We often talk about how the hijab is viewed negatively in the Western world. But I don’t think that many people realize that discrimination against the hijab doesn’t only happen in western society. In my experience, it also occurs in my home country, Pakistan, and my own family members are a part of the problem.
My sister and I started wearing the hijab when we were 15 and 13, respectively. For us, it seemed like a natural choice since we’d spent most of our childhood in Saudi Arabia, where the hijab was mandatory. When our family in Pakistan found out we still wore the hijab after moving to Canada in our teen years, they were ecstatic. They thought it was wonderful that we chose this for ourselves and praised us for making seemingly religious choices.
But that all changed when my sister turned 20 and someone tried to propose to her. Our mother rejected the engagement and it sparked a debate within our entire family. Most of them believed that more proposals would come her way if my sister took off her hijab. I still remember my mother arguing with our aunt who said that hijabs are only meant to look good on girls who are “white, thin, and pretty.” She thought that I was too dark and my sister was too fat, so we were ruining our prospects by sticking to our hijabs.
The worst part about all of this is that my aunt wasn’t entirely wrong. The hijab didn’t make men jump at the chance to marry us. Due to pressure from extended family members, my mother was constantly on the lookout for potential matches for my sister. But every guy who approached would run away just as fast once he heard that she wouldn’t be taking her hijab off for him.
After a while, my sister did it. She found a guy who seemed accepting of who she was and agreed to marry him after a year. Suddenly, the tune the family was singing changed, but not for the better. Everyone asked if she’d be taking her hijab off for the wedding and discussing how beautiful she would look in this or that hairdo. They tried to talk my mother into making my sister buy lehengas, which would show off her midriff and arms. This completely goes against the very purpose of wearing a hijab.
To reach a compromise with my family, I nominated myself as my sister’s makeup artist and hairstylist for the wedding day and began experimenting with different hijab styles. We naively thought that if we could show them that the hijab could be dolled up, they would accept her decision. They did not. In the end, when the engagement was broken off, they simply returned to their earlier comments about taking off the hijab to score a husband.
The sheer amount of criticism that came with all this has my sister unsure about whether she ever wants to have a wedding, let alone one in Pakistan with our family. It hurt to watch my sister try and deal with the harsh judgment and then come to realize that her opinions hold no value in our community. It hurts more to think that other Pakistani brides might have to put up with the same level of harassment all over one headscarf.
My sister was always much more staunch in her love of the hijab. Truth be told, I started wearing it on the condition that it would be pink and glittery. If you asked me just two years back, I might have given in to the family pressure and agreed to take off my hijab for my wedding.
Yet, knowing the struggle and judgment that comes with making a choice has given me an appreciation for the fact that it was a choice. However petty my reason is, it is my choice to put on the hijab, and I will be damned if I let someone else try to make decisions about my body and my attire for that one day in my life.
Now I can say with confidence that I will not be taking my hijab off for my wedding.
Aishwarya Rai (who was then residing with her folks) was once asked by David Letterman if it was common in India for older children to live with their parents. She was being interviewed in his show and the snippy comment wasn’t lost on her. She simply fired back saying, “It’s fine to live with your parents because it is also common in India that we don’t have to take an appointment with our parents to meet for dinner.”
It is a Desi tradition, to eventually reside with your parents after you have completed your education and are working. Most Indians don’t even move out while they are pursuing their undergraduate degrees, and some stay with their parents even after the children are married. This might sound strange to anyone from the Western region of the world, but living with your parents is not really that big a deal.
Sociologically speaking, kinship and family were constructs created to enable companionship among men and women. Nuclear families evolved with the passage of time, due to industrialization and the capitalization of goods and services, and extended families have dissipated with time. Now, joint families are hugely common in the Indian subcontinent. There are sisters and brothers and uncles and aunts all living and cooking under the same roof.
The fact that it is so looked down upon in the United States is very depressing. It almost seems to be more foreign and scary than Kanye West running for the presidency. The fact that Americans disregard and shame anybody who chooses to live with their parents is juvenile. Why are American adults so ashamed to be linked with their families? The fact that they choose not to associate themselves with their parents makes them rather conceited. The overbearing nature to prove yourself to be independent beings is honestly tiring. You can be independent without having to live alone. I do it, everyone in my locality does it as well.
Family is a basic building block of Indian culture. Now, as an Indian it is easy to notice the similarities and the differences between the east and west, predominantly noticing the varied range of cereals available in the West and how people are judged if they live with their parents.
I live in a 3 bedroom apartment with four people and I don’t have to pay rent. That’s how it works. You stay with your family and you are loved and surrounded by people who unconditionally love you. You don’t need to be estranged in order to feel like an adult; coursing through the difficulties of life is being “adult” enough. Having homely comfort would only be a step in helping you deal with it properly.
I respect everybody’s choices in how they wish to live their lives. However, judging someone just because they live with two people who brought them up is unnecessary. Whoever served as your guardian, it is your duty to help them anyway whatsoever. They have brought you up, clothed you, sheltered you, and gave you a happy (albeit emotionally scarring for some) life. You owe it to them to be considerate towards them as they are growing older and do what they have done for you.
You cannot measure your success and worth just by whether you have moved out or not. This millennial tradition needs to be booed away because living with your parents doesn’t make you pathetic or a loser. Rather, it makes you kind and considerate and saves you a lot of money (because I know you are broke). It has nothing to do with pride, they have taken care of you when you have had diarrhea. Don;t forget that.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken away a lot of the things we cherish. Our lives are no longer the same and we are forced to accept this dystopian reality, for now at least. As we approach summer in the northern hemisphere, expatriates or immigrants living abroad no longer have the choice to travel home.
Desi families are not only big but also well-knit. Traveling home, to us, means spending the next month or two adjusting and learning to live with people we only share blood with, but the happiness that envelopes a reunion is unparalleled.
Here are some of the things we’ll be missing this summer:
1. The unpacking
Much like it may feel for some people at Christmas, our suitcases are half-filled with gifts for practically everyone we know. The over-weight luggage is worth the expectant look in our relatives’ eyes though.
2. The post-midnight game nights
These impromptu game nights are what we look forward to every vacation. From Ludo to Uno Cards, charades to Antakshari, family games are best when everyone’s there, and although no one’s following the rules or keeping track of the score, everyone is still competitive.
3. The mealtimes
Somehow that table for six can fit ten people.
Although everyone’s sleeping in for breakfast, lunch and dinner are always a big deal. Everyone is at the table and there’s food you’ve been missing for an entire year. Every mealtime is like a little celebration.
4. The movie nights
The biggest problem with movie nights is that you can’t find a movie that both a five and a thirty-year-old want to watch. Our family’s go-to movies were Marvel or DC releases. As long as you have buttered popcorn, everyone’s going to be happy anyway,
5. The over-planned picnic
You can never be too prepared for a picnic meant for 40 people. Did you bring extra diapers? Your grandmother’s medicine? Serving spoons? Badminton racquets?
The bus you booked doesn’t have a working air conditioner. The toddler is covered in mosquito bites. You lost your way and now you’re all an hour late. But once you get there, all your troubles are forgotten…except someone forgot to pack the plates.
6. The sleepovers
When you’re with your cousins, time just disappears. One conversation leads to another and you find yourself ranting about that fifth-grade nemesis at 3 a.m. You’re probably missing a pillow or a blanket but you sleep like a rock when you do.
7. The street food cravings
It’s acceptable to crave pani puri and chaat at 12 a.m. when you’re on vacation. Your oldest cousin will be glad to drive the lot of you to a chaat stall which is suspiciously open so late.
8. The shopping before the wedding
You’ve spent endless hours in traffic only to pick out one decent outfit. But you have three more outfits to buy.
9. The wedding
If someone doesn’t get married that summer, you aren’t really Desi.
Your cousin insists on teaching you to dance, despite your clumsiness and lack of rhythm. It’s either really hot or pouring heavily on the day of the wedding and it’s not doing your makeup any favors.
10. The road trips and train rides
Desi families are not only big but also well-knit; this guarantees traveling long distances to meet them. The long train rides through ghats and mountains, the spectacular beauty of nature, the waterfalls and the fields, the smell of your country’s soil, and the crisp fresh air is priceless.
11. The reunion with your culture
Traveling home unites you with the people who represent your culture best. The connection with the food, entertainment, and routine is raw.
12. The old souls
As we get older, our grandparents do too. Every visit makes you vulnerable; this may be the last time you see them. So you hug them, you tell them you love them, and you cherish your time together.
13. The street animals
You often see way too many animals, in your house or otherwise. Watching cows, goats, ducks, stray dogs, and cats in your front yard is not uncommon.
14. The mosquito bites
If you’ve got out of your vacation without mosquito bites, consider yourself really lucky.
15. Homemade food
Home-cooked food with indigenous, fresh spices and organic, fresher-than-ever fruits and vegetables will taste better than anything you can eat elsewhere.
16. The many, many get-togethers
Having 200 relatives living in the same city means you keep getting invited to parties and get-togethers. Let’s not talk about the upset stomachs every time you come home though.
17. The grocery hoarding
You can’t find the kind of achaar (pickle), ghee, mithai (sweets), tea, masala, spices, and dry produce you get back home anywhere else. We always hoard a kilo or two of these before we return from our vacation.
Jokes aside, Southeast Asian countries are fighting the pandemic with all they have right now. Look out for your loved ones abroad and stay safe.
Whether it be fromIndia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, or any other Desi country, the food is always diverse and filled with color and intricate flavors that create a unique experience. I’ve always grown up with Indian food, so perhaps I’m biased by my experience, but I’m here to argue my point to the ground – Desi foods are some of the greatest joys in life. From samosas to paneer butter masala, there is a huge variety of foods in the Desi region. You could spend your life attempting to try them all, so here are 11 of the most impactful Desi foods to get you started.
Chicken Karahi is a notable Pakistani dish deriving out of a line of several chicken dishes, including Chilli Chicken, Chicken 65, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Lollipop, and more. The dish is cooked typically in a karahi, or heavy, usually cast-iron, pan. A rich red tomato sauce is used for the base of the dish, and the most authentic kind will have a fiery, full-bodied flavor. The dry curry is perfect with naan or roti and is a cherished favorite in the Desi region.
This dish is one of my personal favorite Desi foods as its flavor has depth and creates a sweet, but also spicy taste. If you’ve been to Pakistan or India, and haven’t tried Chicken Karahi, you’re missing out. The dish introduces you to a whole new texture and variety of making chicken, that we simply don’t have in the western world.
This Indo-Chinese dish is cherished across the entire desi region for its bright red color and crunchy texture. When made right, Gobi Manchurian can be crispy and bursting with bold flavors and a slightly sour sensation. The dish can be made with several different options including, chicken, fish, and more popularly– cauliflower. The chosen base is typically coated in batter, fried, and mixed with some soy sauce and red sauce.
Gobi Manchurian has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The first time I tried Gobi Manchurian was at a family friend’s party and I just fell in love. Since then, it’s become a family tradition to make it together; we always take some pretty photos because of its beautiful coloring.
Pani Puri is one of the most beloved Desi snacks. The snack is also accessible in the US; most Indian grocery stores have a Pani Puri set, which includes the pooris, and the two sauces (tamarind and green) used in the dish. The base of the snack is the puri, which has a hole in the top to fit all of the ingredients inside. Often, the dish includes small diced potatoes, cilantro, onion, chickpeas, cilantro, and more. Pani Puri is very popular street food, and once filled with the light green sauce, must be eaten in one bite.
This snack has a special place in my heart as well. Eating Pani Puri on the side of the street or even at home was something special. Engulfing the puri as a whole is always my favorite part because as soon as you bite into all of the different ingredients, everything tangles together to create a complex flavorful adventure. Pani Puri taught me to live life on the edge with its new, unique flavors.
This is one of the most popular Indian dishes around. Sambar is a soup-like dish consisting of lentils, tamarind, mixed vegetables, spices, and herbs, as well as a special Sambar powder that is mixed in to give it a distinct taste. Sambar is perfect for any occasion, from parties, to dinners on a Saturday night. Not only is it healthy, but its delicious flavor and herbal aroma is a one-of-a-kind experience that is not to miss.
My experience with Sambar has always been my mother or my aunt making it at home. Whenever I visit India, my relatives always make Sambar at least once a week. It’s a staple dish and is typically eaten with rice, Idli, or Vada. Sambar is always made with love, whether it comes from my mother, aunt, or grandmother.
Haleem is a very popular dish in the Muslim community in the Desi region. It is especially eaten during the months of Ramadan and Muharram. The dish consists of slow-cooked meat, wheat, and rice or barley. It is a pretty hard dish to cook, however, it is done so with passion and love. It is incredibly nutritious and has a full-bodied rich flavor.
Although I have never personally tried Haleem, as I don’t prefer to eat Mutton– the meat often used in Haleem– I can affirm that it will definitely change your life. Not only is it healthy, but it has rich flavors that you won’t find anywhere else.
Biryani is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. From Hyderabadi Dum Biryani, to Pakistani Chicken Biryani to Kacchi Biryani, you just can’t go wrong with this dish. There are so many unique combinations of flavors and ingredients. Although it takes quite a bit of effort to make, biryani bursts with flavor, with the juicy tender meat wrapping the dish together.
Anytime that I visit India, my aunt has to make Chicken Biryani at least once. It’s one of my most favorite rice dishes and the airy and fresh flavoring fills you right up. With the correct amount of balance of spice and cooling ingredients, it’s a perfectly balanced dish for those slightly less adventurous foodies.
If you don’t know what a Samosa is, then pay attention. This is literally the best snack dish you will ever find in the Desi region. Period. The snack consists of a crispy, flaky outer layer made with all-purpose flour, stuffed with a potato-pea mixture on the inside. This fan-favorite creates a spicy, tangy flavor, with the crispy outside texture adding the overall aroma and taste of the dish. Samosa is a beloved dish not only in India, but it’s well-known around the world.
To me, Samosa is a family favorite. If we’re going to have a party, we know we can depend on Samosa because everyone just loves them. The dish represents reliability to me and I can’t imagine a world without it.
Naan is another very popular Desi dish eaten all around the region. In the US, Naan can be found at pretty much any Indian restaurant. It’s essential in Southern and Central Asia and can be eaten with a lot of different curries. Naan is an oven-baked flatbread, similar to chapati and poori, but distinct in its buttery delicious taste. It can be made with butter, garlic, or other herbs to create a unique flavor each time.
This dish is especially popular in North India. Paratha is a layered, flaky flatbread made primarily out of flour, salt, ghee, and water. The bread is simple but still bursts with an immense passionate flavor. There are all sorts of Paratha, from stuffed to plain, in triangles, squares, and circles. The soft, full-bodied, fluffy texture and flavor are not to be missed. Out of all the Desi foods, Paratha definitely stands out as one of the best.
My mother used to make Paratha every Monday after school. The dish always reminds me of my childhood. Even its flavor reminds me of running home from the bus stop to sniff the aromatic scent of the flatbread. Paratha doesn’t only represent India and my childhood, but its flavor will open you up to a variety of Indian flavors that don’t center around spice.
Desi foods also include the best sweets and desserts around– and Jalebi is one of the most popular. Often, Jalebi can be found in a boisterous, bright orange color and a sweet, syrupy flavor with a crispy, juicy texture. The spiral-shaped dish is made out of fermented deep-fried batter, which is then soaked in sugar syrup.
I used to hate Jalebis, and I guess that’s why they’re so memorable to me. The flavoring was just too tangy and sweet. When I tried them again, years later, from a Middle Eastern shop in Michigan, I changed my mind – the flavor wasn’t too sweet or bland. It had the perfect combination of every flavor a dessert or snack should have.
Gulab Jamun is an exceptionally popular dessert/sweet in India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and more. The dish is a milk-based solid, soaked in a sugary sweet syrup. When eating, Gulab Jamun oozes with the juicy syrup engulfed during the soaking process. The ball itself is typically light, airy, and fluffy. Overall, Gulab Jamun is one of the best Desi foods, so addictive, and I can’t imagine going through an Indian festival without it.
Like the aforementioned Gobi Manchurian, it has also become a tradition in my family to make Gulab Jamun together. We would roll the dough into tiny balls and help my mother fry and soak them in the sugar syrup. Gulab Jamun always represented trust in my family. The dish reminds me of all of the memories we’ve made together and how important that bond is.
It’s a simple sentence – two words, to be exact. But it took me over a decade to say it with conviction. Or to say it at all, for that matter. Despite being raised to take pride in my ethnicity, it was something I never truly connected with. How could I call myself Kashmiri after everythingthat my family had been through because of Kashmir?
I belong to the community of Pandits. As far as I’ve been told, our roots have been in the Valley since forever. That was, until violence cloaked its landscape in the 90s, and my kin was left with no option but to escape the land that was once home. What they hoped would be a week’s disruption lasted 25 years, and before they knew it, their lives would never be the same again. The destiny of their future generations had been rewritten forever; their sense of stability and identity had been gruesomely torn apart by politics.
Growing up, I was a first-hand witness to the effects of this unexpected displacement. It was the little things that had the most impact on me, like the several times I caught my grandfather admiring a picture of the Dal Lake on his wall, to the way my grandmother wished she’d had a moment to say goodbye. There was this unspoken longing for home that seemed to linger just on the outskirts of every conversation we had. And throughout our talks, I’d wonder how they could speak so fondly of a place that reminded them of so much pain.
But it was perhaps years later, through the strangest of mediums, that I learned to embrace my identity. When I picked up reading poetry, I expected nothing but boring sonnets glamorizing love. To my surprise, I discovered accounts of women of color who had similar experiences and were using words as a medium to heal from their own transgenerational trauma. I’d found my catharsis, and it altered my perspective on a lot of things, including what being Kashmiri truly meant.
It made me look beyond my angst and realize the resilience my people possessed. The kind of courage and tenacity they’ve had – to rebuild their lives despite everything being taken away from them. And just like that, I fell in love with the sheer spirit that ran through Kashmiri blood. We weren’t lost – we were simply paving another path for ourselves, overcoming obstacles and moving forward like never before. Eventually, it also dawned on me that the Kashmir my grandparents spoke so lovingly of was the one inhabited by these very people – ones with unparalleled resolve and strength – and it was the people of Kashmir they missed more than anything.
In one of her poems, Rupi Kaur stated that she was “the product of all the ancestors getting together, and deciding these stories need to be told.” Perhaps, I am also meant to tell this story. One about the indomitable nature of my people, one that I am still in awe of.
Maybe one day the grey skies in the Valley will finally clear, and we’ll have a chance to go back home. Or maybe we won’t. But all I know is that the next time someone asks me about my ethnicity, I won’t shy away from telling it like it is.
Whether it’s an arranged or a love marriage, the entire process of an Indian wedding begins way before the first day of wedding festivities (and yes, there’s way more than just one or two functions). Similar to weddings in other cultures, there are always various errands to run prior to a traditional Hindu Indian wedding.
The sari and the panche worn by the bride and groom respectively must be selected and coordinated, flowers and decorations must be chosen, as well as a delicious menu for all attendees to enjoy throughout the wedding week. Lighting, a venue, a priest, and a ritualistic time for the wedding to occur must also be chosen. A wedding card has to be designed and sent out to all attendees. There are many specific traditions that most Indians take very seriously, thus resulting in very intense preparation before the wedding.
The First Day
Finally, after months of ‘hustle and bustle,’ the first day of the wedding arrives. First, the bride’s family typically prepares a Ganesha pooja, and then another pooja for the bride right after.
During the bride’s pooja, the bride’s family sits her down and gives her blessings with holy rice. The guests also arrive on the first day, although if they’re very close family members, they arrive a little before the first day.
Usually, on this day, the family will also visit a goddess’ temple and perform various rituals. The bride and groom’s family also perform the Haldi or Ubtan ceremony where they hold a traditional spa day to ensure that the bride and groom look their best for the wedding.
The bride then gets her hands and arms painted with henna.
As night falls, all the guests join together to enjoy performances by the couple’s family and friends during the Sangeeth, which translates to “sung together.” Here, the guests participate in dances, musical performances, and fun activities to bond and, simply put, to party.
The big day of the Indian wedding is the second day when the marriage actually happens. The bride takes a turmeric shower at the beginning of the day. Just before the groom arrives, the bride’s family performs the gowri pooja. Depending on the time of the ritual, the groom will arrive and the bride’s family is to welcome him and give respect to each other.
Then, after the bride is brought in, there is generally a pooja and the mangalsutra, or necklace, is tied around the bride’s neck with three knots. After the wedding is when most of the guests usually give the couple their gifts and blessings.
More often than not, South and North Indian Hindu weddings differ greatly; they can be much longer or even shorter, and the rituals do vary from area to area. One North Indian tradition is to have the bride hide the groom’s initials in her henna – the groom will have to find it before he can marry her. Others also walk around a fire or even exchange rings in a more Western-style wedding.
In some ceremonies, the bride will pour holy rice over the groom and vice versa. Not all Indians are Hindu either, so different religions will have varying wedding traditions and rituals.
Finally, the reception takes place on the last day. Guests give the married couple their blessings and flowers. Then, the married couple goes to the groom’s house for a farewell and final pooja.
Overall, the whole process of an Indian wedding is quite lengthy and tedious, but the Sangeeth and partying are too much fun to miss out on. There are so many intricate rituals and details for each ceremony.
While some wedding traditions still don’t really make any sense to me, they are still a part of my culture. And for that, I am so proud to be part of some of the strangest yet most fun wedding traditions in the world.
Growing up, my siblings and I would sing the theme songs of Pakistani dramas (which mostly consisted of crying!) to my mom and grandmother to annoy them. But over the years, a lot changed.
When I graduated from high school, I suddenly found myself secretly streaming Pakistani dramas online because I missed hearing them as background noise at home. And it wasn’t until I caught my roommate in freshman year secretly watching a show I liked that I finally admitted I too enjoy watching Pakistani serials.
Pakistani dramas are no longer my secret, guilty pleasure. I now openly embrace the fact that I like them, better than American television even. Pakistani dramas have been seriously on point lately, from breaking stigmas of mental health and divorce, to addressing and covering marital abuse and LGBTQ+ issues, Pakistani dramas are becoming woke and I am totally here for it.
Here are my top 13 picks you should binge. Not only do they have strong storylines but also soundtracks you’ll fall in love with.
Udaari. meaning to fly in Urdu, broke various barriers and stigmas with its premier, especially with its focus on tackling child abuse. It depicts the lives of multiple characters with varying stories touching upon issues of social class, economic marginalization, abuse, and following unorthodox career paths such as singing. The story contrasts between urban and rural life, centering around two neighboring families in a village as well as four friends in the city of Lahore, highlighting the fractures present when it comes to navigating pressing issues like sexual assault and the like.
With migration and immigration to the United States being at an all-time high in the 1990s and early 2000s comes Jackson Heights, a drama based on the ethnic neighborhood in Queens, New York City. Jackson Heights is known as a South Asian neighborhood with a high South Asian population in New York the show leverages this to show the transition and struggles many face when moving to a new country. It revolves around four main characters who struggle with relationships and survival. It reminds Pakistanis that moving abroad does not solve financial issues and that those who move do not live a Hollywood or glamorous lifestyle.
This show, which loosely translates to “different types of one’s fate”, focuses on marital abuse. Mariam, the main character, is married to her cousin, the son of her father’s sister. As she married within the family and now lives abroad, her father assumed she would be treated well. However, Mariam faces abuse and battles with her fear of leaving her marriage because it would hurt her father and label her a divorcee. With divorce being a huge stigma in Pakistan, the show focuses on this taboo being used as a mechanism of power and control within a marriage.
Baaghi, or rebel, is a dramatic show based on the controversial and famous Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch. Baloch was killed in an honor killing by her brother in 2016. The show sheds light on this issue and focuses on the struggles and hardships she faced to provide for her family and what her life was like behind her online persona. Within a week of its launch, Baaghi became the most-watched Pakistani drama being viewed by Pakistanis globally on YouTube. It is known as one of the most controversial and talked about shows ever produced in the country.
Alif Allah Aur Insaan revolves around five different people from five different backgrounds and their different views on faith. The show’s name meaning “A, Allah, and Human” highlights what religion is alongside what hard work and determination can achieve. It focuses on different issues within faith such as honesty, trust in God, and doing what is right. While the show received positive reviews from viewers it also received harsh reviews from critics on its length for being one of the longest Pakistani dramas with 44 episodes. Critics argued audiences would lose interest if the show dragged on the lives of its characters, yet Alif Allah Aur Insaan was a crowd hit.
This crime and suspense-filled drama focuses on the corruption within the criminal justice system of Pakistan. Cheekh (Scream) revolves around a woman speaking up against injustice and the consequences that follow. The heartwrenching drama shows us the reality of why many women do not speak up against abuse and the unfortunate truth that money can buy out justice in many cases. Saba Qamar, as the lead character Mannat, does not disappoint as an example of a strong and determined advocate for truth and justice, despite the costs.
Another show on marital abuse, Hania focuses on the life of main character Hania, a very simple girl married to a con artist. She faces domestic violence but is afraid to speak up not only because of her husband’s influential and criminal background but in fear it will affect her sister’s marriage prospects as well. It addresses the stigma of divorce and the cultural stereotypes of how a wife “should” behave and be loyal. The story is meant to shed light on real-life situations on how girls like Hania handle abuse and are victimized. It depicts not only marital abuse but the trauma, depression, and PTSD that follows. Hania is not for the faint of heart and can be triggering for survivors of abuse.
Khans are notorious in Pakistan to be headstrong and brave of heart. This drama centers around protagonist Sanam Khan, nicknamed Khaani by her family. A tragic incident separates Sanam from her twin brother Sarim and brings her face to face with Sarim’s murderer, rich brat Mir Hadi. The show depicts the bravery Sanam possesses in staying true to her values and morals, despite the threats and intimidations Mir Hadi brings, in her pursuit for justice.
Beti, meaning daughter in Urdu, focuses on the harsh reality that many still believe, that having a daughter is a burden. Beti follows the tale of Maryam, a university student raised by a single mother, who falls in love with her classmate Azhar and they both hope to get married. However, Azhar comes from a conservative family who does not value women, he warns her of his tyrannical grandmother and how his family is nothing like hers. Despite this warning, Maryam marries Azhar and is put to the ultimate test when she discovers she is pregnant with a girl.
Bhool, meaning mistake, focuses on the harsh reality that people never forgive or forget mistakes made by women in society. It addresses the “what will people say mentality” and the idea that women are the honor of a family. The story revolves around protagonist Aiman who runs away from home on her wedding night to marry her classmate, only to come back days later divorced and pregnant. She faces the hardships of raising a child on her own and being constantly reminded that she made a mistake. Years later, her “mistake” begins to affect her daughter’s future as people question her legitimacy.
Malaal E Yaar, loosely translating to a “regretful or remorseful frienship”, is a drama based on the feudal system of Pakistan. It focuses on the tribal tradition of early arranged marriages at birth. The main character is promised to a cousin at a young age which makes her mother leave the family and raise her two daughters alone. Years down the line, when fate reconnects her with her familial roots she is unknowingly forced to marry to uphold family rituals. The show depicts the patriarchal system of many tribal areas where women are given no right to their own bodies.
According toRuswai’s director, Rubina Ashraf, the purpose of the show is to address the issue that we raise sons, but as a country, we do not always raise good men. Ruswai, meaning stigma, begins with what you would think is a typical “watta satta” storyline or when two siblings marry two other siblings. It takes a turn when tragedy hits both families days after a wedding. Sameera who was to marry Salman, her sister-in-law’s brother, is kidnapped. She then returns days later, beaten and traumatized. The family refuses to take her to a hospital and Salman has yet to come to see her. This is another show focused on a woman being considered her family’s honor.
Although laws have been passed in regards to dowry over the years, it still remains a prevalent issue in many South Asian cultures. Rishtay Biktay Hain (Relationships Are For Sale) addresses the issues of dowry and marriage as a means to climb the social ladder. It focuses on one family with three sons all interested in marriage only to further their own agenda. It depicts the harsh reality that many parents are even willing to sell themselves in hopes that their daughters will have a happy married life.
Bollywood movies are not the prime example of an industry known for its strong female characters. In fact, they are often criticized – especially South Indian movies – for the lack of female characters with substance.
Aruvi is the personification of female rage, a character that symbolizes how a woman could be as gentle as a stream, but could easily turn into a destructive force of nature too. She is an everyday woman whose life is changed when she is diagnosed with AIDS. Her story sheds light on the hypocrisy of the patriarchy, the ignorance and lack of humanity in the conservative South Asian society, and the power of women.
2. Tara from Oh Kadhal Kanmani (Oh love, apple of my eye)
The character of Tara steals the show in this beautifully-modern, realistic, classy and cute love story between two ambitious individuals who won’t put their career on stake for a relationship.
Tara is uncompromising, confident, bold and someone you’ll easily fall in love with. The best part is that she could easily be the girl who lives next door, and there’s a beautiful realism about her that makes her story so meaningful and close to your heart.
3. Nirupama from How Old Are You?
Nirupama is an ordinary woman – a wife and mother with a routine and unexciting life. Her story is a reflection of the average life of middle-aged women in India.
At 36 years old, she wonders whether she has passed her prime, the age where she can do something new, follow her dreams, and become someone special. As she finds the answer to the question, that it’s never late for a woman to follow her dreams, she inspires all of us with her uplifting story.
4. Ponni from Iraivi (Goddess)
Iraivi is a movie full of brilliant female characters, each portraying women who exist in a man’s world. Ponni’s story is undoubtedly the most beautiful – the moving tale of a young bride whose illusions of marriage shatters gradually.
However, Ponni doesn’t mope or let her husband walk all over her, transforming into a woman of quiet strength and resolve, and we know for sure that she will bring up her daughter as another strong female.
5. Laila from Margarita with a Straw
Laila’s story will make you laugh, cry, feel, and break your heart. It’s the story of a girl with cerebral palsy, who doesn’t let her disability define her.
We follow Laila as she travels from India to New York, experiences a whole new side of life, finds love, explores her sexuality, deals with heartbreak and struggles to break the news of her bisexuality to her mother. There are times you’ll even dislike Laila, but that’s what makes her character so human and real.
6. Tessa from 22 Female Kottayam
Life seems great for Tessa as her career is off to the right start, and her love life is wonderful. But it all comes crashing down when Tessa is raped, framed and betrayed by the very man she loved and trusted.
22 Female Kottayam is all about an angry female and the lengths she goes for her revenge. Tessa becomes the embodiment of femme fatale, and she’s ruthless in her journey for justice, keeping you rooting for her and her cause.
7. Subbu from Aaranya Kaandam (Anima and Persona)
Never underestimate a woman – this should be the moral of this movie. In a gangster flick full of violence and tense moments, a character like Subbu – the innocent mistress of an aged gangster – could’ve been completely overlooked but the seemingly hapless female ultimately becomes the game-changer.
A character who at first induces pity for her situation, then affection towards her innocence, will leave you stunned at the end.
8. Geet from Jab We Met (When We Met)
Geet’s iconic dialogue, “Mein apni favorite hoon” (I am my favorite person), defines her as a character. She is talkative, happy, optimistic, unapologetic, adventurous and so full of life.
And even after 12 years, she’s still one of the favorites of Bollywood rom-com heroines. She teaches us that it’s okay to be self-obsessed, urges us to take risks, encourages us to talk our hearts out and inspires us to always do things that will make us – not the world – happy.
9. Sivagami from Bahubali (One with strong arms)
The foster mother of the titular character, Sivagami is a fearless, brave yet vulnerable woman of gray shades. She rules a vast kingdom with ease despite being surrounded by deceit and evil.
The scene where she sits on the throne with so much arrogance, just after killing a traitor – with his blood still splattered on her face – while breastfeeding both her kids, her eyes daring anyone to cross her, gives me goosebumps every time.
10. Roja from Roja (Rose)
Roja is a simple village girl who is married off to a man – an absolute stranger – in the city. Everything about her married life is a revelation, and just as she slowly falls for her husband, he is kidnapped and she is stranded in an unknown city.
The way she struggles to get her husband back, in an alien location, negotiating in a language she doesn’t speak with no resources whatsoever, only backed by determination is simply inspiring to watch.
11. Sandhya from Dum Laga Ke Haisha (Give in All Your Energy)
This underrated love story is full of heart, and Sandhya is a character with so much strength and optimism. Plus-sized and comfortable with it, she tries to live with a mistreating husband who doesn’t believe he’s attracted to her.
Then she leaves him, not tolerating his nonsense. And even as she gives him a second chance, she makes sure it’s on her own terms, and the best part is that she doesn’t try to become someone else to get love.
12. Devi from Masaan (Crematorium)
Blackmailed by a police officer when she’s caught having sex with her boyfriend, Devi doesn’t crumble under the pressure, rather remains firm on the fact that there’s no shame in her actions.
She is a woman of steel, and throughout the movie, her stiff spine and unapologetic gaze serve as a slap in the face to the patriarchy that tries to victimize her.
13. Shilpa from Super Deluxe
This is a controversial pick as Shilpa is a trans woman played by a male actor. However, she is also probably the first trans-leading character in a mainstream Tamil movie.
Shilpa is flawed and selfish, but she rises through all the insults, humiliation and prejudice she faces through the immense love she has for her son, and it is truly inspiring. Super Deluxe also features three more unconventional and strong female characters who all deserve a nod too.
These characters all have different stories, with totally different lives, yet all of them stand out because of the way they look at life, and the impact they leave on an audience. As we celebrate these characters, it’s important to remember that we still have a long way to go, especially in terms of intersectional female characters who belong to different minorities, as well as the casting of the right actors to bring in more authenticity to their portrayals.
No one does weddings quite like South Asians. Desi weddings are multiple-event affairs that not even Bollywood can fully grasp the magic of. And that magic is apparent whether you’re on the Indian subcontinent or not.
When it comes to getting married, we Desis go bigger, harder, and wilder.
However, that isn’t always a good thing. Desis love their traditions, but there comes a time when you need to realize that some practices should be put to rest. The way your grandmother did things might no longer be feasible. What worked back in the motherland might no longer be affordable. South Asian weddings are one of the most fantastic displays of family, food, and festival. But there are a few things that need to change before we lose our reputation as the world’s best wedding revelers.
1. Inviting everyone and their mother— literally.
The average South Asian wedding has around 500-600 people. That number can surpass 1,000 back on the subcontinent! When I said I was only having 350 guests at my own, multiple people told me it was impossible. Desis literally can’t even comprehend having a (relatively) smaller wedding. But the economy is down and wedding prices are up, especially in the US. I told my parents that I was not, under any circumstances, going to invite people who don’t even know my name, let alone have any interest in my wedding past the food. Having a more intimate wedding with more invested guests results in a better time for everyone.
2. Feeling entitled to an invitation.
Since I got engaged three years ago, way too many people have asked me or my parents about my wedding… when they aren’t even on our B-list. Talk about awkwaaard!
I recently found out that a distant relative is even planning on buying clothes for my wedding; this person has never even invited either of my parents over for dinner! And then there are all the stories I’ve heard of people actually picking a fight with someone because they weren’t invited to their kid’s wedding. I blame this on my previous point: we’ve built a culture of invite expectation.
Well, not everyone can afford 800 guests. Nor should they. If you actually care about the newlywed couple but didn’t get an invite, keep your mouth shut and send a gift.
3. Neglecting to read or RSVP to an invitation.
For all the fuss that Desis make about receiving an invitation, they sure don’t seem to think much of actually reading it. You should not be asking me where or when a wedding is on the day of. That’s what refrigerator magnets are for! Invitations also have information about dress code, registries, and parking.
And RSVPs are not optional!
If you show up without one, your hosts will be scrambling to find you a chair and a plate. So, at the very least, make your kid call or go online to let them know whether or not you’ll be coming.
4. Bringing along an uninvited friend or family member.
This one’s my worst fear because it happens at every wedding. I’ve told my parents, as well as my fiancé’s, that I will have someone checking the guest list at the door of every event. Anyone not on it will be turned away. “But that’s so rude!” they said. No, it isn’t. Showing up at a wedding you weren’t invited to is.
I don’t care if your cousin or your childhood friend or your mother-in-law’s niece’s husband is visiting. They weren’t invited, and some rando showing up is extremely unfair to the bride or groom’s cousin or childhood friend or mother-in-law’s niece’s husband that was cut from the list. Either decline the wedding invite or leave them at home with the Netflix password.
I’m sure they’ll understand.
5. “NO BOXED GIFTS”
Ah, the cash grab.
Look, I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to deal with loading a hundred different packages into your car and figuring out how to get them to the couple’s home. But “no boxed gifts” is honestly a kind of tacky thing to write on an invitation unless you have a wedding registry. And it’s about time South Asians discovered this fabulous innovation for gift-giving. Registries don’t have to be for just items, either— you can give guests the option to pay for parts of your honeymoon or donate to your favorite charity in your name!
6. Showing up late.
Desi Standard Time is an integral part of South Asian life. But there are times when it stops being cute. In addition to having a curfew, some wedding venues will also charge you extra for overtime. And late guests result in delayed ceremonies, speeches, and food. Show some consideration for your gracious hosts, and show up on time so that everything stays on schedule.
7. Not showing up at all.
This is way more common at weddings than at regular parties or dinners, probably because people figure that the hosts won’t notice their absence at such a big event. But, trust me, they notice. And it’s seriously rude.
Weddings are expensive, and South Asian weddings are in a league of their own cost-wise. If you truly can’t make it after already RSVP-ing ‘yes,’ let your hosts know so that they can give your place to someone else or at least tell their vendors so that they aren’t charged.
8. Ignoring seating arrangements.
Much to my excitement, more and more desi weddings are utilizing seating arrangements. And as a guest, you should abide by them! Without seating arrangements, people have a hard time finding a table for their entire party to sit together. Chairs get shuffled, people get squished, and the layout becomes very uneven and unpleasant to look at. Just trust the organizers’ judgment, and feel free to move around after dinner is served.
9. Ignoring the emcee.
The emcee is there to conduct the evening and make sure things run smoothly. If you don’t listen to them, you have no one but yourself to blame when the party becomes a bore. If you’re being asked to quiet down, please quiet down. If you’re being asked to put away your cameras, put your phone down and pay attention.
If you’re being asked to get on the floor and dance, either get your bhangra moves ready or encourage the person next to you. Keep in mind that the emcee’s requests are usually coming from the couple themselves, so do it for the two people you’re there to celebrate.
10. No rehearsals whatsoever.
Desis don’t have rehearsal dinners because the night before is almost always spent at another wedding event. But wedding organizers need to start at least having a quick run-through of the itinerary, who’s walking when and where, the order of speakers, dances, etc.
There was a mishap at one wedding I attended where the emcee announced the wrong names during family entrances! Last minute changes and additions are never a good idea. Discuss a plan beforehand and stick to it.
11. Talking during the ceremony and speeches.
Just stop. Please. It’s extremely disrespectful, and the person you’re talking to can wait until dinner. Even though you probably just spoke last week. Or even last night.
12. Horrible speakers.
I’ve got a rule for my own wedding. Only two to three speakers for each side, max. My fiancé and I will specifically ask certain people, and they will be given up to two minutes. No one wants to hear my college BFF blubbering about my generosity and how I’m basically a sister and always there for her. Get a funny friend or the cousin with the best anecdotes, so that your audience isn’t falling asleep or going back to discussing girls for Simran’s son who just graduated medical school.
And know your parents. If your dad has a tendency to ramble or your mom has stage fright, encourage them to stick to a quick ‘thank you’. Your guests will appreciate it.
13. Serving the food late.
Make sure you hire caterers with good experience and a solid track record. If you’re running behind schedule, that only means the caterers have even more time to set up. Guests should not be milling about and start to curse you under their breath. While you hope they’re not there just for the food, you do want to make sure they’re fed well and on time. And, for the love of whatever is holy to you, please make sure the food isn’t cold!
14. Rushing the buffet.
Again, listen to the emcee, people! Wait until your table is called, and everyone will get their food much faster. Cutting in line is also not okay. You’re there to celebrate the happy couple, not to stuff your face. Desis are so bad about this that at a friend’s wedding, guests caught a glimpse of the buffet and ran to get food during the cake-cutting ceremony!
15. Taking more food than necessary.
Don’t be a glutton. If the food is a buffet, you can almost always get seconds, so stop loading your plate like you’re going to feed your entire table. Have some decorum!
16. Complaining if the food isn’t South Asian.
You eat desi food at home every night. You probably had desi food at the event last night. If there happens to be Chinese or Italian served at one event, appreciate having a variety for once in your life, and eat it. You’ll live.
17. Taking photos on stage with every. single. family.
Receiving lines make sense at weddings where the guest list is under 150 people. But when you have 600 guests from about 200 families, you’re just wasting everyone’s time and torturing the poor couple. Stopping to take a photo with each family that comes up to say hello is even more baffling to me. Out of the dozens of weddings I’ve attended throughout my life, I have only seen the stage photo from about five or six of them. And the worst part is the boredom the guests have to suffer through as everyone else takes their turn.
18. Letting children run amok.
South Asians need to learn about child-free weddings. I recognize this is a far-off dream, but the least you can do is leave the hall with your screaming kid so that you don’t disrupt the ceremony. And please keep them from running onto the stage or dance floor. No one wants to trip or have a random kid in their photos.
19. Harassing the DJ.
Chances are, you’re not more qualified than the guy behind the booth to control the playlist. Even if you were, you can’t just disrupt what they’ve already discussed with the family beforehand. And don’t even think about asking him for the microphone for your impromptu speech! Yes, I’ve actually seen it happen before. Stick to the dance floor or your seat, and leave the DJ alone.
20. Ogling the bride.
The bride is the star of the wedding in almost every culture, but South Asian brides go through a special kind of torture. Aunties will gawk at the bride and pick apart her appearance like she’s cattle for purchase.
As a South Asian bride, you get judged on your clothes, your makeup, your jewelry, and how much it all probably cost. Rather than being happy for the couple, guests speculate whether or not they’re a good enough match – usually looks-wise – but if you’re not gifted in terms of appearance, a career in the holy trinity (law, engineering, medicine) is good enough.
I don’t expect these things to change with one article or even with one generation. In fact, these aren’t even changes that need to be made, so much as improvements. South Asian weddings are some of the most vibrant celebrations in the world, and the issues that I’ve raised here are only holding us back. We need to make our weddings more about love and less about pageantry.
Yikes, it’s not a nightmare. Wake up and look in the mirror.
Trust no aunty? Girllll, you’re officially the aunty.
1. You secretly watch Desi dramas and serials.
The days of making fun of those dreaded Desi dramas is over. Your guilty pleasure is watching South Asian TV serials, zoomed in dramatic faces and all. When someone catches you, blame it on your mom. Yeah, she definitely forced you.
2. You want to play matchmaker for all your friends.
At one point in time, you avoided the rishta aunties that had nothing to do but sat “you’re next” at gatherings… but now YOU ARE ONE. You just can’t wait to see all your friends get married.
It doesn’t matter if you’re married or have a significant other, but you need to find them someone so you can attend some festive events.
3. You have begun partaking in community gossip.
You know, the same gossip you hated to hear when your mom brought it up. It now fuels you. You low-key love hearing about the community gossip, especially when you’re not involved.
4. You make everything a big deal.
Cue the Bollywood music, you are about to put on a show. Did that really happen? Nooooooo, it couldn’t have.
5. You love yelling for no reason.
Remember the days you would complain that all your parents do is yell? Well, little children now complain about you. Why are you yelling on that Facetime call- they can hear you fine. Your voice is getting louder each day and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
6. You can’t keep up with the latest slang…
Times have changed. You used to think you were so cool when you’d say things like “lit”, “YOLO”, “slay” and “bye Felicia.” The days when you knew and understood current slang is over. You used to explain what “LOL” meant to your family, now you barely know what “GOAT” means.
7. …but you say things like…
You find yourself incorporating Desi terminology into English sentences when speaking to your Desi friends. You may not even remember the English word for something, but know the perfect Desi one to use. You find yourself saying things like “oh ho,” “hain,” and “oof” often.
8. You find yourself disagreeing with Generation Z and, later, maybe even lecturing them.
Kids these days… You can’t believe what the younger generations are doing. Eating Tide pods as a challenge? Remember when your parents would start a story with, “when I was your age?” Well now, you’re in that boat. You might find yourself lecturing younger family members or friends on things you did when you were their age.
9. Suddenly, you’ve developed a taste for chai.
When you were younger, you didn’t quite get the obsession your parents had with tea. Suddenly, you’ve developed a taste for it. It begins slow with a sip or two not tasting so bad, then gradually increases to you making a habit of having a daily cup of warm chai.
10. You have a bedtime and physically can’t stay up past it.
The days you could pull all-nighters and stay up all night are gone. You have secretly given yourself a bedtime. You’d rather be cozy in bed and get a good amount of sleep than stay out all night partying.
11. You say the same things your mom used to say to you.
You have begun saying the same things your mom used to say to you. You catch yourself often sounding just like her when talking to your younger siblings or cousins.
12. You’ve started judging people’s clothes at weddings.
You never thought you’d do this but you find yourself judging people’s clothes at weddings. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a negative thing, you could be admiring them. But overall, going to a wedding can mean checking out outfits for you to pick apart to design the perfect addition for your own wardrobe.
You begin finding inspiration for your own closet by mixing and matching other people’s outfits in your head.
13. You find yourself cleaning…for fun.
You no longer dread cleaning. Sometimes you like to just take a day to clean up the house and make it look presentable. You may even find yourself complaining, no one helps you clean, but the real question is do you even let them? You’re beginning to like cleaning and think you do it best.
14. To your surprise, you actually love daal.
When you were younger, it was the worst day ever when your mom decided to cook daal instead of biryani for dinner. But now, it’s not so bad. Easy to cook and kinda yummy, you find yourself liking daal and other vegetable dishes you hated as a kid.
15. Finally, your rotis are round.
When that annoying aunty asks you if you can make round rotis, you can now answer yes. You have mastered the round and fluff roti. You take pride in it. You own it, not only does it look great, but you know it tastes good.
16. And you love feeding people.
You find yourself taking on the characteristics of your parents. The tradition of them wanting to feed all your friends to food coma continues with you. You love feeding people when they come over, whether it’s home cooked or take out you don’t let anyone leave hungry.
17. You’d rather talk on the phone than text.
You prefer to call friends on the phone over texting. It seems easier to share stories verbally than text. When something big happens it makes more sense to you to call your friends for a quicker reaction than text and wait. Why send a long text message when you can pick up the phone and call?
18. Your form of exercise is walking around the neighborhood.
You thought it was cute seeing those Desi aunties power-walk around the neighborhood swinging their arms in a sari. Now, you’re one of them. Whether it’s accompanying your mom, aunt or grandmother on a walk or going alone, you have joined the neighborhood aunty walking club.
19. You’ve started threatening annoying kids with a chappal.
The scariest moment of your childhood was when your mom threatened to hit you with a chappal (slip-on sandal). You promised yourself you’d never do that to your own kids or anyone else. But now, you find yourself unintentionally using the same threats.
Your little brother bothering you? Your first instinct is to threaten to hit him with YOUR chappal.
20. Your dance moves have gotten, um, “better.”
You used to be shy to hit the dance floor during weddings or other functions. Whether it was because you didn’t have dance moves or cared what the aunties would say about you, you just didn’t feel like dancing. As you’ve gotten older that care is out the window. Your dance moves have gotten better and even if they haven’t, you don’t care, you’re gonna be the first one on the floor for all the aunties to stare.
Move over and make some noise, the Desi girl is coming through.
P.S. Being an aunty doesn’t have to be a bad thing!
Embrace the change. Party it up.
As much as you may hate on the awful aunties in your community and on yourself for becoming an aunty, you know it was inevitable. Let’s face it. You low-key know you wouldn’t want it any other way.
The aunties in your community made you who you are today. Who says you need to be one of the awful ones? Change the stereotype of the hating aunties and get yourself a woke squad. Be a proud, woke, feminist, bamf aunty that younger girls will look up to.
Let’s change the typical aunty from a judgmental woman you want to avoid to a woman you want to have as part of your life.
As someone who’s been married for almost 12 years, I am so tired of being judged by women who aren’t married yet, all in the name of feminism.
The fact is that feminism means different things to different people. The actual definition of feminism is: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” That definition can be applied in different ways depending on your view of life and upbringing.
I believe that I am a feminist in my own right, but my view of it also adheres to my religious and cultural values. Growing up as a Pakistani Muslim, my religion already gives equal rights to women but also addresses the differences between men and women and the gender roles that come with them.
However, I also believe that women and men should always be treated equally, given the same respect, given the same rights and opportunities, be compensated equally for the same work and many other considerations that fall under modern-day feminism.
Being a wife and a mother puts me in a practical position to fulfill certain gender roles, and they are roles that I happily fulfill and understand. However, I’ve had my strength and beliefs questioned when I’m seen performing “traditional” roles, especially by women who have yet to become a wife or mother.
I’ve had girls smirk at me if I make a plate of food for my husband or roll their eyes if I tell them I don’t have a job. I’ve had women tell me how lucky I am not to have to work, but then judge me for all the “free time” I have, all in one sentence – as if raising children is the most carefree job in the world.
And it’s not that I didn’t get an education or never worked. I did both of those things, but I also chose to focus on raising my children and working on personal goals that I felt were more important to me. And I don’t think that those choices make me a weak or useless woman.
Single women who say they would never make chai for their husband sound just as clueless as people without kids who say that their kid is only going to eat vegetables.
It’s easy to talk to a big game when you haven’t been in the practical position of a certain role and you don’t understand the compromises it takes to be in a marriage or to be a parent. Before being in those roles, your mentality is completely different.
My husband and I have roles that are specific to us.
My husband is the main provider for our family while I fulfill more traditional roles with our house and kids. That doesn’t mean we are tied to those roles exclusively. I’ve also worked when I wanted and quit when I wanted.
My husband also helps around the house because he doesn’t act like it’s just my job.
He’ll make a delicious meal for us and bring me tea in the morning. We acknowledge that we have our primary roles, but we still share responsibilities when we are able to. It doesn’t weaken my feminism or threaten his masculinity sharing in each other’s responsibilities. It means we understand and respect each other and the roles we decided work best for our family.
I want girls and women to know that you can believe in feminism, equality, and women’s empowerment, and still take care of your husband and family if you so choose that lifestyle.
The two are not mutually exclusive.
And if you say that you believe in the empowerment of women, but judge another woman’s lifestyle because it’s different than your own, then that’s not empowerment at all. It’s demeaning to the woman you are judging and makes you no better than the men who look down on women or the people who judge a Muslim woman for covering her hair.
Feminism is about letting all people make their own choices without the fear of judgment. So your feminism isn’t the judge of my lifestyle, especially when you haven’t been in my position.
I think balancing cultural, religious and feminist values is where many people struggle. Many times these values may seem counterintuitive but they are not at all. There is nothing wrong with having a traditional mindset or fulfilling certain gender roles if you choose.
It’s simply a matter of finding a balance that works for you.
Desi women have a tendency to stay committed in relationships.
A lot of times, we know that we are not happy yet we quash our gut feelings and pretend to be one of the happiest wives ever. I strongly feel, in Desi communities, women are innately trained to ignore their own happiness and value others.
In certain cases, like when the husband is a drug addict or when a woman is being physically or mentally abused, there is a clear need to quit the relationship. But we fail to do so. Why? Because living unhappily is more socially acceptable than divorce.
1. Parental happiness
For a daughter brought up in a traditional setup, it is her parents’ happiness that is of the utmost importance. She does not want her parents to become upset or stressed due to her suffering. Hence, she keeps all the burden of worries in her own heart and acts like she is really happy with her spouse.
2. The social stigma
In conservative societies, it is the women who are expected to bear and compromise post-marriage. While men are taught that they are always right.
Hence, when it comes to relationships, it is a woman who depicts to be happy on the outside even if she is not in the inside.
3. The lavish wedding
Contradictory to the teachings of Islam, marriage has been turned into a very lavish affair in Muslim societies that are bound by culture.
While Islam emphasizes a simple Nikkah and Walima ceremony, we have made marriage a grand celebration and, of course, a lot of money is spent on it. At times, a girl feels burdened by the amount of money spent by her parents so she remains silent about an unhappy marriage.
4. The children
Most women stay in unhappy marriages because of their children. They compromise to stay in a relationship they don’t fit in because of their kids and act as if they are living a happily married life.
5. Divorce is still taboo
Getting a divorce from your partner is still considered a taboo in conservative societies. While divorced men are not looked down on, a divorced woman is given a hard time. A divorcee will endure taunts and harsh words whenever she is in a social gathering. If a woman opts for divorce, she is made to feel bad about herself and her divorce is considered a result of her own fault. This is another bitter reality.
Women: It’s not just you, there are many others who are on the same boat. Be strong and do what is right for you.