Let’s take it from the very start.

When you were a kid, going to a wedding was a package that included the opportunity of running about the wedding hall with your cousins. When you grew up a bit and entered the realm of teenage, going to a wedding meant free food. When you grew up a bit more and entered the realm of post-teenage young-adulthood, going to a marriage meant that your turn had come – you were up for bidding, you were the game this season, and there were various rishta aunties out there to hunt you down.

And then, of course, came your own wedding – big, busy, boisterous, and quite bluntly: a bit of a bore.

The question that I am going to be putting forth is this: did you ever want it?

Weddings in Pakistan are a big deal and that is a well-established, mutually agreed-upon fact as far as the desi is concerned. In fact it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of good fortune, property, a car, a six-digit salary should be in want of a wife who is young and fair, tall and slim, homely and well-educated, preferably a doctor. So far as the factuality of facts for the ultimate desi go, so much goes without saying. Weddings are one thing – they’re the occasion. Marriages are quite another – it is the institution that is treated with almost sacred respect in our society; with a reverence so sacrosanct it is considered not just indecent but downright evil to utter a word against it.

And the idea that you must undergo your own version of such a big and boisterous blunder bucket of boredom at some point in your life – and this point too, is more often than not fixed – is instilled and drilled into your brains from a very, very early time on in your lives.

It is not a rarity to listen to a child speak of his or her marriage – how often is it that parents taunt their kids over their imminent pairings-off; how often that teenagers are teased by older relatives with regards the fact; how often that this one singular institution is portrayed in a manner as one that becomes the center of all your existence? Regardless of your gender – you must have experienced these taunts, these teasing slights, these teeny tiny hints throughout your growing up: you hear them with such frequency that it becomes a part of your life that you take to be imminent and inevitable, and thus you never even imagine that such too, is liable to question and criticism.

And if we return to my earlier question - did you ever want it – What do you have to say then?

Let’s look at some of the “reasons” people have for indulging in marriage – their mothers want them “well-settled,” their fathers want them to “have a family,” their grandparents are getting old and/or dying, their friends all got married, theirs is the “right” age to get married, your phuppos’ sons and/or daughters all got married, you’re going bald, you’re growing old – that it is “their” opinion that you should marry: and have you ever asked yourself, who are these “thems” and “theys” and “theirs” whose opinions so matter? Your mother, for instance, tells you, that “they” think you should get married. So you go to, let’s say, your chaachus and your khaalas and your phuppis and your mamus and ask them if they think you should get married? They will, of course, say no, it is not them, oh no, but this other them, and you ask who is this other them, you perchance now consider asking your neighbors and your second cousins and the city mayor and the Rangers task force – is it them who think you should get married? And they too will say that it is not them, so perhaps you will take a bigger leap this time and consult your doctor, your dentist, your boss, your ex, your parlour-wali-aunty, your thesis supervisor – and they too will provide insufficient answers to your queries.

In the end you will find out that while everyone is so concerned about the direct opinion of these “theys” and “thems,” no one really knows who “they” are, where they come from, why we’re bound and obligated to follow “their” set of principles. It is very much like Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984: nobody knew who he was, where he was, if he’d really said what people thought he’d said, if he even existed in the first place – yet still his rules were followed, his opinions respected, his authority unquestioned. It is these “them” then, who control the wires of our lives from birth to death – our very own perpetually omnipresent Big Brothers.

A part from the novel reads:

“Does Big Brother exist?”

“Of course he exists.”

“Does he exist like you and me?”

“YOU do not exist.”

Perhaps Orwell had more of India in him than he thought – for he grasped the context of something that we desis must go through a bit too accurately. You and I, we do not exist as far as our desires go – in this case, as far as our desires of marriage go. It is never our own desire to shackle ourselves, it is our mothers’ and our fathers’ and our phuppos’ and our chaachus’ and everybody else’s desire but our own. And as far as the philosophy of desires go – they really never are your own. You borrow the idea of desiring a well-established man who is more of a money-making machine from your outside world. You borrow the idea of desiring a tall, slim, fair doctor wife from the outside world. You borrow the idea of harboring happiness through kids from the outside world.Your desire for marriage is never exactly your own – but a void desire that you have no clue who lent you.

But lent it is, and taken for granted it is, and hence you enter this supposedly super sanctified bond of eternal sacrifice and compromise and whatnots.

Your big and boisterous wedding is a big and boisterous bluff, really – while you sit still like a statue in uncomfortable starched garbs you get a panoptical view of everyone who was supposed to be happy at your getting married: there, on the first table sits the phuppo who is feverishly judging the lack of complexion of your wife; there on the next table is the khalu who thinks your salary is not enough to keep a family; there at the far end is the aunty who has come only because your mom went to her son’s wedding, and there by the stage is the other aunty who is secretly pissed at you for not marrying her daughter instead. You look in vain and you look in wantonness for at least one happy face – of course there are the loitering children about the guy distributing the dates, there is the group of girls taking selfies in their plasticized faces, there are all those elderly aunties in banarsi suits with their hair dyed a hideous blonde going a-gossiping about falan baji ki beti, there are all those uncles who are busy discussing the performance of Raheel Shareef this term and expressing concern over the banning of Shahid Masood’s program, there are those guys exchanging Asma’s number – there is everyone but one genuinely happy face. Even your wife, who sits next to you in her ridiculously expensive wedding dress and nonsensically expensive makeup (which, let’s be honest, doesn’t even look good, and you’re just wondering what sight you will behold once the forty ton of makeup has been washed away) – doesn’t appear to be very happy. Perhaps she’s worried about all the gol rotis she’ll have to make.

And before you know it, the nikahnama is signed – expiry date not included – the dowry is exchanged, the vows are said, and the matchless deed is dared, done, determined for once and for all. All of a sudden you find that you have lost your Bachelor’s Degree and you wife has just attained her Master’s one – and in this no holds barred situation you look at your rishtay kay chaachu and see your future in him: a balding, fat man stuck in a loveless marriage with his phuppo ki beti and who has a couple of kids that are mewling and bawling and all that goes inside his head is his office work and the daily Mubashir Luqman talk show afterwards. His wife too is nothing but a stay-at-home mom with kids to take care of, stuck inside a bubble she neither wanted nor can escape, and her life is nothing but the kitchen and the evening serial on Hum TV. In absolute horror you realize that you have just spent years’ worth of money on something you never even wanted – but the vows have been exchanged and there is no way out.

In simpler words, you find out how you have just paid for the world’s most expensive suicide ever.

And everybody around is just waiting for dinner.