“Fairness cream lagao”
“Acne ko khatam karne ke liye totkay istemal karo”
“Moti ho gai ho dieting shuru karo”
“Zor sai na haso”
“Larkian aesai nahi bhet thein”
“Tum height mai kitni choti ho”
“Tumhare baal kam kyun hain?”
“Agar achi nahi lagou gi tou kon shaadi kare ga tumse?”
“Koi larka tumhai pasand nahi karega”
“Mujhay soni si bahu chahiye”
The mother reiterates every time she goes out for rishta-hunting as if it were grocery shopping. Actually it would not be wrong to compare a shopping checklist to a set of facial and bodily features, as all that we have witnessed in the desi marriage criteria is that it has become a quest of finding the perfect girl for the allegedly “flawless” son.
The quest has one unspoken rule: every girls’ house is an open, welcoming hotel for passersby to enter and make unsolicited judgements about the poor soul, but when the toxic marriage criteria is not met, then the once “potential bahu” is deemed unworthy of marriage; her self esteem and confidence crushed under the unbearable weight of those acidic words that took rishta aunties a few seconds to blurt out.
Witnessing others endure this torture and yet still have the audacity to say “disappointed but not surprised” arouses revulsion amongst the rather humane minority. Persistence of beauty standards in Pakistan are largely rooted in its colonial past where a petite figure, fair skin, long hair and every feature that the foreign female possessed was considered feminine beauty.
Marriage seems like a burden now; the pressure has exceeded everyone’s limits and the beautified “object” seems to experience the worst of it all. Changing mindsets is not a one day agenda, we have milestones to reach and the journey is not getting easier by any means.
Shut out the toxic voices vandalizing beauty, remind them the cliché phrase they have never really wished to understand: “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder” and repeat to them that beauty indeed lies within diversity.