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My shameless rishta ordeals
In high school a white Norwegian friend of mine and I used to talk about Jane Austen. Her favourite novel was Pride and Prejudice. She would romanticise the old days. I, on the other hand, would get annoyed because the characters reminded me of a reality still prevalent in my community. The pressure to get married becomes intense upon girls from my background, especially when they have passed the ‘old’ age of 25. Now that I only have three more years left of my 20s (Allah have mercy on me), everyone around me is freaking out and wants me to get married immediately. Apparently, I will expire once I turn 30. Or perhaps turn into a dinosaur?
Last year my mother gave up hoping that I would bring an eligible bachelor home and started to take matters in her own hands. Despite being somewhat of an outsider, my mother managed to hack into the secret-Norwegian-rishta-aunties’ network. Little did we realize that this would be a learning experience for us both. We were shocked to discover that many highly educated Norwegian-Pakistanis had a mind-set that belonged to Jane Austen’s world. A lot of individuals were extremely closed-minded and arrogantly sexist (both men and women). Since then, my mother and I have had a lot of laughs, a good deal of venting, a few arguments and a couple of golden wtf-moments. My badass Panjabi mom has taught some of the potential suitors some really good lessons that will make them think twice before they ask ridiculous questions in the future.
So here are my shameless rishta ordeals. This post will certainly put me on rishta aunties’ blacklist, but who cares?
My son is 27. How old is your daughter?
How wonderful! She is also 27.
I’m sorry. He said he needs someone younger. The maximum age should be 26. This will not work.
Hijab and marriage
Will your daughter be willing to wear hijab after marriage?
No, my daughter does not wear hijab. No one in our family wears hijab. And I don’t think my daughter will wear hijab, just because she is told to do so.
I’m sorry. We are looking for a girl who wears hijab or is willing to wear one after marriage.
The show off sister
My brother easily makes a million kroner per year. Once you are done with your studies, you can work with him.
Tall and skinny
We were told your daughter has a nice face. But is she tall and skinny? We want a tall and skinny girl for our brother.
Need to work
Mashallah, we have never had the need to work. I just started working now that I am a doctor.
Well, I had my first job when I was 13. I used to sell newspapers on Sundays… [Awkward silence]
Height in centimetres
We need a tall girl. What is the height of your daughter?
She is not short. I don’t remember her exact height.
Can you ask her for the exact height in centimetres? And call me back?
The property bragger
What does your daughter study?
And what about your son?
Mashallah, he doesn’t need to do anything. He has enough on his plate by helping his father out. You know, managing all the apartments we own in Oslo. But we live in a house, not an apartment!
Okay, so who are you people?
Sorry, I don’t understand the question.
Behan ji, what is your caste?
So what does your husband do for a living?
Unfortunately, he passed away 12 years ago.
That is very sad. But you have four children! How do you generate income?
Everyone in our family has fair skin, Mashallah.
How is your daughter’s skin complexion?
Free trial before wedding
I saw your daughter’s Twitter account.
She seems too engaged and active.
Yes, she is interested in social justice issues.
My older son is married to a doctor. And we only let her work a few days a week so she is able to take care of us and run the household. I am a doctor and my two sons are doctors. Women in our family don’t need to worry about money.
Do you think your daughter will be able to run the household if she continues doing what she is doing now?
What kind of question is this?
I am just asking how you think your daughter will be, once she is married.
Do you want my daughter to give you a free trial in running household before getting married? Are you really a doctor? Let me speak to your wife instead!
No, I don’t let my wife talk to strangers. She can’t handle such important matters.
But you are completely fine with speaking to a stranger woman like myself and ask her stupid questions? Don’t ever call again! Good luck. [Hangs up the phone]
It is quite possible to be highly educated, a bastion of male chauvinism and an idiot at the same time. My mother and I are currently recovering from this exposure to blatant sexism over the phone – that mostly came from women. Furthermore, we have developed an aversion towards any person who calls themselves ‘doctor’. However, we are aware that we cannot generalize an entire population based on the above-mentioned experiences. Last but not the least, if you are dealing with social or parental marital pressures, please know that it is better to be single and happy instead of married and unhappy.
*Rishta means relationship but also stands for marriage proposal in Hindi and Urdu
Afak is a 3rd culture kid who is fascinated with brains. She studies cognitive neuroscience and works with autistic people in Norway. She loves creating gifs and puts sriracha sauce on everything.