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: Dr. Samah Akhtar
The shaadi culture of Pakistan has been completely revolutionized in the past two to three decades.
Gone are the days when the all the ladies would crowd into one room and a close female family member would display the intended’s lingerie pinned up to a towel for all to see and secretly critique. Nowadays weddings have morphed into elaborate events that are difficult to differentiate from the circus (the main circus act has been substituted by an equally extravagant wedding ensemble). Shaadis are now less about the union of two people or even two families, but more about synchronized dances, dresses that leave bank accounts empty and putting on the most exorbitant of shows.
Presently, the wedding industry is in full boom and individuals from all strata of socio-economic classes are being roped into paying bucket loads so they too, can have their dream wedding.
The government may have imposed a time limit and a restriction on the number of dishes that can be served at the events but the cost of weddings is still sky-rocketing. The expenditure of the wedding dress for the bride alone goes much higher than a lakh rupees, kyun ke jora tou bhari hona chahyay.
The extent of effort and capital that goes into pulling off a wedding is preposterous. The preparations begin six months to a year prior to the affair and by the time the wedding nears, all the family members have worked themselves to such a frenzy that they are unable to enjoy the nuptials.
A wedding is supposed to be a ceremony that marks the start of a marriage. It is but a brief, short-lived affair.
A marriage on the other hand is a long-term commitment that requires a heap of emotional investment, patience, respect and loyalty. There is no way to escape the notion that this change in the shaadi culture reflects the subtle changes in our society.
Unfortunately our society is now one that is deeply embedded in consumerism and materialism. The wedding day has become just another excuse to display ones wealth and social standing. Logon ko pata chalna chahyay ke humnay apnay bachon ki shaadi per kitna paisa lagaya hai. Because paisa = pyaar.
Weddings have become more or less a spectacle: a magnificent facade and the grandest of all grand gestures. It is an unnatural and awe-inspiring show that masks all defects and realities of life much like brushing all the dust under the carpet to present a perfect exterior. Unfortunately, life cannot be lived by grand gestures and its reality cannot be escaped for long.
In lieu of recent events my mother coined a term, however horrible it may be, to better cope with all the changes that have been taking place. That term being, ‘Christmas Tree Bride’.
To us, this term perfectly reflected how any girl inadvertently ended up looking like a Christmas Tree laden with ornaments, once she was all dressed up for the wedding. Regrettably such is the case, because all you can see is the stamp of signature makeup, the bedazzling designer dress and the overpowering accessories. The person underneath is akin to a Fir, bowed and almost near it’s breaking point due to the heavy load of Christmas ornaments.
What strikes me as even odder is that even though awareness to feminism seems to be on the rise, every dulhan is content to sit passively like a decorated statue on the stage while she is objectified for all she’s worth on one of the most important days of her life.
On her wedding day a woman is reduced to her makeup (that is layered thickly onto her face as to hide any imperfections), her dress, her jewelry, her shoes etc.
The most asked questions are:Makeup kahan se kerwaya hai? or jora kiska hai?
Brides of future and past, do not be mistaken, your wedding day is no longer about you. Rather it is about your material acquisitions for the day.
Most of what I have said must seem idyllic, especially considering how our society is fond of breaking things down to the very last detail and scrutinizing it under a microscope, already salivating at the thought of discovering a flaw that might feed the gossip mill for a week or two. It is harder still to stand up for your values when there are so many lofty standards to uphold; standards that are mass produced and fed to the general public through every single available media outlet.
Admittedly, it might seem difficult to refrain from having your features disguised by a celebrated makeup artist (naak ko acha sa contour keejyay ga please), your photos manipulated by a professional photographer (bright kerain issay!) but it never has been and it never will be easy to stand by the truth and the reality of things. Presenting a grandiose disillusioning pretense might make you think that you’re leaving your impact or legacy behind, but is it really your legacy when it has been heavily shaped and molded by the opinions and ideas of others?
When you buy into this new fad, that is the shaadi culture, the conversation to be had is not only about the sheer loss of money or the unnecessary extravagance, but an even more acute loss of individuality.
You are relinquishing your ability for individual thought to better conform to ideas and values that are not even your own.
At the end of the day, there is no shred of originality to differentiate you from many others who have been brainwashed into believing that the only way to succeed in this world is by meeting standards that are not designed to cater to your individual talents but are set trusting the fact that you will partake in this endless rat-race that leads nowhere.
About the Author: Samah is a dentist by day, disco banana by night.