Two Roads Diverged In a Wood, And I

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Hello, world.

I am in Savannah, Georgia. Starting my postgrad- Masters in Writing at SCAD (short for Savannah College of Art & Design).

I feel like I’m on a really fast roller coaster (even though I terribly fear them), and things seem to be flying like a rocket for me ever since I left Pakistan.

I honestly have no words, because this is a big change in my life. When most girls my age are forced to marry and start a family, I have been given the choice of living abroad, in the good old US of A, and take my future in my hands.

I had given up, truly. When I got the acceptance at SCAD and expressed my excitement to go there, my parents and family did not agree. In their eyes, I was 26 and unmarried, getting old and nearing my expiration date. However, one day in November, my parents just came up to me and told me that they will support my decision to go to SCAD despite what everyone says or thinks.

And so, I applied for and got my student visa, and here I am. I’ll march my band out.
I will beat my drum,
And if I’m fanned out,
Your turn at bat, sir,

I can sing this whole damn song, and I have realized that I am a theater nerd as well.

To new beginnings!

xoxo

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Rantings

I’ve been standing at a crossroad in this phase of my life for a very long time now. And I guess, I’ve procrastinated a little (okay, a lot). And it hasn’t helped. Neither has family for that matter.

When should parents back off from trying to control their child’s life? I feel as if I am still their puppet. I try to break free but they won’t keep their hands off of me, and I just trip over and fall each time I make a run for it.

Asian parents are more controlling than the average parent, and I guess one can’t really get them off their backs so easily. Especially Brown parents. Also, especially in a stupid society like Pakistan’s.

But when is enough enough? When do we finally say no? When do we take back our own lives? I want to be the grownup they’ve raised me to be. But HOW do I get this past the thick skulls of theirs? My parents are full of contradictions. On one hand, I am old enough to have 3 kids by now, a house and a husband of my own. But, yet, I am too naive to make my own decisions and too young to take control of my life.

When will parents let their kids finally grow up?

The Wizarding School of my Dreams

What to do when your dream school rejects you?

I always knew Durham as Hogwarts, as parts of the Harry Potter films were shot there, such as this famous scene from the first movie.

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However, it was my last year at college, and my Advanced English teacher, born and raised in UK, asked me about my majors for undergrad university. It was a routine check up for the whole class.

Since I was a shy student, she barely knew anything about me. I told her I wanted to study Creative Writing, and that I was passionate about it, and so, she asked to read my poems.

Later, she called me to the teacher’s room, and we talked for a long time. She was the first and only one to recommend Durham. It’s been almost 6 years since we had that talk, and however I don’t recall much, I do remember her exact words: Durham is Harvard for writers. 

And so, keeping in mind our conversation, I applied to Durham University last month for their Masters program. I was unsure, of course, because Durham is one of the best institutions in the UK.

I hadn’t received a word on the update of my application, and it had been over the usual 6-month period, so I emailed them today. I woke up to find their very bittersweet rejection.

Sure, I am not the best writer out there, but a part of me wasn’t expecting it… Sigh.

There could have been a hundred things they didn’t like about me and honestly, I would have preferred if they had disclosed the reason why I didn’t make the cut.

Was it my writing style, was it boring? Were my poems not professional enough? Dear God, I hope there weren’t any grammatical mistakes. Did my personal essay put them to sleep? Was it my IELTS score? Was my resume not up to point, or was it just me in general? The fact I am an international student and of Pakistani origin?

Any of these could be the reason I didn’t make the final decision, and I really wish they had disclosed what it was. Because these questions will definitely haunt me for a long, long time.

Something to be thankful for 

It’s been a busy week. My sister is here from UK for Easter break. She will go back on Sunday. 

My brother, Hassaan, has chicken pox. His twin, Safi, will soon also get it. They’re 13. Also, to make things worse, Safi fractured his hand and wrist by falling down in school today. Right now, he has his whole left arm in a cast. And soon, he will get chicken pox and it will be quite difficult for him to be in that cast. 😦

On a lighter note, my siblings and I are talking again. We are finally getting along.We laugh, watch movies and cricket matches together. We go out shopping and have dessert and icecream. We’ve even started eating dinner at the same time, the whole family together at the table. 

I guess one can never really hate their siblings. Even though at times, you’ll want to tear their heads off. But there really is a natural bond that can never fade away. 

Anyway. It’s been a good week. 🙂 Very hectic, though. 😅 But I am thankful. ☺️ 

March ’16

March is such a busy month for me, it just seems to fly away. My sister is here from UK for easter holidays and so is my aunt with her family. Her poor kids are sick.  Also, my younger brother has contracted chicken pox and it will be not long since his twin also catches it. 😕

On another note, I have finally motivated myself enough to start working out again. I want to be the way I was 2 years ago. Sigh. I used to be very thin. I don’t know how I let myself gain all this excess weight. Ugh. The other day, I met a classmate with whom I went to college with. She couldn’t recognize me. And I guess that was my wakeup call. 😧

Anyway. My other bff Mariam is getting married some time in July and I really want to wear a sarree. It will officially be my first time! I do have the height to pull it off but not the body since I’m kind of overweight now. Ugh.

I hope I lose all this fat soon.

Marriages in Pakistan: what it really feels like

Marriages, in Pakistan, are made in drawing rooms. Also known as hellholes. And auction houses. 

The whole experience leaves a girl feeling as if she is no more than a commodity, that she is being auctioned off to the highest bidder. Some men will have better degrees, some will have looks and some will have more money, and for the girl’s auctioneers, who are also her family, that is a huge deal to ponder over. 

What and how the girl feels doesn’t matter. She is required to dress up specifically to attract people, just like shopkeepers make things pretty to get more buyers. 

The whole process of getting ready, as if she is being displayed and sold off, is pretty demeaning. But do people care? Not the pathetic guests who come over to eat food like hungry apes and scrutinise her to the flesh and bone, and certainly not the family who gave birth to her. 

This is part of life,” the mothers would say, “We went through this exact same thing and so did our mothers before us, and we never complained.”

Once she hits puberty, your daughter is no longer a human being. And the priority is showcasing her to the world like she is a porcelain doll, something that can be bought and sold. If she bags a good proposal, wow, if she bags two, good job to her beauty and no brains. It’s always the more, the better. 

“My Shumaila got 3 proposals from very rich and handsome doctor boys. They wanted a thin tall fair young innocent pretty girl and are heads over heels for my beautiful Shumaila. The boys are just so divine. One lives in Amrika, one in London, and the other in Australia! Oh, however will we choose from 3 saint boys?” Gabba gabba, yak yak. 

This is common practice in our society. And as sad as it sounds, it is deemed quite normal, too.

Beauty and no brains. Plastic and fake beauty too, what with all the bleaching the skin and caking her face with every makeup product known to man. 

And if, God forbid, IF a girl complains, she is accused of being many things. Promiscuous, foolish, and corrupt are just to name a few. 

This. This is one of the many reasons why Pakistan can never grow and will always remain backward in every aspect of life. 

Girls are not commodities. They are not things. You do not own them and have a million “guests” over just to auction off your daughter. Guests, who viciously scrutinise her and discard her once they find “faults” in their perception of beauty. 

When will you ever learn? 

How is a girl ever supposed to be okay with this? 

Beauty cannot be defined.

Ever since I was a child, I have been told over and over again, what beauty is, and what steps I should follow to ensure that I become beautiful. And because of this, all through the years that I was growing up, I struggled with my body image and trying to achieve the so-called beauty stereotype.

But as a child, I did not understand what the fuss was all about. Why would my grandmother instruct my mom to keep me from playing in the sun for too long, or why should she control the amount of food that I eat? Why would my mother scold me for talking in a loud voice, or laughing loudly? When I did not understand still, they had to tell me what beauty is (sweet voice, fair skin, petite frame) and what beauty isn’t (tall, dark skin, loud voice, fat).

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The women in my life hated certain parts of their body. I was confused. Beauty, for me, was unspecified. My grandmother, with her wrinkles and her dainty pearls; my mom, and the lines that formed beneath her green eyes and outlined her mouth when she smiled; and my aunt, with her long and pointy ears that so resembled mine, were beautiful. What they thought were flaws, were beautiful to me. In the eyes of a child, beauty is boundless and effortless.

Honestly, I did not care that the sun would make my skin more tan than it already was, or that the food I eat would give me spots on my skin, or how loud I’d sound when I laughed. I was just a child, and children will be children. I did not know that having a darker skin color was shameful, or having a natural deep voice was a bad thing. I thought I was beautiful, too, with all my crooked teeth and my tan skin and my loud voice. I did not, for one second, think that I was not beautiful.

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With my mom’s youngest sister. I must be 6 or younger.

Everything changed when I started growing up. Since I used to play in the sun a lot, I got tan. More tan, than I already was. My skin color was prominent than ever because my mother, siblings, and all of my cousins were fair-skinned. They were milk, and I was chocolate milk. That did not bother me. But everyone in my family acted as if it was the most horrendous thing ever happen to me. As I started my teens, their behavior got worse. My grandmother would concoct home remedies to lighten my skin color, and my mom and aunt forced me bleach my face. Being told that the color of my skin is not beauty, was shattering. And since then, I stopped looking in the mirror.

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My siblings were as white as snow, and I was as dark as coal. My best friend was fair, and I was not. My grandmother had whiter skin than me. I got so self-conscious that I stopped appearing in photographs altogether. I hated it when my picture got taken, because my cruel aunt and cousins would make fun of my color and my then crooked teeth.

My dad’s sister, while we were going through old family pictures one day, told me that when I was born and she saw me for the first time, she shrieked because I had really brown skin. She even said that she asked God what her poor brother had done to deserve such a daughter. Those were her exact words, but in Urdu.

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With grandparents. I was 10 here.

My skin color was an embarrassment, I was starting to feel embarrassed about myself. I stopped smiling. I stopped loving myself. 

Pakistani, and Indian people alike, have a strong beauty standard that concerns the skin color of girls. The common misconception and belief in my society is, that if a girl has dark skin, she will have trouble getting a great marriage proposal because nobody desires a dark-skinned wife and daughter-in-law (sadly, this is 10000000% true).

For them, beauty is fair skin. And that’s probably because of the British rule over us for many years. The British were fair-skinned, white, and pale, considering the climate and weather of the place where they lived. And the people of Subcontinent (Pakistan and India) lived in opposite conditions, and thus, had brown skin as compared to the British.

Despite of their distressing rule over the Subcontinent, I believe that the people were quite mesmerized by their white skin. They probably thought it was the epitome of beauty. And that has stuck since and has become the stereotype of beauty in my society. Hence, the huge production, demand and sale of fairness and bleach face creams in India and Pakistan:

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I let these things affect me every day for a number of years. I let myself be haunted by this… depressed by this, night after night. I was crying all the time, hating the world. I wanted white skin because I thought that would make me beautiful. Turns out I was wrong. And I have realized this now. I’ve decided I won’t let myself be exploited by some twisted logic. I do not agree with society’s portrayal of beauty. It’s superficial and fake. Yes, beautiful people exist. But just like you can’t compare apples with oranges, or two classic movies, you can’t also just compare beauty. And it’s better to love yourself and not live with a dark cloud hovering above your head all the time. You need to be happy to have a healthy mind.

Society has to change. Beauty cannot be defined. All over the world, people are crying themselves to sleep, starving, cutting, loathing their bodies, and undergoing multiple surgeries to change the way they look. Beauty comes in all shapes, colors and sizes. We say that a lot of times, but we need to believe it, too. Believe that you are beautiful, believe that you are enough.

My inspiration behind this blog post:

Great! Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves by Jennifer Weiner