This post has been inspired by quite a few incidents, both in real life, as well as in stories I’ve read or heard about or seen in pieces of fiction based on real life. It addresses several issues, such as the insensitive double standards of women, especially those in the conservative (read backwards) setting of our culture, or the irrational expectations people (in general) have from other people (read every single person they come into contact with).
For instance, we often hear of women who were divorced by their husbands or given the ‘gift’ of a second wife, especially due to pressure from their own mothers (if not the larger families), upon bearing them children in forms unacceptable to these families and/or mother-in-laws, i.e. still births, or, unfortunately worse, female babies.
Mother-in-law: “Humari baat yaad hai na? Iss dafa beti hui, ya murda bacha paida kiya, tou apne maike jaane main der na karna. Humain beta chahiye, jo humari nasl ko aagay le kar chalay!”
[Rough Translation: You remember what I said to you, don’t you? This time if you dare bear us a daughter, or a dead baby, then do not waste any time gong back to your parents’ house. We want a son, so that he may take our generations forward].
I want to say to such women: “Kiun? Aap jab marr jayain gi tou qabr main aap ko khabrain pohonch rahi hon gi k aap ki nasl kia kar rahi hai? Achhay kaam kar rahi ya buray, jee rahi hai ya marr gayee?”
[Rough Translation: Why? When you die and are laid to rest in your grave, would you be expecting updates about what your future generations are up to? Whether they are doing good, or engaging in evil, whether they are living or dying?]
This was just one example of the way people in our culture breed such irrational and strong expectations from everyone, every single person they can possibly talk about / pass judgments on, that anything beyond what they consider “normal” is met with harsh labeling of ‘abnormal’ people as rebels (a very decent term has been used for now) and other self-imaginable reactions. Let me illustrate with another simple, more relate-able example: I come from a family where despite the fact that I’ve faced all this crap for the longest of years, I have now finally reached a point where I am respected for who I am, not for the things I can or cannot do. My dadi (paternal grandmother) was a typical Pakistani wife, typical Pakistani mother, typical mother-in-law, and a typical dadi. I remember when at the age of 9, I used to make my wn tea (upon encouragement from my dad, or iron my own clothes), she used to get quite upset and angry:
“Itni si umar main kaam na karwao iss se, shakal par bara pan ajayay ga.”
I only partly understood what she said, and at that time, took it to be in my favor: “Chalo isi bahanay kaam se tou jaan chhoti!” [RT: Than god for that, due to what my dadi believes and says at least I can get away with not having to make tea every evening and iron my own uniform]. But it wasn’t long (actually hardly just a few weeks) that I realized that I actually liked making tea every evening, and ironing my own uniform, and that I did not take it to mean I was being suppressed or anything.
Yet, when I turned 18 and got done with my college, my aunts started expecting me to know how to cook, started questioning my parents’ course of action of enrolling me in a university, and started prodding into my daily life,
“Ab kia karo gi? Acha aagay parho gi? Tou shadi kab karo gi? Koi pasand hai kia?”
[RT: What will you do now (that college is over)? Oh you’ll study further? So when will you marry (someone)? Do you like someone (and therefore are postponing marriage which you should have engaged in by now)?]
I have enough reason to believe that at this point in time had my dadi been alive she would have posed the same questions to me. But (pick one: fortunately/unfortunately) her health had started deteriorating by the time I had entered college, and she had started cherishing time with us, rather than question our daily, monthly and annual choices. She had actually started taking pride in whatever achievements we bagged, be it me getting into a university, be it my sister’s growing interest in cooking and choosing the headscarf way of life, or be it my brother developing a daily routine of ironing his own school uniform.
After my dadi passed away, a lot of the pressure on my parents, for instance, was lifted, such that my mother stopped questioning me about possibilities of marriage proposals, of the way i dressed (I am quite a tomboy and believe in comfort dressing), of the way I had no capability or interest and will in cooking, and so on and so forth. My father became less rigid in trying to enforce religion on us, by ‘making us’ go to a madrissah, or ‘making us’ cover our heads, or ‘making us pray 5 times a day’.
Time passed by, and the extended family members who used to enjoy the not-so-guilty gloating pleasure of shoving wedding cards of their (good-for-nothing else) sons and daughters in my mom’s face, started drifting away. It was perhaps now my turn to point and “Ha!” at them, seeing the realization on their faces that said they wished they had rather spent all that time they spent in bitching about the world and how they think everyone else should live, with their kids instead, who were now so busy with their own kids (the same babies they were pressurized into having as per social norms, mind you), repeating the same cycle, that they had no time left for their parents.
They are now realizing that everyone has their own life to live, everyone has their own choices to make, everyone has their own aspirations to seek and failures to embrace. They are now realizing that it is not for them to decide or judge who is right or wrong in doing what and what not [though now this has turned into fitrat-e-saania (second nature), a second nature which haunts them even if they have identified it]. They are now realizing that in bitching about the world, they have lost their world to the same world.
While I stand guilty of sometimes gloating against some such people, this fate for the majority saddens me to no end. Especially since at some level, I myself am part of this cycle.
I know that I used to hide things from my parents because I was afraid of what they would think and say, how they would react. But I realized that in the long term, they will find out somehow or the other, via some odd person or the other, and then that would hurt their aging selves to realize that they did not know their own child as well as they thought they did or as well as they imagined, during their early adulthood, they would. So I started opening up to my parents. I started confiding in my mother that I wanted, say, to pursue music, acting, sports and so on (https://malinink.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/155/; https://malinink.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/145/; https://malinink.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/of-tolerance-and-the-lack-thereof/), and not, for instance, a university degree (heck, it did not even make sense to me). I started showing her that I would feel more of a success if I brought home a trophy and a bunch of certificates that said I had led the winning Relay Race / Baseball / Throwball team.
And today, I am able to openly tell my parents that I never wanted to get the degrees I currently hold (despite the facts that I value what those degrees stand for, that I know I have definitely learned something and these past 6-7 years have not gone to an utter waste, and that I do not in any way mean to be thankless to my parents for their efforts and sacrifices in getting me where I am; nor do I mean to be thankless to god for making me go through years of something I did not want, because I do have faith in Him, and I do believe that whatever He does is the best and I cannot see or fathom beyond a certain point, and that sometimes, I am not even meant to – it is not my place to figure out life completely because that is not my purpose).
Sidenote: I believe the purpose of life is to be honest to life as far as you have figured it out.
What saddens me is that people, at least in this part of the world, have made life so difficult it has turned into hell. They expect people to conform to certain gender role stereotypes to strictly that they kill the very life in people – life is about accepting and exploring diversity. If God had wanted all of us to be the same, he would have made us the same, or would not have bothered because He already has an army of very-probably-cloned angels (if you know what I mean).
When others don’t meet these expectations of people, people feel as if they have failed at some point themselves. They go on from feeling like failures to feeling like they need to set things right, so they go about trying to ‘correct’ people according to what they believe in, not realizing that human beings are just that, and not excel sheets where formulae can be used to achieve end results. Everyone has a different set of paths chalked out for them, everyone has different possibilities to choose from which leads them to the same end, albiet differently. And no one has the way of knowing the matter of anyone else’s hearts.
Human beings are not God for the simple reason that they cannot and are not meant to judge anything by the form it is in. Only He knows the intention (matter vs form). And those who do not understand this, feel they have a right to expect everything and anything from anyone and everyone. It should then come as no surprise when those expectations are not met by, well, other mere human beings.
While I understand that most people, if not everyone, would love to reach a point in life where they can safely say that they are content in what they do because it resonates with what they believe in, and that their heart tells them they are right in believing what they do. Most people, if not all, are bound to want to feel like they have loved and do love God in the most perfect manner, but in their pursuit of God (or non-god in the case of atheists), I wish, people would stop trying to become God.
Today, I have the kind of relationship with my parents whereby they know that my decision to not do what they would rather I did, does not in any way mean that I am rebelling against them, or disrespecting them in any way, or making them loose face in the eyes of this society (will soon update here with link about donkey story).
I have earned a place in life where I do not have to be answerable to anyone but god (and I know how close and how far I am from Him, no one knows the content and context of the conversations I have with Him, no one knows what He tells me, and no one knows what is right for me but Him), at least not so excessively that I feel curbed beyond breathing point.
I have realized how everyone is the major, if not sole, cause for their own pain.
And I wish the same for everyone – every honest, earnest, genuine human being, that is.