Why, I ask myself, would young girls sitting in a cafe in urban Karachi, or Lahore care what happened to Harry and Meghan? Why would their friends or family members discuss the latest statement from ‘Her Majesty the Queen’? Is it because we are still under the psychological influence of colonialism, is it because we idolize the royals, their lifestyles, their wardrobe choices, (oh, that olive green coat Kate wore was a stunner!), or is it because we secretly imagine that our lives might mirror, or are in parallel with, the drama that crowds Meghan’s?
The local news coverage covered more and more of the developing story, and we were roped in to waiting – ab kya hoga. Harry and Meghan have traversed the seas of Mere Paas Tum Ho to take on Alif-like feels – you know what I mean? They want to do away with the drama, the lights, camera action bit and just slip into the ‘ordinary’.
But, my dear desi girls, wake up and smell the coffee, it’s easier said than done! Before you imagine yourself riding off into the sunset with your prince charming, waving goodbye to your suffocating susraal, please bear the following truths in mind:
1. When you decide to go it alone, be prepared for the backlash
Just think about it, Meghan asserted herself when she decided to spend Christmas with her family, instead of the susraal. And we never heard the end of it from the (British, yet very desi) tabloids. Now close your eyes and imagine if a desi girl would attempt the same on Eid.
The entire susraal will be up in arms, and if you have a Pakistani drama-like feel to your in-laws, the ‘doting’ husband might actually side with his family, and ahem – not you! Case in point, make sure that you have your beloved by your side before you tread the risky path!
Please note: Meghan has her prince charming by her side who wants to hold her hand all the way. Harry accompanied her to spend Christmas with her family, and not his.
2. When you stand up to your Mother in-law, or elders in the susraal, remember you will have to sacrifice some.
To stand up to the mother in-law and say, ‘we will honour your obligations, but we will do it our way’, Meghan essentially reclaimed some of her personal life choices; her freedom to roam the streets, behave like a (near) normal princess and bring up her child in relatively less limelight – (more normal)? This freedom comes at a price though – she will give up the privileges that come with the royal title. Less financial support, less patronage, less security.
When and if, you decide to go it alone, and live independently, know that the financial support (house rent), baby sitting, even if it is the in-laws’ physical presence, especially if you’re a working mom, will have to be catered for. Make a deal that doesn’t break the deal. In other words, make your susraal feel they count by setting aside a day or two in the week when the children visit their dada and dadi, or when you both spend time with his family. It might be hard when you spin the first shock of moving out, but gradually, the dust will settle once they know you’re not taking their son and his family away from them, for good!
3. It will always be YOUR fault, not his
Interestingly, the public backlash (from the extended susraal – British media and public, who take their royals very seriously, has been far worse than the dreaded mother in-law herself. As usual, it is not the apna DNA (son of the soil, royal blood and all) – poor Harry who is to blame, but the wayward bahu.
Even in so called modern society, it is still the bahu, or the new dulhan who is at fault – the bechaara husband can do no wrong – he was just brain-washed into performing robotic acts of submission – I kid you not. It is always the daughter in law, the newly- wed wife, who has led him astray. And you, my dears, are from desi land, your battle will be harder to win – take a moment to let that sink in!
4. Show him that you tried!
Marriage is not about winning your husband to your side of the family or vice versa.
To all desi girls, for those of you reading your own life stories in this scenario. Meghan spent over a year trying to fit in with the demands of royal lifestyle. When she decided to disengage now, her husband understood that she had tried before she took the high road.
It is important that you try in all sincerity to make the susraal situation work. If at first you don’t succeed, oh well, there’s always Canada!
But on a serious note, give it your best shot before you call it quits! You never know, it works out for some, and not others. Do not tailor your story on a friend’s (or Meghan’s) experience.
5. Meghan has a man who supports her throughout this ordeal.
In so doing, she touched the heart of every desi girl who wants to breakaway from susraal bondage but is either too scared to do it, or feels she’ll fall flat on her face if she goes it alone.
Lesson to be learnt? Now if you are dreaming of committing similar acts (breaking away like Harry & Meghan) in your mind, if you are the princess of your dreams and if you want to ride away with your knight in shining armour – remember, your man has to be by your side before you embark on the journey. And he has to be convinced of your mission, and sincerity.
On the upside, take heart that you might be a trailblazer for others – just like the first bahu who decided to do a full-time job, or the first son who decided to move out of his parents home to live his own life – but that battle and the successive win will be so much more satisfying and triumphant, because you did it with no role models. You WERE the role model.
So desi girls, step out of your dreamland, if you think you’re Meghan, find your Harry, and if you have him already, remember that every battle won must be won together, and with sacrifices that will usher in a new era for your children, and other desi bahus to follow!
Shazia likes to pen her thoughts when she feels passionately about a life experience, a person or an event. She is mother to 3 lively boys and along with her husband, attempts to settle in her new country by taking German lessons so she is able to soak in the culture, language and spirit of the region.
“Wake up in the morning, take a deep breath and exhale! Keep on living with a passion that inspires others! “