Trials and Tribulations of Being a South Asian Daughter

Now, before I start this, I’d like to make something clear: I absolutely adore my culture and the traditions it comes with.  Being from a Pakistani family, you learn to appreciate music, dance, styles of art (particularly calligraphy if you’re Muslim) as well as develop quite the spice tolerance. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always sunshine and rainbows, because being a female in this culture can make your life just slightly difficult.

I wholeheartedly admit that I am not in the major that was planned for me, and I can say that with the memory of being asked whether I wanted to go to medical or law school, of which I said “liberal arts,” a lot of eyebrows were raised. While I realize I shouldn’t be giving power to stereotypes, most of the time I can’t help but laugh, mainly because they are true (or at least they make for fantastic dark humor). My sister is in business, my brother is in computer science, my cousins are in medical fields or engineering, and then there’s little old me with my camera equipment and way too many SD cards.

What I always found fascinating is the generational differences in how customs and traditions carried on, especially when it came to women’s roles in a family as well as the community.  Since the age of 18, the conversations of marriage started up, but very subtly, mainly having to do with when I planned to settle down.  At first, it was pretty easy to ignore, though that was at the expense of my older sister, who was peppered with questions about the topic every time she visited home from school and now work. Recently, while on a call with my grandmother, she was showering me in compliments and memories, discussing how much I had grown into the woman I am now… “So when do we start finding someone,” is how she ended the statement. Then came the serious interrogation consisting of what qualities I look for in a potential partner as well as if anyone she knows has piqued my interest, to which I shut down incredibly fast. 

I applaud my dad for multiple feats, but I circle back and emphasize one in particular. From those late teenage years, and having discussions with my dad about the aunties at dinner parties asking me about my future relationship, he stopped me midway and looked at me very seriously. “You need to create a future by yourself before finding someone else. Focus on your education, your future career, what you want to accomplish in life, THAT is what matters the most.” He said the same thing with my sister, and it resonated with both of us, and even though the questions are still asked, I’m constantly reminded that I get to choose when I’m ready, regardless of what anyone else says. 

Don’t get me wrong, being a Pakistani woman comes with plenty of perks! From getting henna done for various events, the princess-like outfits (though they do weigh quite a bit), dancing to Bollywood’s cheesy lyrics, and learning to prepare some of the best food in the world- but then again, I’m a little biased. 

Am I the perfect daughter? No, not by any means.  Am I the perfect Pakistani child? Not exactly, but that’s ok.  Does my family still love and support my decisions? Absolutely.