While the world advances, works on artificial intelligence, ponders over classic literature or performs astronomical research, our society still struggles with a mindset that no one can change, yet alone erase.
I am in my A Levels and it is almost time for my university. Just like everyone else, I too have big dreams. I want to attend a good ranked university, get a good job and be independent. Good university obviously requires a lot of money and these days, my father is planning to sell the very little property we have in order to ensure that I get quality education. While planning to do this, he is obviously ignoring the fact that he has three young daughters who he’ll probably have to wed off some day in the future. He’s prioritizing our education and I couldn’t have been more thankful.
My mother and aunt recently visited someone’s house where some dear uncle asked them about how many girls there are in our family. We are four girls. Upon hearing this, he told my family members that they should keep a one kanal plot for each one of us. A one kanal plot in a fancy locality, for each daughter’s dowry. No, my family was not there for a rishta. This man has 2 sons and no daughters. Thus, he has the audacity to tell my mother and aunt that without a colossal sum of money, none of the girls from our family will be accepted as a bride by any family.
I was infuriated when my mother told me about this. I don’t know how that man looked like or who he was but a part of me wanted to visit him and confront him about how it is only easy to tell someone with three young daughters to keep all their life savings for their daughters’ dowry. Seeing my sudden waspish tongue, my aunt hushed me explaining that this is how things go in Pakistan and now I am a little frantic that whatever I might blog or say, one day I will be stuck in a similar situation.
I love my country and have always respected our traditions and norms. When Pakistani Muslim community talks about covering heads or about not eating pig meat while making references to the teachings of Islam, it makes sense to me but when the same people who act as a moral police for others tend to create problems like jahaiz for families, it makes zero sense. I have recently seen people around me spending more than 70-80 lacs for extravagant wedding events, even when they cannot easily afford it. Why? Only to satisfy the groom’s family.
We tell our daughters not to gain weight because we are afraid that they will be rejected. We tell them to doll up when the guy’s family comes over to understand us over a mere cup of chai. We wait for acceptances of our daughters that we have raised dearly and as soon as they’re accepted, we start purchasing gifts for not just the groom and his parents but for his distant family members, even his third cousins coming from abroad. We start worrying about the worn off paints of our walls and how the road outside our house isn’t clean enough. We get the curtains changed. All because the groom-to-be is going to visit with his distant relatives and there is nothing more crucial than to impress them.
Next comes the wedding. We try to book the fanciest hall in town, print the most extravagant invitation cards and decide the best menu. The one dish scene is not acceptable because what will people say? We are ready to take loans for the wedding days and spend the following years in existential crisis but we are not ready to compromise on the quality of the wedding. One mistake and the deal is over. It’s more of a deal now, isn’t it?
Had spending all your life savings on a wedding and dowry ensured a content married life, it would have made sense but there’s never a guarantee. Imagine how different (economically, politically and socially) Pakistan would be if we start to spend the same amount of money on the education of our daughters. Imagine women in tech. Imagine our women winning prodigious awards for their stupendous entrepreneurship skills. Imagine more of our women working at Google or NASA instead of sitting in the drawing room, listening to the groom’s family as they pin point flaws and later casually put forward the list of their demands, all very subtlety.
The way parents burden themselves for weddings is just not worth it. I don’t understand why people end up believing that someone who is asking for a lot of more than the daughter herself will ever keep her happy. This world is a materialistic place to live in and several people out there are on a look for dowry and extravagancy before the look for a girl that can fit well in their family but why do you think that a family who feels no shame while burdening you before the marriage will let you feel at ease once the wedding is over.
I get it that most of the times, most parents are not left with much of a choice when it comes to sensitive matters in case of a daughter’s wedding but it’s high time and we need to start pondering over these issues.