“KHAMOSHI”

A couple of days ago, during my usual Facebook procrastination, I came across this image which a friend had shared, and my nerve endings went numb. Not because the image was painful or NSFW, or even gory, but because it resonated with me on a deeper level.

I shared the image with another friend who called it “unsettling”, but I believe that the image had to be the most powerful one I had ever seen.

 

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A lot of you might have already seen it, and after a little research I found out that this image dawned from “Khamoshi”, a bridal couture collection by designer Ali Xeeshan, which apparently addressed the taboo of child marriage, and also is a part of a small film by Abdullah Haris.

You can watch the film here!

 

Now, I’m not here to talk about child marriage or the horrors of the situation itself. I’m here to talk about something else- another crucial yet sad thing this image reflects.

 

Notice the bride’s expressionless, tired, sorrowful face. Notice the happy, bustling people surrounding her, and manhandling her. And most importantly, notice the lock placed on her lips.

The lock signifies the silence that is forced on a bride, regardless of the situation, or the standard. It tells you about how the bride-to-be isn’t allowed a say in her own wedding festivities- ranging from not getting to choose her spouse to not being allowed to arbitrate the wedding party. What’s worse is that her smile (God forbid one exists) is shamed on during the proceeds of her OWN wedding.

And this injustice hails from continuation of bland, rusted cultural marital pressures- both on the family, and on the victim.

And desi families are so accustomed to these pressures and expectations, that they’ve blurred the line between necessary and pathetic. In desi cultures, it is never about the bride (or the groom). It is first and foremost and ALWAYS about society. Each action, each function, each decision is only finalised after weighing it on a societal importance scale, which we are more familiar with as, “log kya kahenge?”

According to some people (and unfortunately people I know), they believe that you can only function as a part of society if you’re willing to accept everything they believe in, no questions asked. And I find all of this supremely foolish.

WHY is your hunger for acceptance and admirance so distressing that you’ve allowed yourself to be encompassed in idiocy? WHY is your respect in society so important to you that you’re willing to spend on superficialities rather than essentials? WHY do you think random people who you say hello to in passing hold more substance than the people inside your own home? WHY are other’s amusements more influential than your kid’s?

 

People like me are accustomed to rebuke, especially when we put the words “simple” and “wedding” in the same sentence. Its sad, really. I had read this quote once, on instagram I believe, which went something like this-

“In today’s world if someone were to have a simple wedding, people would think it’s because they’re poor.” (or stingy)

 

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, having a grand wedding will be robbing me of my credibility. Sure, most people don’t really care about stuff like that. But I do. As a staunch believer and supporter of “No Band. No Baaja. No Baraat.”, it is horrifying to be silenced and blackmailed into accepting and giving into cultural pressure.

 

If only the elders opened their eyes to reality, then maybe, just maybe they’ll reform.

 


 

You can visit Ali Xeeshan’s Instagram at @alixeeshantheaterstudio

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The Best Day Of His Life

He had never seen anything so beautiful in his life before. Standing at the altar, he saw his bride walk in to the hall, her arm linked to her father’s. He recalled the moment he asked her to marry him. They were on vacation with their families in the Maldives. Shane and Leslie were sitting on the rocks at the beach. The tide was low, and the sea was engulfing the sun at the horizon. An orange hue touched the sky in the moment. Shane looked at Leslie. He was so thankful to have such a wonderful woman in his life. The wind was in her hair, and their toes just touched the water. He extended his arm till his fingers met hers. Kissing her hand, he ran his fingers on hers and said, “You know what would look stunning?”
Leslie looked at him, smiling and asked, “What?”
“A ring on that unfortunately barren finger of yours”, pointing to the ring finger.
It took a few seconds for Leslie to understand what he was saying. When Shane pulled out a black Tiffany’s box, Leslie started screaming and laughing at the same time. He opened the box to reveal a platinum solitaire- The diamond was square cut and sparkled gloriously in the remaining sunlight.
“Leslie Cooper, will you grant me the honour of calling you my wife? Will you marry me?”
“Yes, Shane. YES!” Leslie replied. She was blushing and ecstatic.
They hugged each other and gently kissed. They were about to pull back, when a high tide almost hit them. Shane and Leslie started laughing, and holding hands, walked back to their villa to announce the great news.

Shane snapped back into his senses. Leslie was walking down the aisle, smiling gleefully. Embodied in an ivory strapless silk gown, she took her time, careful to not trip. The gown had a waistband which was encrusted with crystals. There were ivory flowers embroidered extending waist down, but not entirely. There was a train behind her, following the bride to her altar where her to be-husband stood waiting, anxiously. When she reached the altar, she kissed her father on her cheek who then handed his daughter’s hand to Shane. Shane helped his bride up the tiny steps leading to the altar, and then both of them stood together, smiling endlessly. Shane noticed that Leslie had flowers in her hair- white roses. 3 of them, crowning her veil. Her makeup was minimal, and her cheeks were rosy, probably because she was ecstatic about today. She held a bouquet of red roses, which she handed to her maid-of-honour before snuggling her hands into Shane’s.

The ceremony began and the minister started his speech. Shane couldn’t keep his eyes off Leslie, who silently giggled when she noticed Shane looking at her. He mouthed “You look beautiful” to Leslie and she replied with a bashful “thank you”.
“Shane. The vows?”
“Oh! Yeah!” Shane responded suddenly. Leslie giggled.

“I vow to love you more than life itself. To hold your hand when the times are tough and especially when people are looking at us.”
The gathering laughed.
Shane continued, “I vow to be a good husband and your best friend. To understand your problems and help you deal with issues. To not back off when things are going downhill and try really hard to make this work. I vow to love you fiercely, and to remind myself every day that this is a once in a lifetime kind of love.”
Shane reached his hand out and wiped a tear from Leslie’s face. He knew she’d almost cry. Makeup, he said in an undertone. Leslie smiled, sniffling.

“Leslie?” said Minister Patrick.
Leslie read out her vows while Shane just looked at her in awe. He couldn’t believe that this was the woman he was going to wake up next to every day for the rest of his life. He wanted to grab and kiss her, but he couldn’t do that. Not until the Minister asked them to.

“Do you, Shane Phil Andrews take Leslie Ross Cooper as your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, till death do you part?”
“I do.”
“And do you, Leslie Ross Cooper take Shane Phil Andrews as your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, till death do you part?”
“I do.”
“The rings?” Minister Patrick enquired.
The ring bearer (also Shane’s best friend) handed them the rings.
Shane carefully slipped the gold wedding band onto Leslie’s slim fingers. Leslie placed the ring onto Shane’s.
“You may now kiss the bride.”
Shane had been waiting for this moment for a long time. He placed his arms around Leslie’s waist, pulled her closer and gave her a soft kiss. Even though he had kissed her before, his heart was pounding and he felt like his head would explode. He hugged Leslie, secretly thanking God for introducing her to him.

The crowd cheered, and Leslie and Shane laughed. They stepped down the altar and made way to the door, where Leslie stopped to throw her bouquet. They walked out the door, as husband and wife, holding hands and got into their car.
There was one final kiss, they waved goodbye to their families and drove away, into the sunset.

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Marriage. The Indian Way.

College today was well, needless to say, interesting. After wards and Orthodontics class (which never really happened), I made my way over to the Prosthodontics department of the Dental College to meet my friend. When I reached there, I saw her sitting with Anjum aapa (aapa being the Urdu term for elder sister which we call our elders in India out of respect.) I sat down next to them only to be questioned if I was Nuzhat’s sister. (Nuzhat is the friend, by the way!) After casually explaining to Anjum aapa that we were just friends and that everybody thought we were sisters, we began to talk.

At first it was just the usual stuff- Things at home, college, the people around us, and the lecturers in the Prosthodontics department who were too full of themselves. And then began the conversation which this particular post is all about- Marriage. The Indian way.

Initially, we poked fun of Nuzhat and persuaded her to get married as she was getting old and won’t find a suitable partner later. Then Anjum aapa started telling us about her marriage- How her husband was nuts about her before they were married (it was an arranged marriage, though), how weird she felt walking and living in a strange house, the obstacles she faced because of the in-laws, the melodrama and the frenzy. Gradually the conversation moved into the aspects of marriage and the expectations one has, which brings me to my say on this topic.

Being a woman is hard. Earlier it was all about what the girl looked like, if she could perform household duties etc. But now is the new age. With every newspaper, we are provided with 5 page long matrimonial section where all we read is this:
“Tall, fair girl. Religious. Graduate and working. Fluent in English. Must be able to manage all household chores, fix tires, go shopping and rid the environment of pollution. Should be able to fly an airplane or at least fly herself.”
Okay, maybe I got a little carried away, but you get my drift.

Consider this- Doctor guy wants doctor girl. She should be working (but not earning more than him. Ego issues.) Also, she should know how to perform every single household chore.
Here’s the thing moron- She took the same 5 years to study as you did. I bet you didn’t waste time learning to cook or clean. How could she? While you were building your life, she was building hers. If it weren’t for the degree, you wouldn’t even marry her. She also studied to pass tests, exams and ultimately have the prefix “Dr.” before her name. What really makes you think that the moment she steps into your house, she’d be able to do everything you ask? Also, she should work. You want her to spend the same time and energy to work in a hospital as you do to earn so that you could split the bills, and still go home to a clean house and a delicious warm meal? Not happening, bro. Not happening.

Women are also human beings. They’re not alien. They tire out, they fall sick, they don’t feel like getting out of bed at times. Like they say, “Women can do everything men can. And they can do it in heels.” At least they’re one step ahead of you- they can give birth. Jeez. Imagine men being pregnant. They’ll probably complain all the time.

Above all that, a woman leaves her family, her home to come and live with you. The least you could do is understand and support her. Instead, you want her to be the chef, the maid, the therapist, the babysitter and also have to listen to your nagging mother and sisters. Nothing makes a woman stronger than a supportive husband. Sad that most people don’t realize this.

Also, dear sweet mothers-in-law, be nice to the girl you claim to love like your own daughter. You’ve been there, you know the feeling. She’s not there to drive your son away from you. Instead, she’s there to make him happy, and give you the satisfaction of being a grandmother. And that’s probably something you pray for, day and night, but don’t drive her nuts over it. It’s the parent’s decision, not yours.

And my sisters, stay strong, for God is with you and hopefully, your husband too. There is no level as high as that of a woman’s, particularly, a mother’s.
“Paradise lies under the feet of mothers.”
Remember this. And please don’t be a bitch unless really necessary. There are evil people out there too.

I hope I didn’t portray any wrong messages through this post. Everything I wrote is merely what I felt.
Peace.