Editor’s Note: The views expressed here are those of the author’s and don’t necessarily represent or reflect the views of MangoBaaz.
By: Raafia Manzar Akbar
My parents were cousins. They didn’t get to choose who they wanted to spend their whole lives with.
I was their first child, and I grew up in a joint household for the first 8 years of my life. I don’t clearly remember how it was but I do know, like every normal household, my family had problems too. My father had four siblings. Since he was the eldest, he was the first one to get married. That meant my mother, after her marriage, had to live with a family who had no experience with new people moving in with them.
My parents were young at the time of their marriage. My mother was 23 and my father was 25.
My father had just got a job and my mother was a fresh Masters graduate in International Relations. During the time I was growing up, I never ever saw my parents fight over anything major.
I saw a lot of movies and dramas where wives fight with their husbands over not getting them certain things or taking them places. Or husbands being unhappy over the fact that their wives don’t prepare meals for them after they come home from work.
As a 10-year-old, that obviously made me feel like there was something weird about my parents. I asked my grandmother about it. She told me something so special that even after seven years, I still have it imprinted in my memory:
Beta, marriage is like a promise. It’s a promise to be a good, genuine human being, to be able to emotionally and physically provide support at all times and to be trustworthy to your spouse. Sometimes, you choose who you want to make this promise to and sometimes you don’t. It’s okay both ways. Your spouse is your best friend. You have to share everything with them including your secrets. The hardest thing you will have to do in this friendship is to live according to how your best friend wants you to, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to do the things you like.”
“See, it’s a pact; you both have your limits, interests, and dislikes. Sometimes, you might not agree on a lot of things, but that shouldn’t affect your promise. I told this to your mother too, when she was growing up. I told her even if you don’t get married, never ever disrespect anyone for having different opinions or interests. Sometimes, you have to be flexible in order to stand out and earn respect.”
People often misunderstand the role of women in a marriage, relationship or our society in general. No, we aren’t supposed to give people our 100% and get 2% in return.
We shouldn’t be bound to “just” make food and not go out in the world to do great things. As a woman, you are the foundation of your house. I grew up around people with very strong opinions. My mother is a working woman and does as much work as my father does. I have never seen my parents argue over who gets the responsibility to cook, clean or go out and get groceries.
My father cooks sometimes, my mother goes out to pay bills. When I asked my mother what the definition of a perfect relationship was for her, she told me “the one where you do anything and everything together without making your partner feel inferior.”
If you believe that as a girl/working woman/housewife it is your responsibility to make sure your family or husband get warm food, then there is nothing wrong with it as long as you aren’t being forced to do so. Yes, other people too have the physical strength to do this but sometimes small gestures like these might mean a lot to your family or partner.
I asked my father about how he felt getting served warm food when he comes home from work and here’s what he said:
“I love it. The fact that my wife works all day and still does so much for me when I get home really shows me how much love she has for me. Things like these might seem very small but they hold such a great meaning in relationships.”
So, where does “khana khud garam karlou” come from and why did I talk about my parents’ marriage in this write-up?
See, I know what the actual meaning of this statement is. I am fully aware of why and where it all started. And this post isn’t about discussing what happened before this issue was brought up. It’s about what happened after people misconstrued it. Now before you go around thinking that this post is about bashing feminists or disrespecting men telling them they have always been wrong then,
I come from a family that values women’s rights and is all about equality for both men and women – technically, a “feminist” family.
However, feminism is caught up in waves of extremism nowadays. There are two polar opposite trains of thoughts that seem to be clashing within Pakistan.
This post is about equality. The statement was just a reason to address the issue that has divided men and women all across my country. Compelling people work together towards progress, whether it is in a relationship, at work, or even in our daily lives. Everyone should be aware of HOW they fight for what’s right. If women are a target of inequality then men should support them and vice versa. BUT, only if they do it in an adequate manner. We need to come together to show strength and resilience over important problems together without disrespecting each other just because we belong to different genders.
Tou ao, milkay khana garam karen.
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Cover image: Raafia Akbar