From Fantasy To Reality (http://www.dawn.com/news/1283186)

In our part of the world, weddings are the most celebrated occasions, not only in the lives of the prospective bride and groom, but also the immediate family, the not-so-immediate family and the circle of friends.

The excitement starts when the boy gives a go-ahead to his parents to find a suitable girl for him. From then on mothers and sisters begin a frantic search, rejecting or approving girls over a tea-trolley. She is examined from head to toe, irrelevant / embarrassing questions are thrown at her and she can be rejected at the slightest pretext. If she passes the test, a formal proposal is sent to her parents. This in turn starts another frenzied activity. Heads are joined to make a decision and the boy’s looks, height, income, whether he owns a house or not etc are taken into consideration. As soon as the proposal is accepted and the time for the grand occasion is decided, the wedding fever sets in.

Selection of the bridal outfit, the matching jewellery to be ordered, sandals and handbag to go with the shaadi ka jora, are all matters of utmost importance. The best beauty studio is booked for the bridal make-over and the best possible venue is selected for the functions. Every minute detail has to be chalked out — from invitation cards, the bride and groom’s entry in the wedding hall, the decoration of the stage, the flowers, lightning, cake, the menu, token gifts for the guests, the list seems to be endless.

There are non-stop shopping sprees for clothes, shoes, furniture and crockery for the dowry and gifts for the bridegroom and the in-laws. These frenzied shopping trips leaves the bride and her family exhausted as the Big Day approaches.

The groom’s house is also buzzing with pre- wedding arrangements. Along with the dresses, jewellery and accessories for the bride the house needs to be renovated, re-painted and sometimes re-furnished. The couple’s room is given extra attention. The bride usually brings in new furniture but the carpet and curtains have to be changed. Bathrooms are re-designed to complement the new look of the room. Everything should be picture perfect when the bride arrives.

The fantasy which begins with the shopping, the pre-wedding merriments, friends’ gatherings, dholkis, mayoon and mehndi reaches its peak at the grand wedding and valima receptions.

But in all these feverish activities, the groom’s parents who were so choosy about the prospective wife of their son and the bride’s parents who were so particular to find out every detail about the person who had proposed for their daughter’s hand, completely forget to teach their offspring what marriage is really about.

Parents, who spend so much time, energy and, of course, money on their children’s weddings, don’t deem it important to guide them about the responsibilities which come with a married life and the facts regarding the rights and duties concerning their future spouse. Things which should be the foremost on the list of wedding preparations are totally ignored or given a back-seat. So, most couples enter into matrimony only thinking about their wedding and not marriage, totally confused about the demands of this new stage of life.

Both husband and wife have a different set of problems. The girl ties the nuptial knot thinking that life after marriage is one long honeymoon, where you live in grand houses, shop till you drop, eat out in expensive eateries on a regular basis and your spouse does nothing except pampering you, and even at home you are dressed in designer clothes and wear full makeup and expensive jewellery.

Once the post-wedding partying and enjoyments are over and the bride is expected to slip into the role of a wife and home-maker, reality starts to set in. Most girls fail to realise that they should leave behind the fantasy which was only temporary. The groom has lots of more important things at hand, other than complying with her moods and whims. She cannot expect him to leave a ‘I love you’ note when he is getting late to office, neither to bring her roses every day, and surely not on the days when he has had an extra tiring schedule or problems with his boss.

The groom has his own set of disappointments. As the bride slips into the role of a home-maker, she may also want to go back to her job. When he comes home, she may also be tired after a hard day’s work, so he cannot expect her to be dressed up as a doll, starry-eyed and swooning over him at the slightest pretext. And if she has been cooking or cleaning or dusting, she will not emit the fragrance of roses.

The bubble of fantasy may have all the colours of a rainbow, but bubbles are bound to burst. Instead of feeling disappointed or disillusioned, the couple could have coped better if their parents had guided them correctly. The early months of a marriage are usually the make or break ones. For dreamers, this journey can be a survival in an unhappy marriage and for the more extreme ones just begin and end with a big jolt. More sensible couples, after the initial disappointment, adapt quickly to the demands of a married life. But the truth is that this journey from fantasy to reality can change lives, for better or for worse.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 11th, 2016

 

Life: The hate mongers


Life: The hate mongers

By Yasmin Elahi

The boss has a crush on his young, beautiful but married secretary. The girl is tactful enough to keep his advances at bay and still retain her job. Her colleagues have planned a surprise birthday party for the boss which the (unsuspecting) girl discusses at home with her mother-in-law.

On the fateful day the boss is astonished but delighted to receive a card and a big bouquet from her and calls to say thanks. The girl is devastated because she has sent neither of them, but her husband (who is sure to be at home at that particular time) does not believe her. So, a big row follows. The mother-in-law, who is listening to them argue bitterly, stays neutral but the smug look on her face has a lot to say!

The daughter-in-law is not to be deterred and plans a quick revenge. The next day she seems to misplace her wedding ring (a precious diamond one, of course). She hunts for it everywhere and looks visibly agitated. The (seemingly) loving mama-in-law is all sympathy for her as she helps in the search. In the evening the daughter-in-law opens her mother-in-law`s cupboard to get something for her and lets out a scream (of delight). The ring is right there, shining brightly and she turns towards the older lady in disbelief, her accusing look saying more than words.
One has only to put two and two together to guess how the ring reached there.

These are not true stories but scenes from one of the endless (and senseless) soap operas which the ever mushrooming television channels dish out day in and day out! We see people of every age addicted to them. They gleefully watch episode after episode of the plays even though the story moves at a snail`s pace. Why are people attracted to these soap operas? Some people say that these plays are an escape from the harsh realities of life while others argue that this is the best way they can spend their leisure hours, but very few of us realise what harm they are doing to our family values!

The family is the core of the human existence and its members are supposed to provide each other with love and security, to share each other`s happiness, problems and sorrows, and to tend to each other`s needs. The majority of the soap operas have a negative impact on these values. Most of the plays are set against an urban backdrop, about families belonging to the high social strata, where the ladies have nothing better to do than to don expensive dresses, heavy (and unnatural) makeup and jewellery and relax in luxuriously furnished lounges. They have to do no house work, no cooking, no washing or ironing and no looking after their kids. All they seem to do is to plot, scheme and hatch conspiracies against other family members! Back biting seems to be the order of the day as these ladies manipulate simple day-to-day events to their selfish motives. In the above mentioned examples, both the ladies go miles to demean other down, even though their hatred for each other is beautifully sugar coated.

The most important target in most soaps are the in-laws. Marriage is not only a bond between two individuals it is a new set of relationships between two families. This relationship is supposed to be based on mutual love, understanding and respect for each other, with every one realising the others` rights and working together towards a peaceful and loving family. The love for in-laws is not in the blood, as that for biological bonds; it has to be nurtured step by step, day by day after making many compromises and sacrifices.

On the contrary, most TV plays are teaching women to hate instead of love, to doubt instead of to trust, to avenge instead of to forgive and to humiliate instead of to respect. Women are portrayed not as home makers but as home breakers, all out to destroy the peace, tranquillity and happiness from a happy family life.

In the normal life, do we find women as cunning and ill meaning to each other as depicted in these plays? I don`t claim that relationship with in-laws is all bliss but the question is, “Is anyone perfect in this world?” We have to be perfect ourselves before expecting or demanding perfection from others.

The viewers of soap operas, especially young girls, are so taken by the charm and glamour of the characters that they lose the capability of distinguishing facts from fiction and have no idea what subtle change is undergoing in their approach towards family life. These hate-mongers on the idiot box are teaching us to hate, distrust and humiliate the people who should be the most near and dear to our hearts. Shouldn`t all of us stand up against this slow poison to the roots of our being before it is too late?

THE FINAL GOODBYE!

 

                    Nearly two decades have past since that eventful day; but even today I can vividly recall the minutest details! I was coming back home (to Karachi from Dhaka) and she had come to the airport to bid me farewell. Those moments are firmly imprinted in my memory, her beautiful face looking drawn and exhausted; and her lips moving silently, as if in an intense prayer. After embracing her one last time, I tore myself away from her, and trying to hide my tears, turned to enter the departure lounge. I remember looking back over my shoulders after every few steps, just to catch one last glimpse of her. Just the knowledge that she was there and praying for me, was in itself a great solace!

                When I was married in 1970, it was just that I had migrated from one part of Pakistan to another, i.e. from Dhaka (East Pakistan) to Karachi (West Pakistan). But as destiny would have it, only after a year, Bangladesh was created and I found myself a foreigner in the city I was born in, had spent my childhood days and my school and college life; the city which I loved dearly.

                  With the passage of time, requirements of passport and visa, the ever rising cost of traveling with a growing family and my commitment to my children’s education, made my visits to my parents further and further years apart.

               On that particular occasion, I had gone to Dhaka to visit my ailing father and due to some personal circumstances my visit was a very tumultuous one. And the last night of my stay was particularly heart breaking! I could take the tension no more and broke down in sobs in my mother’s arms. My marriage was on the rocks and I could easily read the writing on the wall. And Ammi, (to whom physical touch simply did not come easily), just held me gently and lovingly murmured soothing words in my ears. And inspite of the heartbreak and the fear of the unknown, my taut nerves calmed down for a while and I dozed off in her loving arms.

            With a heavy heart, I boarded the aircraft trying to keep the thrill of her touch alive! Since my childhood days, it had always been a precious and cherishable moment, whenever Ammi hugged me tightly to her bosom or kissed me lovingly.

            It was not that she did not love me or my siblings! Ammi was a very caring mother in every way, but she was just different from others in every thing, trivial or important. If we go by the institutional standards, she was not educated, but her insatiable thirst for reading, gave her the vision and knowledge most woman of her generation lacked. A staunch Muslim she taught her children to have a firm faith in Allah! A fierce patriot, she had instilled in us a deep love for Pakistan, a love which keeps me restless to this day!

          Popular equally among her family and in-laws, Ammi’s wise and practical advice was sought and respected by all the people around her. She was a perfect home- maker as well as a very social person, juggling her time between her children, home and her social commitments.

           A few weeks after my return, the inevitable happened. My marriage, which had been shaky for years, ended in a divorce. Though I was shattered and heart broken, somehow that last night in Ammi’s arms helped me face this harsh stage of life bravely. I took my grief with pride, my head held high, refusing to give in to self pity (or allowing anyone else to pity me!). I must acknowledge that my children and family gave me unquestioning support which made that stage of life bearable. 

              After the initial pain had died down, I resolved to start my life all over again. Thinking that the worst was over, I started picking bits and pieces of my broken life. Though outwardly I tried to appear calm, I was just waiting for Ammi to come to Karachi. I could show my raw emotions and my anguish only to my mother, shed my tears hiding in her loving bosom!

          And then the tsunami came crashing down upon me!

          The innocent sounding ring of the phone bell on that eventful morning on the second day of Eid, brought devastating news from Dhaka. Ammi, who had talked to me only the day before, had consoled me with the news that she was coming to Karachi the following week, had past away peacefully in her sleep! All her life she had loved to be different, and in death too, she had chosen to stand apart from others. No serious illness, no doctors, no rushing to the hospital! No, she would have none of these! She had gone to bed as usual (the Eid Day) and just refused to get up in the morning.

               And never in my life had I needed her more! All the tears that remained to be shed, the anguish that remained to be expressed, just died down deep inside me.

            Memories of that day are like a hazy nightmare! Friends and relatives were surrounding me, offering their condolences but I just sat there wordless, numb with pain and trying to fathom the cruel reality. A dull throbbing pain kept tearing my heart to pieces, my eyes burning, but the tears just refusing to come!

            How can you let go of someone so dear to your heart… let go without even saying goodbye? When you live abroad away from people who are an integral part of your life, how can you even say whether you will ever see those beloved faces again? For months, I was overwhelmed with grief, as memories of that last night in her arms tugged at my heart and kept me awake and restless at nights. Ah! Only had I known that it was the final goodbye, I would have clung closer to her that night and not wasted even one of those precious moments in sleep!

THE FLIP OF THE COIN!

       

         I got up late, as was becoming my custom, and dragged my arthritic feet to the dining table, expecting breakfast and freshly brewed tea would be awaiting me. But to my disappointment Bahu was nowhere to be seen and Maasi was trying to console my wailing grand daughter. “Where is Bhabhi?” I asked her in irritation. “Bhabhi ke sar mein dard tha”, Maasi was all sympathy for my daughter in law. She told me that after sending the kids to school and her husband (my son) to office, (and as I was asleep) she had taken the luxury of a nap.

          I felt annoyed. How lazy of her and how irresponsible! Always finding one excuse or another for that extra rest! Stifling a yawn I contemplated going to the kitchen to prepare my tea and boiled egg, which Bahu does everyday, (as I am very fussy about my tea, she always brews it fresh while I am busy devouring my fruit and cereal). But I decided against the idea and chose to wait for her to get up. I was afraid that by preparing my breakfast myself I would spoil Bahu, after all it was her duty to look after my requirements!

          I picked up the newspaper lazily and tried to go through the news. But my mind was still bogged with sleep and a craving for tea. So I decided to call my daughter, something I usually do after breakfast. The maid girl picked the phone, “Baji to so rahi hain”, she informed me. She told me that the baby had been cranky all night and my daughter had gone to sleep for a while (after performing her morning duties). Like a flip of a coin my mood changed completely! ‘My poor girl’, I thought to myself, ‘always overworked and under slept!  Keeps toiling away after her home, kids and husband and never finds time to rest. Good, she has taken that extra nap’. I thought lovingly as I sat trying to read the newspaper and waiting for Bahu to get up and serve me breakfast.

          After a few minutes the telephone bell rang. It was my daughter, “Oh Mama, you called but I am sorry that I was sleeping. I went to make the bed but couldn’t resist the temptation to lie down for a while. The baby was restless last night and I couldn’t sleep properly”. “Its all right darling, no need for so many explanations”, I told her lovingly. “I know that you will be busy for the rest of the day”. “But I haven’t started preparing lunch as yet and the children will be back in no time”, her voice was distraught. I tried to soothe her, “Come on darling, don’t worry so much, make some Khichri or you can serve the kids Maggi noodles” ( I conveniently chose to forget that this was a luxury I never allowed my daughter in law).

“You toil too much after them”, I tried to give my daughter a motherly scolding, “You were looking very pale and pulled down when you came to visit last week”. I could feel the laughter in my daughter’s voice as she quipped back, “Thank God! There is at least one person in town who finds me pale and weak, my friends tease me for putting on weight and only yesterday my doctor has advised me to shed at least five Kgs”.

          Indignantly, I was about to give her my piece of mind about her friends and doctor but I heard signs of movement from Bahu’s room. Telling my daughter that I would talk to her in detail later on,  I hung up and quickly hid myself behind the Newspaper. ‘The coin had flipped again!’ I had to re-arrange that look of displeasure on my face and the frown on my brows before my daughter-in-law stepped out of her room!

 

My article in The review… 11th September, 2008