The promotional campaign by Careem, the transport company, operated online about having a Rishta aunty on an exclusive ride to find a life partner has raised eyebrows among the liberals and the conservatives alike. For the former, it is tantamount to strengthening patriarchy, and to the latter, it is a shameful act for a girl to find her husband through an aunty who is unknown and who might land their daughters in wrong hands. The question is, do we need a middleman or an aunty to tie a knot?

Marriage is an important institution. There should not be any two opinions on this. Not that I am trying to reinforce the maxim, but going by the nature of human species, comfort can only be derived from relations adjoined by blood ties or by a relationship that has earned the endorsement of society. Marriage is one such relation. So much so that gay couples have fought for their right to marry, which means to get an endorsement from society to live together. However, the way marriages happen depend on the type of culture people live in. For centuries, in this part of the world, parents have been hunting partners for their daughters and sons. A marriage in the sub-continental culture is more of a beginning of a new relationship between two families. It doesn’t matter if the couple has a similar mind-set or are comfortable with each other or incline to stay together for the rest of the life. What is important is the ability of the two families to get along. If parents of both the families click, it is assumed that the couple would click as well. It is also thought that, in case of marital problems, the parents could rescue the marriage from falling apart, because of their common endorsement to the wedding in the first place. Even today when women have liberated themselves from many taboos they are still considered victim of societal norms that tend to marginalize them. One such pattern is finding a good Rishta for a girl. In the process of finding a good proposal, the mental agony she goes through facing rejections or comments on her physical appearance leave deep marks on her personality. Indirectly she is being told that her entity is just not a cause to celebrate.

A large segment of the society is still hitched to the concept of a girl who is fair, tall, and soft-spoken, an exceptional cook and somebody who could unite the family. Education obviously is a must and some families today even do not mind if she could become an earning hand to supplement their son’s income. In the midst of all this, a woman just has to be lucky, to find a good match or good in-laws, hence goes the blessing every girl is showered with, as soon as, she is born “Allah Naseeb achay kary.” (May she is blessed with a good husband and in-laws). Right from day one, a girl is induced with the notion that her life’s success entirely depends on her fate to get a good life partner. No doubt a good life partner is important for a happy marriage but making a woman dependent on the assumption that life ends and begins with this notion is treacherous and getting her to become a pawn in the hands of the circumstances.

The Rishta aunty could be an alluring marketing strategy given the kind of desperation that reigns in the society about finding a good match especially for girls, but it does not liberate society from wrong assumptions held about marriages: which is that it is an end to itself. As if morning shows were not enough to develop a certain culture around marriage such as expensive dresses, elaborated functions, grand celebrations that the Rishta aunty has arrived to reinforce that marriage is one of the most significant segments of one’s life and if it is not done in a particular way life, it could go topsy-turvy.

The concept of a middleman is not new or alien to finding a marriage partner. Many websites are devoted to this cause. However what makes the Rishta aunty different is that it has brought the selection process of finding the right match from the drawing room to an open space. Else it is not a welfare activity but a campaign to get extra customers. In a well-regulated society, the administrative arm of the government supervising transport and traffic rules would have intervened to find out about the quality of the women appointed by Careem as Rishta aunty. Young girls are exceedingly using Careem to commute, how safe are they if they try a ride with Rishta aunty.

Maybe it is time to reset our values, vis-à-vis some important dimensions of our lives such as marriage, so that we have satisfied families where healthy minds are brought up.