Tag Archives: Bangladeshi wedding

Other people’s pain

I read a really disturbing, but true, story about a Bangladeshi girl who was domestically abused by her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. It was on another level. She was brave enough to share her story with the world, but even braver to show the face behind it. No matter how many words I write in this post, nothing will express how shocking her experience was.

When I watched an interview she’d done for TV, I couldn’t fathom how such a beautiful, strong and confident woman had gone through all of that. She explained that she had been brought up to be a strong woman all her life, so hearing how she reacted uncharacteristically to everything that happened after marriage, just didn’t make any sense to me. She just lost herself.

But when you really think about it, unless you’ve been through it, you have no idea what goes through someone’s mind when in a situation like that. From what I can understand, you love someone with all your heart and soul, and thought they loved you too. Then all of a sudden they get violent and abusive and lash out, then quickly realising this could get ugly, they apologise in a way that seems so genuine… only to go and repeat it over and over again. You then have a million and one thoughts running through your head, whilst feeling like your world has stopped at the same time. You don’t want to admit the reality of the situation to yourself and make excuses, for both the abuser and abusee.

The sad thing about this is that I believe that culture and the society we live in play a huge part in this. She probably couldn’t help but think of the dreaded ‘what would people say’ if she had then left her husband and when these ‘people’ found out, what impact that would have on her and her family’s lives. Not wanting people to know that she’d had a failed marriage, not wanting to have to start from the bottom again. Feeling like the world is collapsing around her.

This is only how I imagine she felt. I haven’t been through it myself, so I would never be able to understand it fully. But there are parts that I can see as clear as day, because we belong to the same culture, which I despise sometimes.

The pressure of keeping up appearences in front of people who do and don’t matter is immense in the Bangladeshi culture. You can’t show that you’re suffering, so you have to keep on, keeping on. You need your loved ones to think that you’re doing well, and you need outsiders to think that you’re living the life! The burden of this pressure is so heavy, that you end up losing yourself. In that instance, it’s so easy to forget who you are, what you wanted to achieve in life and what makes you truly happy. You’re made to feel like you are worthless.

Now, I’m talking about a different aspect of my personal life, but this is something I could relate to and it pained me to read. Halfway through her story, I had to stop and take a breather. It was just too much to bare. How could one person tolerate that much abuse on a daily basis? How is it possible for these evil, conniving, disgusting people to exist in this world and call themselves human beings, let alone muslims?

Everything that is wrong with this culture’s expectations on marriage is in this story. From the ridiculous expectations on her to be the perfect wife, to them mentally and physically abusing her and thinking that it’s their right to do so. None of it should have happened, but it did, because the culture (and religion to a certain extent) allowed it.

Just a few weeks ago, I watched a BBC documentary about a Pakistani Muslim woman who was exploring the expectations put on muslim women when it came to marriage and independance. And I wasn’t shocked to find that I could relate to practically everything she said; from how she felt the pressures to be a good daughter and not let her parents down, to wanting to do what makes her happy whilst being respectful of her religion. It was evident that parents enforce the rules of culture quite heavily, to the point that it overtakes the importance of religion. But this isn’t anything new, this is something I talk about all the time.

Thinking back to the domestic abuse story, at first I was adament that I would not have handled the situation like that if it were me. I’m a strong, independent woman who knows enough to realise my own worth and the respect I deserve. But it made me think… didn’t this Bengali girl also think this about herself before she got married?

Regardless, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have let it get this far, but I also understand and appreciate that everyone is different. I think another thing to bare in mind is the fact that she was still fairly young when she was going through this ordeal, so probably wasn’t as worldy as she is now. I know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t stand for this behaviour, but I also appreciate the fact that I seem to be quite a few years older than her, so it’s only natural to become wiser with (old) age. You see and hear all sorts – you learn from other people’s stories and pain.

I really respect her for speaking out and sharing her pain with strangers, because it helps people, who are suffering in silence, realise that there is hope out there. And I genuinely wish that people who are going through tough times, gain the strength to reach out and not suffer alone. It can take just one call, message or email to turn your life around. You can read her story on her blog.

When I started this blog a few years ago, I didn’t expect a single person to read it. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone about it or share it on any social media platforms. But miraculously, people came across it, and not only that, they took the time and effort to reach out to me and tell me that I’m not alone. They even shared their stories with me, which made me feel truly touched and I was definitely taken aback. I never intended for this to be a regular blog (as you can tell), only just an outlet for me to share my thoughts when I felt like I couldn’t talk to the people around me. I’m blessed to have such great people in my life, but even then, I felt alone. And writing a blog post to ‘nobody’ was the only way I felt I could let out my inner thoughts and insecurities.

I’m still shocked when people send me messages, especially when they say that reading something that I had written on a whim had helped them; I just don’t know how to react. It made me appreciate the power of communication. If my ramblings could help you come out of a unpleasant situation, then I am more grateful to you than you are to me, because YOU found me. You have already done more than I did when I was suffering, so I just want to say a big thank you to all of my readers. I’m sorry I’m not a good enough blogger, but I’m grateful to you for making my life shine a little brighter.

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Life update: summer has passed and winter has arrived

The summer has passed and winter has arrived… and I haven’t updated this blog in nearly a year! What have I been doing with my life? I have to admit, I went through some dark times earlier this year. I can’t really say 2017 has been a good year for me, but it’s certainly looking up, so I’ll try to keep this in mind whenever I feel down thinking about the past.

I’ve actually written several posts, which are saved in my drafts and probably won’t get published. It’s weird reading them back when so much has changed, except for one thing. I’m still nowhere near the point of getting married, nor have I started looking.

I don’t feel stressed about it like I did before though, but it’s obviously something that’s always at the back of my mind. Over the last year, several relatives and family friends have got married. I had to attend two weddings as they were of my cousins, otherwise no one would’ve seen me anywhere near one of those celebrations. I tried to dodge and run away from any relatives who had that inquisitive look in their eyes when approaching me. I knew exactly what they wanted to talk about. In other words, what they wanted to grill me about. I learnt my lesson at the first wedding where a relative, quite bluntly and harshly, asked me, ‘Aren’t you ashamed?’.

‘Ashamed of what?’ you ask…? Oh, just the fact that the kid getting married is 5 years younger and that I had the audacity to show my old, unmarried face, without looking embarrassed. I know… just wow. I really didn’t see this direct blow coming. I just turned around and said no I’m not, and that if it’s a problem, then I won’t bother turning up to the next one. That left me with a horrible feeling that night.

Just like I’ve explained in previous posts, I’m not against marriage. In fact, I want to get married. But I had to sort out other aspects of my life first before even thinking about it. This is how I process things and deal with life. Everyone works differently. It’s not even like I tried and failed – I just haven’t been looking. And yes, I know I’m getting old and that I should get a move on. But you know what? I have stopped caring what other people think.

Although, I know I constantly contradict myself. I see everyone around me getting married, buying houses, having babies. And then here I am – nothing has changed. But I’m happy (mostly). I am living a good life right now. And I don’t even mean a crazy one. My life is just as simple (read: boring) as most people’s. It consists of 80% work, 10% ‘fun’, 5% spending time with family and the final 5%, hiding from the world. Most of my time and energy goes into work, because a girl’s got to work to live!

But with a blink of an eye, I’m already nearing the big dreaded milestone and now I’m like… shit.

How did this even happen? One minute ago, I was fresh faced, young and naive. I moved to the city to follow my dreams, thinking it would be just like the movies. Instead, I bumbled through life and here we are, many years later. My best friend always helps me put things into perspective though. It’s easy to sit here and dwell on all the lost opportunities and cry over the fact that I haven’t achieved anything. But then she snaps me out of it (she’d slap me if she could) and reminds me of all the things that I HAVE achieved and how much I’ve gained from that. Everybody needs a best friend like that – someone who can bring you back down to earth and reality.

Anyway, the takeaway from this story is that nothing has changed, but a lot has changed. I’m working towards being happy and content with myself first, before looking for a partner in crime.

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The marriage trend… has it skipped a generation?

I’ve been quiet for a while, so apologies for that. But recently I’ve noticed a lot more marriage announcements happening amongst my family and relatives. The majority of these people happen to be much younger than me, which isn’t that surprising seeing as I’m now technically in my late 20’s. Whereas these young’uns are in their early to mid 20’s.

But it got me thinking; has the marriage trend, or the need to get married, skipped a generation? I took a moment to step back and analyse my peers; people who I grew up with in the Muslim/Bangladeshi community. We are the generation who seemed to be the first ones in our families to actively pursue education and a career. Some of us are even the first to go to university out of all of our family and relatives. A lot of us have also steadily and somewhat successfully climbed the career ladder. Although a fair few of the people my age I’m referring to happen to be guys, I’ve noticed that a lot of them in this age bracket are still unmarried. I know guys tend to get married a little later than girls, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference in this case.

I still don’t understand how I’m so different from my siblings. My younger siblings are now ‘of age’ according to my mother, so the pressure is on, more than ever. And after many deep and intense conversations I’ve had with my siblings, I still can’t quite believe how ready and open they are to the prospect of getting married fairly soon. At their age, I was fighting for my right to pursue a career and live an independent life. I was seriously pushing back because I felt like I had so much more to achieve before I got married. But these kids, they seem to lack any serious ambition.

I’ve spent many nights discussing their aims and goals in life, and have been stumped when I discovered they don’t really have any. What has drastically changed for them to be like this? Or am I the abnormal one, being selfish for wanting to lead my life with a purpose different from those set by my parents and society?

I’ve noticed another trend; people my age are being ‘skipped’ and their younger siblings are getting married before them. This makes me feel pretty uncomfortable. I feel like I’m stuck in the middle; on one hand, I’m open to marriage but don’t feel like I’m ready just yet. On the other hand, I feel like time is running out and that my parents will just ‘skip’ past me and get my younger siblings married off before me. The reason why this makes me feel uneasy is because there is a stigma attached to this. If you’re older and unmarried, then surely there must be something wrong with you, otherwise why wouldn’t you get married first? It’s different for guys, if they have younger siblings, especially sisters, it’s fairly normal and acceptable for them to get married off first. But for girls, they have to accept that people will be talking about them behind their back and speculating.

The final trend I want to mention is the rise of the love marriage. A lot of these young couples seem to have been in relationships for quite a few years, which is now converting into marriage. This could be for many reasons, two of which I believe are temptation and fear. Temptation being that they’re ready to take their relationship to the next level and get serious about life. Fear being the fact that they might ‘get caught’ (or already have) so needing to nip it in the bud before it gets out and causes drama in their community.

The thing that astounds me about this whole situation is the number of love marriages happening in the first place. Or maybe I’ve been blind or just naive to the fact that muslims are dating from a much younger age now. Again, as far as I can remember, people in my generation were brought up so differently, and somewhat more strictly, than this younger generation. I know I’m making myself sound like an old granny, but the truth of the matter is, even just being a few years older, I feel like I’ve had a whole different upbringing. One of which instilled the fear of my parents wrath if I were to do anything to tarnish their name and reputation.

A thing my mother instilled in me from a young age, and I hope it’s the same for my siblings, is the understanding of what’s important in life. She said how money comes and goes, but respect takes a lifetime to earn, and just a second to lose. I grew up with those values close to my heart, and everything I’ve done up until now, I’ve made sure to never do anything that could harm this. I always want my parents to be able to hold their head up high when it comes to this daughter of theirs; even if they’re stressed and embarrassed about the fact that they have an unmarried daughter in her late 20’s, living away from home and showing no sign or interest in getting married any time soon!

But the reason why I’m mentioning respect and reputation is because I have always been told to stay away from boys. Not to be seen with them in situations that can be misunderstood to mean something else. So in a sense, I had quite a strict upbringing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had guy friends, which my parents certainly knew about – I made sure of it to ensure they knew that I’m not up to no good. But this also meant that I actively avoided pursuing relationships. Not that there were many offers anyway, ha! But the truth is, relationships were just a big no. And here we are, hearing of these young couples about to get hitched, who happen to have known each other for several years (read: been in a relationship secretly for 5+ years).

All of a sudden, this is a much preferable situation to my mother, than my situation, where I’ve actually been a good, respectful daughter and avoided scandal. She has the audacity of turning around and saying ‘well at least they’re actively doing something about it and sorting it out themselves!’ I mean, can you actually believe this? I cannot fathom how this is a much better outcome and how I’m now the ‘bad’ one in this situation. Just because I haven’t had a secret boyfriend all these years? What is this nonsense!?

I will never know. But all I can say is, it’s making me feel on edge. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this feels like the calm before the storm. Am I alone in feeling like this?

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