a young pakistani doctor blogs...
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
  What women want.
An old friend of mine called me after a long time. We used to be really close a few years ago. I was going through the combined nightmare of living in Peshawar and worried sick about losing the girl who I am now engaged to. This friend, let’s call her E, was engaged for 2 years in her mid-twenties until her fiancé broke it off. She had this amazing job in the textile export business in that she used to travel a lot to exotic places. She’s been to Hong Kong, Singapore, Austrialia, , places in Europe… all around, she probably visited a few dozen cities all around the world during her tenure. I met her through a mutual friend that I knew from the understanding islam forum. She was 28 when I met her. Her father had died long ago, and her mother was old and worried sick about her marriage. She had no brothers that could help with regards to the marriage thing. She had a lot of faith, and an excellent understanding of Islam. Although it must have been really hard for her to ward off her worries with regards to her single status, she managed to keep it together most of the time. I do remember though that she freaked out once soon after her 29th birthday.

In our stupid Pakistani society, an unmarried 29 year old woman is in a really bad situation. I sympathized with her and wished God would sort out her problems. I had demons of my own to exorcise at the time and we relied on each other a lot for mutual support. Her older age came in handy when I needed someone more mature and experienced at life to turn to for advice in the many twists and turns of my own life.

This was about 2 years ago. Fast-forwarding, and skipping over a lot of events, today she’s now happily married to a good man. She insisted that I come to her wedding, but it was smack in the middle of my final year exams, so I couldn’t. Today, out of the blue she called me up and we caught up with each other after a gap of half a year. It’s funny because only the other day I was thinking how every girl I’ve ever befriended has eventually drifted away from my life. I’d be great friends with her, and we’d know each other really well, but eventually circumstances change, we no longer saw each other as often and before you know it, a year or two passes before I realized we haven’t talked. I kind of thought this would be the natural course of events for any Pakistani girl I knew. After marriage, a Pakistani girl practically leaves her previous life, to start up another with a new family. Thereafter, her husband’s family is her own, and she sees a lot less of her real family. It’s sad, and that’s why you’ll see a lot of crying at Pakistani weddings from the bride’s side of the family. She is literally taken away from her real family unless her husband happens to work with them or live close by. I sort of accepted that along with her family, a girl would also leave her friends behind because that has been my experience.

She called me today and it didn’t take me long to pry out some mother-in-law stories from her. The MIL relationship has been close to my mind mostly because I’ve been reading a lot of sometimes sobia’s blog. Sobia is an American who married her Pakistani husband without knowing that she was also marrying an army of in laws, including an incurably exasperating mother-in-law. I asked E, who lives with her in-laws how she is getting along. She does have complaints, chief amongst them that she doesn’t have her own space and is expected to spend all her free time servicing or chatting up her MIL.

E gave me some golden advise today, which I should write down her so I don’t forget. That is: a woman needs to have her own domain. It can be a short, ratty apartment with a tiny kitchen and bathroom, but it must be hers and hers alone. No interference from any other woman can be tolerated for very long. For all the men reading this blog, get a pen and etch this into your skulls.

There have been no fights because E is an extremely diplomatic person and knows how to avoid any ill-will (although she would be hard-pressed trying to deal with Sobia’s MIL). However she has reached the stage where she told her husband, who is the eldest son by the way, that she wants to move out and live somewhere by themselves. Her husband is willing, but says that they can’t just move to another house in the same city, it would be colossally unbecoming for the eldest son to move out of his parents house to go live somewhere else, ostensibly because he wanted to be away from them. So to “solve” his problem, they are going to find a job in another city. They are going to go to Dubai next month and stay with close friends for a while as he goes job hunting there. It is kind of bizarre that they have to actually move to another country in order to get some space for themselves, but believe it or not, I can totally relate. Why do you think I didn’t get married until my Steps were done first? If all goes according to plan, me and my wife will be on a plane to the US soon after the wedding. I have a brother there and we will spend quite a while doing our CS and Step 3 exams, and going for internships. I’ll be more comfortable living with my parents when I’ve got a job contract in my pocket making the transitory nature of my time with them a certain thing.

Is this crazy or what?
I wish you ALL the best!!!

If you are near the northeast when you come to the US, let me know. :o)

Well, my brother lives in the Northwest, and that's where we'll be for quite some time. Afterwards, we'll go where we're fated to go. :)
I dont know if its in fashion nowadays, but many first engagements are being broken off! sometimes for no reason at all! I have 5 friends who are testament to this fact, one of them breakin it off after 8 (horrible) years of being engaged! But, for all of them, life has become much sweeter and a couple have found better(?) hubby's!

In response to E's advice on a woman needing her space, i totally agree! But then, it's not totally necessary to leave completely. One solution is what my mom's 'mehka' has. They've literally divided their house into three sections, with parents taking one (the largest obviously) and two brothers having their own sections. They have two kitchen's there, which my aunts share, such that they've got two of EVERYTHING! from crockery till fridge n freezer. They even have different meal times so each family has their meal on their own.

Anyway, thats just a suggestion. A point to note is this did not happen overnight, and really took some doing, but now, everyone's pretty happy with the routine, and they somehow also preserved the 'joint family system' by being there to support each other.
E is right on the spot man. to put it my way, 'two women together for long spell disaster'.hehe!
i agree with mansoor's suggestion as well. most of the pakistani families are resorting to this sort of division. and this is not a new phenomenon a t all mind you. has been happenine for eons in our part of the world. don no abt the rest.
dr pak, you are so on the money! Thanks for the mention too!
first, I rarely read blogs, but I found your prose to be refreshing. I am a straight male Native American from the USA and I am drawn to the way you articulate the dynamics between you and your friend "E". It is interesting to see the world through a different view-point, I enjoyed this entry because I have personally had platonic (?) relationships with women, and I understand what you mean when they sometimes drift away... Well, thank you for posting.
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Recent med school graduate from Peshawar, Pakistan. Started blogging when in throes of final year exams. Currently studying for USMLE Step 1. Aiming for the 2008 Match. I blog about my studies, my worries, and my thoughts on life. I live in Islamabad.

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