Friday, March 19, 2010

You and Me

A nod here, a smile there,
Sometimes a frown, sometimes tears.
A look, a touch, a caress,
Fun, laughter, arguments, stress.
Simple moments of love, of joy!
Advancing, retreating. Bold,coy.
Wondering, hoping. Bemused, surmised,
Delighted, excited; at times surprised!
Living life out loud, you and me,
Together now, forever, eternally!

[Dedicated to hubby dear, Adnan, on our first wedding anniversary.
March 20, 2010]

365 days of married life!

After completing one year with hubby dear, it is hard to imagine that there was a life otherwise! Married life, though challenging, is also a great deal of fun. Of course, it depends greatly on whether the definition of ‘fun’ is the same for both of you!
Marriages are made in heaven – this is a sort of universal belief. I disagree with this belief a little. To make married life a success, one has to work on it down here, on earth. And to have a successful marriage requires patience, some hard work, a little reality check and an infinite amount of love!
The question is - what makes a marriage successful? Every married couple will have a different definition and rightly so. I mean, what works for you might be catastrophic for anyone else. Are there certain rules of the thumb? I guess so. In our case, I think we have broken some rules and in the process, created new ones (which is not a bad thing!).
Over these 365 days, I have learned a lot of things about marriage. I’ve learned to enjoy sharing and letting go of my private space. In the process, I’ve found our private space which is a celebration of both our personalities. I had to accommodate all his DVD collection in our room while he had to accept my collection of cartoon figures (includes Sponge Bob Square Pants, the Kungfu Panda cast, Mr. Incredible, Shrek, and frogs). And together we have bought lots of books and created a space which reflects both of us as individuals and a couple. [We grow up listening to the dictum, ‘sharing is caring’. Why do we forget it as soon as we get married?]
Personality differences should not become a bone of contention. Why is it that we consider a trait of our spouse, which is different from ours, as a sign of hostility? Differences on various things should be understood and ideally, a common ground found. Just like diversity in the workplace makes a company more appealing and appreciated, diverse personalities in a marriage help it from becoming dull. Sparks are required to spice things up, aren’t they?
We walk into marriage with a trunk full of expectations which are founded on movies and books that never go beyond the ‘happily ever after’. And why should they? Beyond these three words is reality which YOU must discover, accept and live with forever after. It’s not easy to accept reality and burst your fantasy bubble but it’s not impossible either. You must discover the qualities of your spouse and try and find your soul mate in him/her. Accept each other for who you are and bring out the best in each other. And never compare your married life with anyone, for comparison is like termite that will leave your marriage hollow.
In this one year I’ve discovered two new people; hubby dear and myself. I have learned to let go and to de-compartmentalize. I’ve found joy in simple things like browsing through books at Sunday market, watching a movie or having morning tea with him (which he makes – every single day!). I’ve accepted that theater is his passion. I’ve understood when I should act as a support system and when I should let go. I’ve become more responsible, not just as a wife but also as a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law, a mami and a chachi. For you see, in the East we don’t just marry a person, we marry into a family and that is what contributes to marital bliss also.
My most favourite definition of marriage is from the film, ‘Shall we Dance?’ In the film Susan Sarandon gives the private detective she’s hired to spy on her husband, Richard Gere, her perspective on marriage and I quote, “All these promises that we make and break, why is it do you think that people get married? Because, we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet..I mean what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage you’re promising to care about everything; the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things. All of it, all the time, everyday. You’re saying your life will not go un-noticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness” unquote.
We’ve just completed one year of the good, the bad, and the mundane!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Culture conscious

What is our culture?

This is the question that I posed to my students some time back.

To understand this question, it is very important to understand what culture actually means. Among the many definitions I found in the Oxford Dictionary, the one most applicable to my question is; 'the customs, civilization, and achievements of a particular time or people'.

Culture can also be defined as a set of shared attitudes, values, and practices that characterize an institution, organization or group. (Wikipedia)

Now, coming to the input from my students on the Pakistani culture. It is interesting how we, in casual conversation, tend to refer to certain things as being (or not being) a part of our culture. What are those things, I had asked, which we can proudly (or simply) claim to be part of our culture? This is what they said.

1. Weddings & dowry

2. Ramazan & Eid-ul Fitr

3. Joint family system/ values/ respect for elders

4. Collectivist culture

5. Male dominated society

6. Handicrafts

7. Tea drinking ritual

Out of all these, I found the last one most amusing. Japan is known for its tea drinking ceremony but from the responses of the students it seems we have adopted it also, minus the kimonos. (But somehow, our tea-drinking isn't as glamorous as the Japs so you might not find any result when you Google - tea drinking culture in Pakistan). Drinking tea in the office with colleagues, or coming home in the evening and having a cup of tea with the family are things which the tea brands in our country have highlighted through a lot of song and dance jingles. Advertising can create trends and most tea brands have just taken an ordinary situation (like evening tea or serving tea to guests) and turned it into an occasion for quality family time and in some cases, collective decision making. Which brings us to another aspect of our culture, collectivism. In some cases more like butting into situations which are none of our business! Living in a joint family system where there is collective decision making on major matters at evening tea is one aspect of the Pakistani culture. Another aspect of our culture, male dominance, is also apparent in these ads. Usually the mother, wife or daughter are making or serving tea. Our tea adverts sure are reflective of our culture!

As far as handicrafts are concerned, we do a lot of empty talk but we have no idea of what constitutes the 'handicrafts' of our country. Our culture can only be accepted by others and become our identity when we adopt it. Look around you - do you find anything that is representative of our local crafts? (Don't feel too bad - you are not alone!).

Weddings are a part of every culture in the world. What was interesting in almost all the students' answers was the fact that lavish wedding ceremonies have become a part of our culture. Dowry remains there and it won't go away unless people like you change yourself. Why does a girl have to bring things with her? Was your son without a bed before she came or did you not have a refrigerator? The worst part is some electronic appliances brands have actually started special promotions catering to dowry requirements. Sort of a 'dowry package deal'. Disgusting!

In all honesty, we have lost sight of our culture (if we ever had our eyes on one!). We've adopted some things from the west and others are being thrust upon us from religious extremists. Our culture, which was a part of the culture of the subcontinent as a whole, has become a fusion of the north, south, east and west. The worst part is the fact that the majority of the world just recognizes us as belonging to one culture - terrorism.

The search for the Pakistani culture continues. All else said and done, I would like to add my two penny's worth on Paki culture also. Pakola!