First comes love, then comes marriage? That is not always the case in some desi households. Marriage is a very important step for every Pakistani – sometimes, even too important. Arranged marriages are a widely misunderstood concept all over the world. Today’s arranged marriage places emphasis on free choice – which may have been different in your grandparents’ time. No matter how you choose to go about it, marriage is definitely a journey.
Nashra Balagamwala, a 24-year-old freelance game designer from Karachi, recently created a super creative board game about….you guessed it: arranged marriages.
Born and raised in Karachi, Balagamwala studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and has worked at Hasbro, Inc. Her work helps create a dialogue as well as provide a safe space to discuss social issues. Her work has been internationally recognized by BBC, Vice, The Telegraph, and The Guardian.
Nashra Balagamwala told MangoBaaz: “I’ve been ‘designing games’ since I was a little girl. My cousin and I would buy several games, throw out the rules and then create our own versions of the game. I never thought it would be a career choice though, until I took a game design class in college, and that’s when I knew it was the perfect medium for me to express my thoughts.”
When asked about her personal experiences with arranged marriage: “I’ve been through experiences very similar to most Pakistani girls. Our parents have raised in us in ways that make us appealing to rishta aunties. We’ve all grown up hearing ‘don’t dress like that, don’t sit like that, everyone’s watching you etc.’ I was tired of being judged by the color of my skin, my ability to cook a perfectly round roti, or make a good cup of chai. So in an effort to vent my anger, I turned it into a board game.”
Balagamwala says the game has taught her more in six months than she has learned in the past six years.
After releasing her board game, the biggest problem she dealt with was trying to get her true intention across. Most people in the west confuse arranged marriages with forced or even child marriages and she had to fight to educate the media about what the process is really like and distinguish between the two. Many international publications would write about her light-hearted game and compare it to stories of acid attacks and honor killings – which is not what she wanted at all.
Here’s how the game works:
Arranged! starts with a rishta auntie chasing down three single girls, and tries to get them married to one of the less than desirable suitors she has on hand, such as “pervy perversion”, “the womanizer”, or “mama’s boy”.
The girls spend the game running away from the rishta auntie by drawing from a deck of cards that are filled with scandalous things they can do to get out of an arranged marriage, like being seen out with their male friends in public or photoshopping alcohol into their pictures.
The aunty keeps moves closer to them by drawing from her own deck of cards, which has cards like “girl with childbearing hips” or “girl whose parents have been collecting dowry for 10 years”
The game ends when all the girls are married off.
How creative and fun does that sound? If you’re intrigued, you can buy the game here.