Mind Love Life Stories

I’m a 21-year-old Pakistani Muslim and I know marriage isn’t for me

I recently celebrated turning 21 when I returned to Pakistan during my winter break. 21 is an interesting age. I always believed it to be a young age, when you just arrive into your ‘actual twenties’ and start to discover the world on your terms. But recently, I have witnessed some old school friends tying the knot while others post honeymoon pictures on Instagram captioned #chillinwithbae.

And this terrifies me.

What was even scarier, though, was when I heard my cousin younger than we was set to be betrothed. Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t have anything against people who have chosen this path of early marriage. They must have chosen wisely and are probably happy with their lifestyle. But it’s made me realize that marriage is something I will not do now (or maybe ever?).

From a cultural standpoint, I’m aware that as I ascend the twenties ladder, the questions from the conservative side of my family will inevitably rear their ugly head. In fact, some have already appeared.

The common one? “Shaadi kab karo gi, jab ham boorhe ho jayein gaye?”

(When will you get married? When we’re old and wrinkled?)

Is it so wrong, that I, a Pakistani Muslim woman, have started to consider the concept of marriage and how it’s a path I may possibly not want to walk down on? I can literally hear the collective gasps of all the aunties, and maybe some uncles.

For me, a super type-A personality, marriage and relationships are not on my radar. I just entered my twenties and, simply put, I feel like the world is my oyster and its my time to seize the moment; carpe diem, if you will. And I know that this kind of mentality is a rarity.

But I also know what I want.

University and the simple experience of living abroad, have brought an abundance of independence with a desire to grow and challenge my ideas and alter my set-perspectives. All these have made it less likely for me to be tied down or enter a relationship, at least in my twenties.

I believe that your twenties are a time when you should go all out on taking risks and pursuing their goals. It’s an age when you’ve just left college and have dipped your foot in the real world, so to say. You’re at an age when its okay to take risks and try out new ventures.

For me, I see marriage as a major compromise, one which will require one’s dreams to be moulded, to be put on a hold so that a woman can raise kids or to allow her partner to shine in his/her career. Acting, writing, and learning are goals which I want to pursue whole-heartedly and on the love versus career scale, career will trump love many times over.

My father has raised three girls, including myself, and he’s raised us to always pursue learning, because, with learning and educating your mind, you gain a perspective. Not to mention, you’re more valuable in society. Once you have your education, no one can take it away from you. And it is perhaps, because of this, that the order of my life is bigger than university-job-marriage-settling down-children.

My life just can’t centre around a concept like marriage.

It’s 2019. Women are being unapologetic in their pursuit of higher education, government posts, leadership roles or even acting roles. They’re breaking the mould: Stepping out of the four walls of patriarchy which have kept them bolted to the ground. And it’s these women who have ignited ambition and desire in me.

So, #sorrynotsorry to aunties who make me feel like the “other” in the room, because, frankly, I’m too big for this room. I will certainly not align to what society deems “appropriate” for a girl entering her twenties, which is marriage. Ticking off domestic accomplishments, like making a round roti, are not on my to-do list for becoming the acceptable version for a future husband and in-laws.

I’m 21, Muslim, and Pakistani, and may never get married. And this year, I’m doing me.

By Neha Maqsood

Neha Maqsood is a 21-year-old, born-and-bred Pakistani currently pursuing a dual degree in Medicine and Global Health at Imperial College London and Bristol University. She's also a part-time actress and radio show host; she starred in the 2018 film "Sisters in Arms," and hosted the award-winning radio show, "Will I ever be a Doctor?" Most recently, she was listed as one of the 100 Most Influential BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) people in Bristol by Bristol 24/7 and Bristol Cable for her work in empowering ethnic minorities through leading a Women's March in Bristol and kick-starting a radio show calling out microaggressions against POCs on campus. She writes for multiple publications, including Epigram, Brown Girl Magazine and That's What She Said.