All Is Fair In Love And War


It’s that time of the year again in Pakistan when the weather is cool and the company, foreign. Expatriate Pakistani’s remit themselves to their homeland in the place of their illegal money transfers, which slip in under the radar for the other 11 months of the year. It is wedding season, after all, the matrimonial economy must be stimulated, the quest for societal validation must be blindly aspired to and the talk of you around town must not be sequestered.

In December the world celebrates the festival of our lady of Guadalupe (the patron saint of Mexico, during the war of independence), Hannukah (what do you get when you find 2 Jews together in one sitting? A conspiracy), Kwanzaa (I still haven’t cracked an invite yet, I think it got lost in the mail), and Christmas (my years in Australia celebrating Christmas in summer taught me that Santa can also shoot the breeze, sport a wife beater, board shorts and beer belly). What do Pakistani’s celebrate? Societal one-upping based on how lavish a wedding you can throw. This isn’t an art; this is a science: why would anyone spend so much coin without knowing the metrics for societal acclaim and the principled ascent into the ranks of the ‘who’s who’ of God knows what?

One ‘wedding success’ metric - and an indicator of societal-actualization - is how many events you can throw. Rather than having a single event (fewer events would require fewer hours of mental strain – which reach levels akin to that of interrogation methods utilized by intelligentsia), if you have events in multiples of 3 or 4, invitees will be overwhelmed, meaning your wedding will be small-talked about in great quantum at a cursory level rather than regaled as memorable, in a more intimate setting. It's important to find the right balance.

Another indicator of a wedding standing out is whether the hosts have invited everyone you know within 3 degrees of separation. News catches like wildfire about the entrées, the mains section (read: ‘red meat section’, with some white meat, but only if the hosts are in serious financial stress), the drinks (kosher and un-kosher) or that your whole year group from high-school (give or take 2 batches above and below you) shall be there, even if you graduated 20 years ago. Once again, the logic goes that if more people come, more people will speak about the wedding, so the old carrot and stick method of incentivization, the foundations of rampant and militant capitalism, have jilted this otherwise traditional ceremony.

Scrap my previous statement about ‘traditional ceremonies’ - that has also been thrown away along with the baby and bath water courtesy of choreographed dances. For the cost of 20 to 100 times the minimum monthly wage, an eccentric individual can bark orders at people forced (or who have forced themselves) into dancing to choreographed songs from 7-9 PM on weekdays for 3 months leading up to the wedding. Modus operandi: you learn steps for songs produced by our supposed ideological enemy (India). There is sometimes also a bar present at these dance practices, which I would have thought counter-productive to coordination, but probably set there to dull our temporal sensory pain. On the wedding day (well, at one of the 6 or 8 events) where the choreographed dances are performed, the dances can be recorded and duly purchased for the further cost of putting about 10 children through primary school (ancillary costs, i.e. uniforms, stationary included).

The bastion of a good wedding, however, (or the knockout ‘one-two’ punch) is the bride and groom parading their dog and pony show at every event. The groom will be decidedly happy (but not too happy, that would be creepy and sexually suggestive), whilst his partner is obliged to blush like a virgin bride (even if the hymen isn’t intact, courtesy of dancing, horseback riding, or her general daily existence). When asked how they are, they must smile and show comfort, poise and tranquillity, even if none of the feelings has scratched the surface of their war-torn existence in the days, weeks and months leading up to this public procession of self-flagellation. Many an existential crisis will have prevailed over this period as the poor couple is too deep into the quicksand to ask for a slightly more ‘low-key wedding’. That would be too old-fashioned and pre-historic.

So how does one come to terms, even embrace this festive wedding season? As an anthropological experiment; draw up a dissertation question, make sure there’s random sampling in the methodology, pilot test your survey tools, prepare your A-game (pour the strongest alcohol you can get hold off into your hip flask) and get ready for a hurtled ascent into academia. This Pakistan wedding season will create many a ‘gentleman and a scholar’, with material to write PHD papers in days, when they were meant to be written in years. Happy wedding season all!

*batch: year level. (eg. your "grade 6 batch" would mean everyone in Year 6 in your school)