It’s a despicable custom; prospective grooms’ families ‘checking out’ a potential match for their stud. Tears rolled down Zareen’s eyes as she narrated her ordeal after another drawing room session. I attempted to comfort her with my eyes overwhelmed but in vain. “Be patient and hold on, that is all we can do,” I told her.
“This patience is killing me. How long do I have to keep doing this?” she asked.
How long? The torture, the agony and the heart aching display of oneself, the lowering of one’s esteem well beyond the limits and the merciless stabbing of one’s soul by family, friends and the potential in-laws seems never-ending.
The nerve wracking efforts by one’s family to present their daughter as a princess with striking beauty, perfect features and purity of character with a well sedated, deaf and dumb soul and the ultimate rejection that follows with family and friends blaming her for the ‘Great Loss’ leaves her with nothing but sleepless nights and depression.
The zeal and the ambition to flourish in her career vanish. The daily assignments remain untouched. Their ranking drops steadily along the merit list as colleagues eye them with suspicion. The poor girls avoid work and family gatherings most of the time.
As her heart throbs achingly and eyes tear up momentarily, the brain signals her to put on a bright smile as all eyes in the gathering are on her as her status dictates ‘available’. She dreads the night that hovers.
When finally the night does fall after a long, torturous day she lies down weeping, reliving the events of the ordeal, finding petty reasons to blame herself while carefully controlling her sobs so they don’t wake the siblings sharing the room.
“I am not planning to get engaged right now,” said a cousin as he searched for a tie while getting ready to meet the girl his family had approved after several visits. “Mama says I should meet her, that’s why I am going. However, I have no plans of approving her no matter how well mannered and beautiful she seems. I am not settling down right now!”
I felt like slapping him right there. The poor girl who has been going through the stressful weeks must now be thinking that her efforts were finally proving fruitful.
“They called and said the maulvi sahib had disapproved of the marriage,” recounts Swaliha for whom the matter was in its final stages. “Later he told me on Facebook that everything was fine till one of his distant but influential relatives threatened to break all ties with his family if he were to marry me. The maulvi sahib had already approved and was being wrongly manipulated so that things could be ended smoothly. We thought we were made for each other…”
Zarmeena, now married and a mother of a beautiful son, had been in a situation similar to Swaliha. “They threatened to break ties with him and his parents and went to the extent of refusing his share in the family business. He finally backed out and married a girl of their choice. Four years down, the man whom I fell for is now divorced with an infant daughter to raise and an ailing mother to nurse all by himself.
“Recently, we met at a family gathering, the first time since we had last met five years ago to decide when to announce our official engagement. He struggled to look me in the eye. When he finally did, I noticed that the shine, the zeal, the happiness that once resided in those eyes had vanished. My heart still aches about what had happened to us back then. Those terrible memories continue to maim my heart and soul and when I met him I realised he had even a bigger wound to heal.”
I don’t know why girls are made to suffer such ordeal at the hands of the family, friends and relatives as well as potential in-laws.
Why do parents force their daughters to be ‘inspected’ like that? Can’t they find other ways to arrange their marriage?
Why do the aunts and uncles try to control their nephews’ and nieces’ lives? Many may allow their sons but not daughters to marry the girls of their own choice but when it comes to matters like these they manipulate religion and mould its values to suit their will.
The mothers of sons out ‘shopping’ should remember that physical beauty is not everything; they should look for other attributes as well. If they want a skinny daughter-in-law with a perfect gait they should attend a fashion show or two to ‘treat’ themselves.
The girls too need to take matters in their own hands and refuse to be slaves to custom whilst waiting to get married; they have the right to lead a life without having to parade themselves for prospective grooms’ families. They should learn to cherish every moment of singlehood rather than allowing their parents and families to play with their emotions.