The Aati-Awais Flow Chart
(Click to enlarge)
Me: There is a very common theme on TV these days. Girl runs away with someone from home. Parents give 'baddua' (curse). Girl's marriage fails. Girl realizes Allah mian punishing her. Returns home and begs forgiveness. Saw in some dramas. Even a caller told this story on Amir Liaqat show. What do you make of it?
Aati: I think it's rubbish. I also think it's very likely to happen -- a girl making her own decisions in this society faces enough problems. Add to that a drastic choice and it sets the marriage off to a bad start. The guilt will increase and the husband would likely eventually start seeing her through the same lens as the rest of the society. (He is part of the problem because his cultural upbringing puts him in a mindframe where he feels justified in judging women as moral/immoral even when their actions were for his sake because as a man 'he owes nothing'.) So you have a girl without the external support that she was used to, a lot of internal conflict, facing discrimination from society and possibly her husband. Emotional wrecks don't usually have stable marriages. And when the marriage does collapse, everybody involved sees it as an affirmation of "God's curse".
Me: I think there is some validity to the idea that such love marriages fail in Pakistani society. However, I think in vast majority the failure can still be traced back to social causes. Needless to say, I think the curse thing is false, apart from having some psychological impact in the form of a self-fulfilling prophesy, if taken to heart.
Aati: Exactly what I tried to say. And it's almost definitely taken to heart. We're taught to take it to heart. Even the godless in our culture fear the wrath of God.
Me: Also because the girl is under pressure to marry early, she picks the first serious crush to elope with, without a careful judgment of whether this relationship can work longterm or not.
Aati: Marriage for girls is not an autonomous decision. They are not under pressure to act, they are under pressure to accept the decisions of others. It's a uniquely passive situation. Boys get married, girls are married off. Elopement may be an attempt to rattle the chains that bind them, but it's not a response that conforms to the stimulus. When you are being forced to become passive, and you become active instead, it's not directly because you were forced to become passive.
Me: I meant, they are under pressure to make a decision quickly: either stay at home and be married off to someone or elope with whoever is available. Unfortunately, the whoever that is usually available doesn't make a good husband. If a love relationship is given time to unfold freely and without pressure of marriage, most of the bad choices would filter out with time themselves. But you are also right. The society would rather that girls remain passive about marriage and let family make decisions for them. It is only when the girls are not passive that they have a choice to make between letting parents do it or doing it themselves. And here's the thing. 'Shareef larkian' are passive. They let others decide for them. That's what the society and parents tell us.
Aati: Yes. Also, marriage is a way to make a love relationship 'valid' as oppose to sinful. For girls, love before marriage is scandalous and they may feel a lot of guilt, so that they think if they get married to this guy, then their love would have been 'justified' and they won't have to see themselves as 'fallen' women anymore. For the non-rebellious girls, when their family refuses a marriage, they're aghast and may become desperate enough to regain their status as 'shareef' that they actually elope. They think marrying the guy would be sufficient to restore their status. Simply marrying someone according to the family's wishes won't be enough, because he may discover her past love, and also only the guy who 'takes' your honor can 'give' it back.
Me: That's a very good point. Elopement as a means to get society's validation!
Aati: Except, as they discover afterwards, it only opens up a whole quagmire of problems and there's no way to obtain validation because, to put it eloquently, we live in a f**cked up society. There is no forgiveness, no way to recover what's lost, and no escape from society's censure 'once you head down a certain path'. Ever heard people say 'aisay kaamon ka anjaam aisa hee hota hay'? I see that as a reflection of this thinking.