I had a very interesting conversation with my mother yesterday, while I’m in Brunei visiting family.
The conversation, as it is to be suspected, was on the topic of marriage and how, as an almost-25-year-old, I’m reaching the ‘old age’ of girls, concerning marriage and ‘settling down.’ According to Pakistani culture, of course. What I’ve always admired about Malaysians, having been in the country for about a decade now, is that there is no pressure in Malaysian families for their daughters to find a suitable spouse and get married at an early age. I was baffled, when I first found this out, since Malays are, essentially, much more stronger in their faith than Pakistanis in general.
So, what was my conclusion, you ask? My conclusion was that this culture surrounding girls and marriage is Pakistan is nothing but a by-product of culture, not religion. And, while my origins may lie in said culture, I absolutely refuse to be bound by and a victim of culture. Religion, I understand – it’s a way of life, and yes I do feel guilty on a daily basis for not wholly abiding by its laws and values. On a daily basis, that is more than enough guilt. But culture? Especially in the face of it’s ridiculous and nonsensical reasonings? I don’t think so. But let’s keep this for another time, another post I’ve been meaning to write.
So yes, this conversation yesterday with my mother. One of the things she mentioned was how my auntie in Pakistan never shows pictures of me to other women with bachelors for sons, while she does show pictures of my other girl cousins, for example. I was elated at this; my mother was not (stating the obvious: she wishes for me to get married asap). She continued by asking my auntie why she didn’t show pictures of Myra as well, to which my auntie replied, “because we all know Myra has a mind of her own.”
Again, I was genuinely happy to hear that as being people’s perception of me, since I hold that particular quality in women as translating to independence instead of submissive.
My mother, again, was not. You see, my auntie not showing pictures of me to other women with sons (if you’re unfamiliar with brown culture, yes, this is a legit thing in the current millennium) meant that no family of a bachelor would ‘know’ about me in order to ‘come see me’ and judge me, for my hand in marriage.
This system of arranged marriages may work for some women back home, but it doesn’t for me – I don’t see myself as one of many girls to be ‘picked’ from a lineup. Not just that, I see myself as far from ready for marriage as possible at the current moment, since I’m very firm in my belief to be independent and ‘settled’ on my own before allowing myself to be dependent on someone.
I keep straying in my direction here (as usual). But what infuriated me (and, in all honestly, made me a bit disappointed) was my mother not liking the fact that I have a mind of my own, and that other people know I do too. It essentially boils down to such a characteristic not being suitable for a Pakistani girl of (what is thought to be) marriageable age. It inherently means that, to put it lightly, the girl won’t take shit from no one. That she knows her rights, her wants and needs better than anyone else, that she would refuse to be repressed and put down to fit society’s standards of what a dutiful girl and wife should be. That, at the end of the day, she would not make a ‘suitable’ Pakistani girl and bride.
My question to this is: Is this not the end goal and the very purpose of putting your daughter through a good education? Do you not want your daughter to be able to face any sort of dilemmas or bad circumstances she comes across in her life, head-on? Do you not want your daughter to be able to stand up for herself, to believe in herself and everything she can accomplish – without a man?
In my personal opinion, I believe my mother – and every other parent out there – should be overjoyed, and proud at knowing that their daughter ‘has a mind of her own.’ That they have successfully equipped her for the world. After all, is that not the purpose of an education for your daughters?
I do like to think I have a mind of my own. I wish I had more freedom to assert it, but hey – baby steps, right? I’ve been living out of Pakistan since the age of 15. I pursued my higher education in Malaysia and now work there as well. At times, I ponder on the kind of person I would have been if I’d never left Pakistan. I don’t have a definite answer to that, but what I am certain about is that I would be a very, very different person. A person who wouldn’t be writing this post, right now. Either due to never having had the opportunity to broaden my mind or experience the things or people I have, or from being much too scared to be vocal about my feelings and perspectives.
I credit the person I am to my parents, and to the education they enrolled me in and the trust they have had in me to be able to live in a separate country, alone, working.
A lot about Pakistani culture is self-contradictory, such as this very example. And it is this that pushes me further away from a culture which, apart from its inherent misogyny and hypocrisy, would’ve been beautiful to indulge in, in its purest form.