An 18 year old girl looks forward to competing with the rest of her classmates to get decent scores at the end of each semester when she starts off with her university. When she turns 22, she is about to graduate, typically the time she is also supposed to spend revisiting the roadmap she must have laid, at the beginning of her university period to reach certain career goals in life.

By the time this happens, she realizes that her years of burning midnight oil are effortlessly dwarfed by the magnitude of some coercive exclamations, calling out to seek rishtas for her, from the side of the people whose significance perhaps does not even equal a speck in her life. Extremely distant maternal friends, totally unknown to the girl herself, who would have never perhaps even cared to talk to the girl during her not-so-marriageable-age, suddenly become the khalas, the caretakers and the sole advisory committee.

Yes… and that is how the trial begins.

The girls are reminded of the instances they might have ever spent at a vegetable market to shop for the best capsicums and the best bundles of spinach. It is then when they eagerly sympathize with all those pieces of capsicums that they rejected and all the bundles of spinach they looked at with disdain for their trivial defects. All those moments coming back to them in that one moment of exhibiting themselves before dressed up aunties seated on the meticulously cleaned and dusted couches, waiting to shop for the best of the girls for their princes.

For the most part, the motion ‘we accept you for our son’ leads to the girl ending up in the kitchen at the husband’s house, tossing chapatis on the stove with absolutely no vestige of an anticipation to be permitted to go out and work for the fulfillment of any desires that she might have ever yearned to accomplish as a talented, agile, young student at her university or for the most part, the motion, ‘we do not accept you for our son’ leads to the girl ending up in an existential crisis, caught up in an interminable quest to find the flaws in the face she sees in the mirror each day.

Eventually, neither is the girl liberated enough to go out and practice her choice to be financially independent nor is she rendered sane to focus on anything other than pondering over the flaws in herself that became a cause of her rejection.

The culture of imposing will and setting a threshold for a girl’s ‘marriageable age’ is ruthless. And so is the trend of making a girl exhibit herself before ladies who are absolute strangers and could throw any piece of unbound judgement at the girl’s face without having to offer any regrets. 

This article does not intend to give a social spanking to anyone who thinks he/she is or ever has been, party to aiding and abetting the aforementioned cultures and trends, regardless of how much they need it. However, these people, so mindful and well-cognizant of the social-gaze-theory that they themselves are responsible for structuring, need to be told that their behavior is not contributing to anything positive for girls in the bigger picture. They need to be told that their attitude is forcing women, who actually want to prove their mettle by contributing as active citizens of the society (which is the very need of the hour in today’s world), to be imprisoned within their mental recesses.

Women in universities and colleges today in Pakistan, feel independent enough to take the steps out of the four walls of their homes and enter their respective institutions to be educated and to be enlightened. But enlightenment cannot be injected into the mind with a spur of the moment action. Like a bunch of seeds sown in a segment of the earth need to be given some measure of space to develop, likewise, the seeds of enlightenment in one’s mind, need to be given sizeable space to burgeon.

Where would the internal space to accommodate the seeds of enlightenment come from, when all the external agents are 24/7 hell bent on infesting the mind with roaring expletives of rishtas and shadi, and are hell bent on playing a wicked game of verbally bashing the individual to downsize her confidence, her skills and her capabilities, only to let her know that her inability to get married at the socially-acceptable version of her marriageable age, gives her the social label of being ‘no good’

It is perfectly understandable that marriage itself and the idea of choosing to live with a companion and to have a family life is an important practice but so is to see women as individuals, so is an individual’s duty to herself coupled with her obstinate pursuits of individuality and so is the idea that if the individual wants to make something of her life and prove herself as a productive citizen of the society at the age of 24 or 25 or even 26, then the external agencies and especially those who have never meant to be anything to her, should not push her into doing something that she is not at any particular time of her life interested to do.

Before respect and recognition, what women deserve, is the essence of being made aware of the idea that they are much-needed, vital humans and not perfunctory beings to be displayed like vegetables in a Sunday bazaar.

The need of the hour is to mend the cracks in this society by removing the culture of coercively putting up girls for exhibition and by removing the compulsions of making married girls (the ones who do want to work and be financially independent) stay within the kitchen and take care of the household chores.

By contributing to having a society packed with women of weak disposition and by having reduced their intellect to the limited corners of a house, we ensure nothing but sheer doom for the society itself.