If the rishta business is bad for the girls, it’s worse for the guys — and I am living proof. Ever since I got a crush on a girl from the American Midwest, my parents — fearful that I may end up marrying a gori — have been trying to set me up with a nice Pakistani girl as soon as they possibly can. My rishta chase has led to some strange experiences.
A few weeks ago, an office colleague arranged for a meeting at a girl’s house. She gave me a number, and told me that my mom should call her and set up a time. Before you knew it, we were on our way to the girl’s house — only the house was far, far from civilisation, in some newly launched farmhouse scheme and since the concept of streetlights appeared not to have taken root in those backwoods, we ended up going in circles.
Finally, my mom called up the girl’s mom and they considerately offered to send a driver to our current location to guide us back. The next 30 minutes were spent with us crying “Shukar hai!” at the sign of any car that seemed to be heading in our general direction, followed by a collective sigh of disappointment when it went another way.
Finally, the car arrived and we tagged it back to the girl’s house. Given the anticipation that had been built up for this particular girl — wouldn’t you want to know what I thought of her when I finally saw her? So did my mom and sister. As soon as we came back, that was the first question they threw at me, “What did you think of her?”
Well, I said — “I didn’t see her!”
As their jaws dropped, I struggled to explain what had happened. Imagine you’re with your parents at the girl’s house to look at the girl and come back without getting a single glimpse of her.
The girl entered from the door behind me and sat on my right, on the same sofa that I was on. Meanwhile, the girl’s dad was on my left and was continuously talking to me. Now everyone, including the girl, expects me to look at her at least once. But the girl leaves and I am so consumed in talking to her dad that her mom took the place right beside me and I didn’t even notice. By the time I had gathered the courage to turn around with a cynical smile and take a look, I got the shock of a lifetime.
The rishta business is infinitely worse for the guy. While the girl is pampered and has little to do except look demure and push a trolley, all the pressure is on the guy to look sharp while still being respectful.
Sometimes you go to see a girl but you like the girl’s sister instead. On the one hand, you really don’t want to tell your parents, “Mujhe chhoti wali pasand hai.” (I like her younger sister.) And on the other, you see a bleak future, in which you’ll be stuck with someone you don’t like, while the person that you DO like will be in front of your eyes always … as your sister-in-law. What happened to me was just that.
I had been briefly in touch with a girl and was interested in marrying her. I went to her house to see her parents, and there, right in the middle of refreshments, her younger sister popped up, and suddenly, it seemed that I was stuck in a vortex. My head was spinning and I was willing myself to concentrate on the girl that I had come for. While the elder sister sat quietly, the younger one was jumping around. I was muttering, “Bilal, concentrate on the older sister, say ‘Older is better’, say it again.” After much counseling, I was saying “older is better” perfectly. However I was still looking at the younger one. When I later told my mom that I liked the younger sister she said “I knew it!”
Then there are times when the girl is really nice but girl’s parents turn out to be the biggest jokers alive. Once we went to meet a girl and his dad fell at my mom’s feet — ‘to show his respect’, apparently. How do you suppress your laughter there? Why would a 70-year-old guy do that? Don’t ask me what I had to go through to forget that scene the whole time we sat at their house.
I wish the rishta process were simpler but I guess finding that perfect person to spend your life with takes some doing.
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, August 5th, 2012.