‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ This sentiment uttered by Jane Austen, some hundred odd years ago in the small town of Bath, has somehow managed to survive from the deep epoch of history, and instil itself strongly within the fabric of Pakistani society as we know it today. The world has evolved greatly since. NASA is finding ways to make Mars liveable for human life beyond Earth – yet one thing that remains the same, is the Pakistani rishta culture.
With ‘Decemberistan’ coming to an end, it seemed like the perfect time to dig deeper into what arrange marriages can be in Pakistan. We at Mashion, are exposing the full picture of what it really is like — the good, bad and ugly.
There have been some who have found love through this and some who have encountered horror stories. We are here to examine and dissect the rishta culture in Pakistan.
Rishta Culture, ‘A Relic’
As soon as a woman turns 25, regardless of where she is in her professional life, her biological clock looms over her parents’ head, like a ticking bomb that will self-destruct at any given point. And so, begins the rishta hunt.
For generations, desi women have been the unfortunate victim of this rishta culture, that objectifies them and reduces their self-worth to their looks. So, what if the man looks like Shrek and has no personality? the woman needs to be fair, thin and domesticated to fit the mountain of expectation for their darling son—nothing less can be tolerated!
These rishtas, or particularly, as we like to refer to them as ‘drawing room meetings’, are orchestrated by two families who unite, with the sole purpose of getting their children hitched. Super romantic, right? The guys’ family almost always, has the upper hand, for reasons unknown to us. They plan a meeting with the sole purpose of grilling the girl and assessing if she would be the perfect ‘match’ for their family. The woman is then bombarded with every kind of invasive question, which in any other setting would be considered impolite. Decorum goes out of the window in these scenarios, and everything is fair play. You and the animal they buy for slaughter in the butcher shop before Bakra Eid, are one and the same, both examined from inside out with their finest X-ray goggles on.
In the name of culture, young women are dressed to the nines, adorned in their best clothes, presented as objects to be ogled, judged and assessed by the guys’ family. You would never think of allowing strangers to look into your closet even, and invade your privacy, yet when a proposal is considered, your own daughter is fair play in the politics of the ‘drawing room meetings’.
The onus for making the proposal work, lies solely on the woman. Her looks should charm them, her personality be non threatening, her accomplishments limited to being a good house maker.
Arranged To Love — Rishtas’ As A Means Of Finding Love
With all that said, arrange marriages if done sensitively can blossom into something beautiful. Whether they are ‘drawing room meetings’ or a meeting set up by friends in a café, they essentially have the same motive; where the couple meets to see if they are compatible, without any pressure from outside sources. Families have already established their compatibility, so the only thing that the couple has to worry about, is well, themselves.
Arrange marriages, often have a bad rep and are looked down upon and seen as a last resort for people who were ‘un-lucky in love’. This view singlehandedly discredits the people who have found lasting love through this experience. If love can happen at first sight, why can’t it in this setting?
In our modern world, making meaningful connections with people is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. You are one picture amongst many, on their saturated Instagram feed; Likes have replaced conversations, and filters have camouflaged personalities, inhibiting any deep connection. Therefore, rishtas in this context, are a much-needed reprieve, where people meet beyond the digital space, and connect on a human level.
Also, arrange marriage, takes away the pressure from wondering where your relationship is going. You already know that your partner is already looking for something serious, and all you need to worry about is whether you see this going somewhere. You are no longer pressured to being a mind reader, expected to micro examine every move in your relationship wondering whether your partner is looking for something serious—your focus is on the present, and to see if the two of you align.
The New-Age Of Rishta Culture – What We’d Like To See!
Rishta culture has existed since eons, and it is mostly the guys’ family who initiates this matchmaking. With Pakistani society evolving, (albeit, slowly) we believe it is time for the rishta culture to evolve with it. We pose you a question: why can’t a girl’s family be on the flip side, sending the rishta to the guy’s family?
In this marriage obsessed society that we live in, can our women initiate and take charge of their life?
It is time we flip the narrative and end this patriarchal cycle. Women today are putting themselves first, working on themselves, making waves in every industry imaginable. It is time we shut down the pressure from the ‘biological time clock’ and let young women move in the pace that they desire, with the time they want to take.