I have spent the entirety of my 20s trying to dodge this question, and without sounding proud, had quite a success. Partly because my parents were more worried about my sisters’ wedding which in our part of the world is more important and also I was yet to touch the panic number of 30-an age in which the alarm bell starts ringing. Now as I am well into my 30s, people are asking me this question right, left, and center. Even from those I barely know. I typically respond with a resigned smirk but inside my head I am shouting ‘why do you care? You don’t even know my last name’. Newlyweds are the worst of the worst. They act like those kids who have been granted permission to play outside and now they want their kid friends to join them. In every social gathering there is always one person who greets you with ‘when are we going to eat your wedding pulao?’ In a city where there are more restaurants than primary schools, why are you waiting for my marriage to satisfy your thurst of rice? I have decided even if I do get married, one dish won’t be in the menu-yes, its freakin’ pulao. Then there are folks who after performing Umrah/Hajj make sure to convey how they have specifically prayed for my wedding. They could have prayed for world peace or end of poverty but apparently my wedding is more important than dying children of Syria and Africa.
You must have figured by now I am not a massive fan of marriage. But my skepticism didn’t hinder my parents’ desire in any way. Needless to say my marriage is the number one agenda on their list. I have lost the count of how many times my mom has said ‘I want to get done with this last responsibility before I die’ conveniently forgetting those were her exact words before my younger sister’s wedding. What was supposed to be a sunnat back then has suddenly changed into a farz. So for the past few years we are on the lookout for a paragon of virtue, an educated and reasonable looking lady who is intelligent enough to adapt to a different environment but foolish enough to say yes to me. As of now I am happily single so we are not having much of a success in that department. Every other weekend starts with us going somewhere in a hope of finding the dream girl who is going to light up my world with her beauty and charm and make my home an alternative paradise with her care and affection. Luckily it’s hard to find a girl with these qualities so lots of wasted Sundays and my mom agony later, we are still searching. Some days I want to climb up to the rooftop and scream ‘I don’t want to get married’ at the top of my lungs for the whole world to hear it, but I am afraid I will be declared insane and the most trustworthy method to treat insanity here is-well marriage.
My life is far from ideal for the past few years but I found it equally traumatic for the girls we met during our frequent visits to various places. Like most males, at least I am given a choice to select a partner but same is not applicable for females. Majority of the girls, if not all, don’t even look at their potential suitors. The whole concept of meet n greet for rishta is for the guy and his family to first like a girl. Then parents of a girl have to make a decision whether that person is good enough for their daughter. Only then the girl is asked but by then her opinion holds as much a value as the current President of Pakistan. It’s not that she is not capable of making the big decisions; at-least in my experience I have found the girls quite qualified who are doing an amazing job in their professional life, financially supporting their family in the process. Only when it comes to personal life, they have a very little say. Parents prepare their daughters for a “big day” from a very early age. Whether it’s about making a gol roti or getting good grades, the focal point behind all these accomplishments is a good rishta. That’s why most of the girls from a very early age realizes their marriage is important for them, even more so for their parents.
Then there are unfortunates who remain single after reaching a certain age. Reasons vary from looks, financial constraints, or family background. Reasons may vary but circumstances remains the same. These ladies have the first hand experience of the bigotry, intimidation, and other evils that are instilled into our society. They also have to deal with the crowd who consider harassing the opposite gender as their God given right. Whether it’s a work place, a bus station, or some shopping mall; being single automatically equates to the loose character and hence invites persecution from the morale brigade. We as a society are so busy making our daughters chaste and virtuous; we somehow forgot teaching our sons how to treat a lady in a respectful manner.
In a patriarchal society, girls are not asked when they are getting married; instead they are punished for being single.