It was a little over a year ago when I came across an advertisement on Geo TV about a game show that was about to fulfill every parent’s dream.

Literally.

It was like a beacon of light in the abyss of darkness. Like Wonderwoman in the Batman V Superman movie.

You get the idea.

It starred the very popular ‘scholar’ who loves Ghalib and mangoes – sometimes in the same breath – our favorite obnoxious narcissist Amir Liaquat who explained to all the wonderful Pakistani parents that never again shall anyone ever leave their house in anger. There will be no more broken cutlery smashing to the ground because his game show would be the means for the family to *wait for it* get dowry for their daughters.

They could come to his show, quite possibly act like fools and win prizes like motorbikes, refrigerators, generators, etc, for the boy and his family who obviously were so poor they could not afford to buy anything for themselves. Even their socks were from the previous engagement.

He was not only advocating dowry but also encouraging it.

Fast forward ahead one year and two months. You would expect things would have changed somewhat.

Silly me.

That is when I heard about a certain episode on a morning show on Geo TV yet again.

In the show the host Nadia Khan promises 3 teacup sets to people who answer her questions correctly.

As expected, the main topic being discussed was tea.

The always graceful Zubaida Apa was one of the guests. The conversation between her, Nadia Khan and another guest was going quite well. There were good suggestions for tea lovers on how to make the perfect tea using the correct utensils and fun comparisons like Popeye’s spinach being what tea was for them. And how their hands shook or their concentration level dropped considerably if they did not get their regular daily dose.

A phenomenon familiar to all tea lovers I am sure.

That is when the host changed the topic to girls who did not know how to cook but if they were able to make good tea, they would easily trick people into thinking they were in fact ‘Superwomen’ who could not only make tea but also the proverbial round roti and cook amazing gourmet meals every night.

Who knew a single cup of tea had this power. 

If there is any confusion at this point, then let me clear it up. The host was talking about when a male and his parents go to a girl’s house to quite literally check her out (with both parents’ blessings) and then after seeing her serve tea, decide whether she is a YAY or NAY! 

I am not going to get into what a ridiculous and degrading custom this is but rather conveniently close my eyes and move on to what Zubaida Apa said next.

She, very eloquently, then explained that people (potential parents-in-law) note everything and if the girl pours tea like “dharr dharr dharr” (yes, she said it with sound effects) the rishta will be a No.

Next she explained how the teacups should be clean. The tea should not be filled to the top of the cup and how the milk is always poured later.

There is nothing wrong with making good tea, or setting a presentable tray/table and taking pride in doing something right. Such things are in fact even part of many courses such as hotel management, etc.

However, when all this only matters because you have please your potential in-laws enough to get their approval, there is something seriously wrong.

Our girls just got back from an amazing World T20 where they won matches and our hearts. Astrophysicist Dr. Nergis Mavalvala was part of the team that detected gravitational waves. Malala is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has won 2 Oscars. Aqeela Asifi ranks among the top ten teachers of the world. Benazir Bhutto was a Prime Minister. We have female fighter pilots, commandos, etc.

And we are still talking about on how to serve tea such that the boy and his parents think the girl is good enough to marry, on national television?

There is nothing wrong with arranged marriages and it is very much part of our culture and it works for many. Sometimes practical is indeed better than emotional but in such settings, shouldn’t the girl’s (and boy’s) outlook in life, habits, hobbies, even education, dreams, etc be the deciding factor whether they are a suitable match for each other?

How can this tea – this is magic tea - be it? This tea genie makes everyone think the girl will be a whizz at keeping a home (saleekha) because it goes without saying, HOME is where she will be at all times?

How about we ask the boy to make tea instead and the girl decides whether he looks good enough to marry? Whether the way he lifted the Tea Cosy and poured the tea was delicate enough to tickle her feathers.

I wonder if Zubaida Apa will now reconsider? No?

Moving on.

The host then goes on to complain how it is not right for a cook to serve tea to regular guests and how it should be the girls of the family who should do so instead because that is “apnayat.” 

I guess if men did it, it would mean the end of civilization.

(I would like to remind everyone here that there are countless female rocket scientists, astronomers, and athletes out there!)

Nadia Khan then explains how her cook always puts everything on a tray and places it in front of her. She then gives the tea to the guests all by herself using her own itty bitty dainty hands because THAT makes it personal.

At this point of the show, I really was wondering if Nadia Khan was on crack and whether Zubaida Apa was her supplier who gave it to her as a “totka” for insanity.

The third guest miraculously speaks up at this point that she and her brother both serve guests and how boys should also be encouraged to do so in every family.

I don’t know what bit them but the topic was changed faster than one could say TEA right after that comment.

It is 2016 and we are still talking about how girls should serve tea so that a man, woman and her son who do not know her, can rate her whether she is marriageable or not.

The way she “serves” will decide whether she is worthy enough of their son. Perhaps they think the better she serves tea, the better she will serve them?