstacles of the modern-day (wo)man), these projects are addressing very real, very prevalent issues faced by many of us young adults around the globe.

But the darker undertones of this pervasive demand, seeping and staining our social fabric, shouldn’t be taken so lightly. The very fact that such a service now exists to pander to this pervasive, freakishly enduring demand for a doctor spouse, should send up all sorts of red flags within South Asian communities.

Aren’t we just further propagating our stereotypical obsession with material wealth and societal status – which, bear in mind, the majority of us will never fully achieve in a regular lifetime?

Haven’t enough drama serials advised us against the relentless pursuit of hedonistic wealth and luxury?

Hasn’t Bollywood (and Amir Khan) advised us to appreciate the varied spectrum of intelligentsia, intellect, and talent dispersed among our youth?

Why then do we continue to suppress or ignore the next Rumi, the next Nana Asma’u, the next Allama Iqbal, and the next Nilima Ibrahim amongst us?

The creators of www.doctorserishta.com told me over the phone that though they are housed and operating out of Los Angeles, the brunt of their web traffic comes out of Pakistan.

So, during a time in which we are so keen and willing to pay an online service to lock a marriage down with the most coveted of professions, would it be too ridiculous to hope that we are crawling out of the quagmire of age-old adages and stereotypes towards a burning beacon of hopeful, positive revolt?

For the sake of our youth and for the sake of our nation, I hope so.

Feminist author Erica Jong notes in her memoirs that:

“rebelling generations follow quiescent ones, quiescent ones follow rebelling ones and the world goes on as it always has.”

And like fireflies lighting up the night sky, flickers of change dot the horizon. A pushback against the Old Order is materialising as the current generation grabs the Talking Stick and refuses to pass it on. We’re defiantly rowing out in shaky dinghies onto the currents of alternative career choices, lifestyles, and increasingly, romantic partnerships, based on our own terms and conditions.

Take the Muslim MD documentary series as an example of a generation coming out of its quiescent slumber. Created by a Canadian engineer-turned-graphic design student, Mustaali Raj, Muslim MD takes to the streets of Canada and India, to meet with Muslims across the different social and educational strata, and to explore our borderline-perverse fascination with the medical profession. Rightfully so, the documentary series comments on the noble nature of the profession. It also delves into the power an MD designation provides; Muslims in leadership roles benefits us Muslims the most during a time when we are so easily demonised and misrepresented.

But most importantly, the thought-provoking documentary series opens up the floor for dialogue and argument. There is nothing wrong with asking for stability and comfort when planning your child’s future.

But, are we doing it for the right reasons, with the right intention?

Along the way, are we compromising a fundamental part of ourselves or the two people in question?

With episodes of intentional hilarity – such as when a med-school hopeful, commenting on the anticipated boost in rishtas following an MD, adds “the downside is if you don’t get in, you might not get married” – the documentary series comfortably begins and ends on the notion that questions are many, answers limited, and things are more complicated than mere surfaces may convey. And as we journey with Raj through the predominantly Muslim slums of India, there comes a small moment which humbles, moves, and silently educates.

Asking a mother why she “feels [her son] should become a doctor, hold a laptop in his hand, wear a suit, [and] wear a coat” we’re given the naked, unadulterated truth.

For this woman – and countless others in her position – that MD degree is not a fancy first-class ticket signalling a seat on the lap of luxury. It is but a mere chance at “becoming a human being.”

Maria Kari

Maria Kari

The author is a lawyer and freelance journalist. She tweets as @mariakari1414 (twitter.com/mariakari1414)

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

  • http://bakedsunshine.wordpress.com/ Shumaila

    I find websites like these, and the whole process of running after doctors as potential daughter/son-in-laws, as extremely disturbing. I do not wish to be judged solely on the basis of my career choice.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/noman.ansari Noman Ansari

    Why stop there? Why not cater to every occupation in Pakistan?

    As an entrepreneur, I feel like I should register dehshatgardserishta.com.

    Though, come to think of it, such people are more likely to visit freedomfighterserishta.comRecommend

  • http://none Bangash

    Doctors are elite among “desis” anyway so this website is a clever idea. Recommend

  • The Critique

    What a drag….Recommend

  • Javeria Mahmood

    Such a Time Waste blog Recommend

  • Asad

    You problem is this:

    ‘Haven’t enough drama serials advised us against the relentless pursuit of hedonistic wealth and luxury?

    Hasn’t Bollywood (and Amir Khan) advised us to appreciate the varied spectrum of intelligentsia, intellect, and talent dispersed among our youth?’

    You seek advice from drama serials and Amir Khan?Recommend

  • Adil Mirza

    Why on this earth is tribune posting such useless blogs?Recommend

  • http://www.salmanzq.com Salman Qureshi

    This was hilarious, well written and thought provoking Maria. I”ve always been repelled and frustrated by our culture and society’s obsession with jobs, etc. It’s time to appreciate the musicians, comedians and other artists all around!Recommend

  • Marximux

    Maria!! i didn’t get it.

    Are you “For” or “against” the idea?Recommend

  • shareef

    such a time wasting and useless blog.Damn it!!Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/yusra.hanif Yusra Hanif

    very amusing. A friend sent me this web site’s link months ago purely for comic relief. We laughed our hearts out considering we both were recent MBBS graduates. whats more amusing is that it offers “nurse se rishta” too :P which frankly, given the current scenario, is more financially profitable [atleast in my hospital] :)
    on a serious note, it really is dismal that your degree becomes your sole trophy in the world of rishtas.
    @ noman : if you really want to make some good money, launch a site called politician-se-rishta or MNA-se-rishta. That’s the hottest profession of all times in pakistan. Recommend

  • Tauqeer

    This is called marrying Resume/CV instead of a person.Envy up,scorn down is poisoning and dividing our society.As legendary writer Ashfaq Ahmed said in Zavia, we are after Living and Life has lagged behind.Recommend

  • http://discoverpakistan.pk Ahsan Mansoor

    Being part of this process, I can tell you it is indeed disturbing that modern day parents follow a materialistic approach of finding doctors as their daughter/son in law. This is different from old age parents who would just provide a list of things that are needed as part of dowry. The medical degree ensure they will be seen with envious eyes among their family and friends. I wish the next generation would be better one in this regard.Recommend

  • amal

    Nice titleRecommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    You are late. I preferred “Banker say Rishta” : PRecommend

  • Salman Qureshi

    I very much disagree with those calling this article useless. It spotlights a very important issue in our society in a comical and thought provoking way. Kudos to the writer for a well composed piece and for opening up discussion. Shame on those who are unable to understand the layers of meaning behind obvious sentences.Recommend

  • Bilal Khan

    This article brings an insight into the way Desi’s living abroad think about the medical proffession. I think in Pakistan you don’t see the same prestige associated with MBBS. I was recently told by my uncle that in US certain rishta places have separate photo albums of “A” class girls reserved only for doctors. Interesting stuff.Recommend

  • hana yahya

    I think there r other better subjects to talk about. I think nowadays a lot of peoples thinkin has changed as they do look for rishtas other than docs. And mind you docs here are not well paid so they can’t necessarily provide luxurious lives.Recommend

  • monty

    Banker any day, they r money wiseRecommend

  • LayMan

    Burger party ka favorite past time = blogging / media / social sciences ;)

    O paisa bara hay !Recommend

  • Misbah.MK

    I like the take the writer has on this but personally being a medical student, i would just like to say we are not merely articles or rather the Dr. in front of our name is not just what should attract possible suitors.We’re individuals, each with a separate identity and i hate how the society has conformed to us being great ‘rishtaas’ above anything else.

    I would also like to point out the major flaw that prevails in our society towards female “doctor daughter in laws”, the typical in-laws are jubilant over having a “doctor bahuu” but more often than not they fail to see the requirements the poor gal has to her field, if she has late night duties she’s criticized by the ‘saas’ over coming late and her character may-be questioned, mind you, by the husband. This is just one aspect, if the girl wants to study further, the in-laws object to that as well!

    The problem is not getting a doctor bahuu, but the problem lies in understanding the gravity of her profession and allowing her to pursue it well !Recommend

  • Imad

    I almost fell of my chair laughing,Gosh!!Never knew that our demand was that high…….I guess all of us should send our Cv’s Asap…..
    PS,life of a doctor isn’t that easy.Most people are ignorant of the fact fact that a doctor has to sacrifice his family and perso
    nal life for his patients which isn’t that easy that’s why I always tell people that being then\daughter of a doctor is much better than being a doctor yourself….Recommend