Monday, December 15, 2008

I've been working on a post about nazar, and how the concept affects me as a parent, but getting it down in words is more complicated than I had anticipated. So here's a less pretentious post in the meantime. :)

Yesterday, I went to a wedding. Given that it's December in Lahore, and yesterday was Sunday, there's nothing unusual about that. But weddings always inspire reflection for me, because they become an opportunity for armchair sociology.

The most interesting part first: The wedding video was being shot by a woman. And all the catering staff (well, the visible ones, anyway) was female. I've never seen a wedding video being shot by a woman. The still photographers at two weddings I've attended in the US have been female, but never the "video guy." In fact, the term "wedding video crew" always inspires in me instant repulsion and memories of assorted annoying men, of varying degrees of sleaziness. I didn't want a video crew at my wedding, partly for that reason. I've also never seen a whole crew of female servers at a formal event.

But the paradox, which is what makes for real sociological interest (at least for me), is that the wedding was a completely segregated affair. As in, they booked two separate halls at a posh hotel, one for male guests, and one for female guests. So you had women taking on roles that are normally the preserve of men in Pakistan, but for reasons that are totally "unliberated." Like the fact that initially women would become ob-gyns here because women didn't want to go to a male doctor (or the men in their families didn't want them going to male doctors).

So I was quite entertained by that paradox. And the lesser paradox of the female videographer wearing a head scarf, taking video of women who only have their head scarves off because they are in an all-female situation. Most of those women would be very uncomfortable with men seeing that video. And yet it's hard to imagine that the wedding video won't be viewed by at least the close male relatives of the bride and groom.

And then there's the idea that arranging separate spaces is more of a religious duty than avoiding extravagance. I've seen segregated weddings before, but usually they involve putting up a partition in the single hall. I've always been uncomfortable at events like that, particularly since I got married (more on that in a second), but given the strength of people's convictions, and how extremely uncomfortable those people would be in the absence of a partition, I've never sat in judgement on it. But this just strikes me as excessive, and more ostentatious than religious.

Why does it make me more uncomfortable now that I'm married? Several reasons, really, all of them practical. For one, once you're married, you get invited to weddings more frequently (don't ask me why, pondering that one may need to be the subject of a whole different post). So the frequency with which I have to deal with segregated weddings has increased. For another, I get invited to weddings where I don't know anyone, because the person getting married is a former colleague of my husband's, for example. So, there I am at a party that I've only gone to because it's important to my husband, and I can't even sit with the one person there who I know. Third, co-ordinating exits just becomes irritating. Thank God for cell phones. But still, if one of us forgets to take their phone, or it's accidentally left in silent mode with the vibrate function off, or doesn't hear it ring in the hubbub of the reception, then we are simply doomed. Before I was married, this wasn't an issue, because at such an event, I would usually be on my own.

Another time I will expound further upon the subject of weddings in Pakistan, and related idiocies.

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