Alternate Reality

The financial crunch caused by the expectations of a lavish wedding leave long-lasting negative impacts on once a close knitted introverted community.

By Suneela Ahmed | June 2023

The city can be a cruel place. This is especially true in for our current capitalist economies, where globalization constantly keeps impacting the dreams, desires and aspirations of the city dwellers. This becomes even more complicated when the rich and the poor co-share the urban scape, interacting mostly in the houses of the elite as masters and domestic servants. This interaction often leaves a sense of worthlessness and develop an inferiority complex in the poorer section of the society, because they see the rich spending lavishly and taking many things for granted in their lives, for which the poor have to undergo a daily struggle.

Written by playwright Ashfaq Ahmed, the classic PTV play titled ‘Fehmida Ki Kahani, Ustani Rahat Ki Zubani’ touches upon some of these struggles and focuses on what the low income households in urban areas of the global south, face on a daily basis, and how that damages their self-esteem and sense of worth. This often happens without any realization on the part of the richer sections of the society, who think that a display of their wealth is their basic right. However, do the rich ever internalize the far-reaching impact this brazen display has on the people around them, especially those who are financially weak? This is the question that had been bothering me for some time, and I got my answers by attending a wedding recently.

This couple getting married lives in that part of the city which started out as an informal settlement and was formalized over the years. A katchi abadi to be exact. Or the kinetic city, as the Indian architect Rahul Mehrotra would call it.

Although the katchi abadi is part of the everyday physical reality of the couple, but their social and cultural realities are located elsewhere and are often disconnected to each other. Physically the couple is part of a dense area in Karachi, which is centrally located within the city of 20 million (according to unofficial sources), with narrow lanes preventing large vehicles from entering. Some lanes have sewerage over flowing and individual houses have expanded vertically and incrementally with the passage of time. Socially the couple belongs to a close-knitted Punjabi family, originating from Chinniot’s agricultural plains. Part of their families still resides there and mostly elders hold onto the family rituals around marriages. Another thing the elders hold onto is the local dialect whereas the younger generation that has been born and bred in Karachi, is more inclined towards learning English as a second language.

The girl who is about to be married, has obtained her Bachelors in Arts education from a public sector university and is one of the many girls who are opting for higher qualifications in their family. She is working as a teacher’s assistant in a private school, on a meagre salary. The groom is not so educated and has barely cleared his intermediate examination. Although he is working as a sales person in an international fast food chain, and is making decent money. The girl has been asked to give up her job after marriage, as the husband will provide for her, while her duties would be needed around raising a family. This very reason has caused a delay in the marriage as the bride preferred financial independence over getting married but had to finally give into the demands of her parents, as they preferred seeing her married, even if it was to a lesser educated groom.

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