“Are you mad at me?”
“No. I’m mad at myself.”
“I find something wrong with everything.”
“There is something wrong with everything!”
“Are you mad at me?”
“No. I’m mad at myself.”
“I find something wrong with everything.”
“There is something wrong with everything!”
*Inspired by Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love*
I just finished watching season 1 of Indian Matchmaking on Netflix. Although I am not Indian, many moments in this show rang true with the way marriage is viewed in Egypt, my home country. As a woman who is in her prime marital years according to both these cultures, this show sparked a lot of thoughts for me.
First thing’s first: the Netflix show deals with consensual arranged marriage. The term “arranged marriage” has a lot of negative connotations in the West, because of acts of human rights violations such as child marriage and forced marriage. This show, however, focusses on (wealthy) adults who are looking for their forever partners by getting them to explore their wants in life and reasons behind them.
You may know that there’s a lot of pressure to get married in India. If you have any Indian friends, you will 100% know that. A quick Google showed me that arranged marriage is super common in South Asia, with divorce rates in India being less than 1%! This will tell you how seriously marriage is taken in Indian culture – it really is a forever decision. So what I liked about this show, is that the protagonists didn’t rush into the marriages, on the contrary, most of the matchmaking was unsuccessful (through no fault of Sima’s.. the stars just weren’t aligned right!). The docuseries followed the journey of each person who was looking for their happily-ever-after, and the matchmaker took the time to get to know them and understand why they wanted to get married. I loved Ankita’s storyline, which concluded with her realising that she actually wanted to spend more time working on her business solo before pursuing a marriage. And although heartbreaking, I also loved Nadia’s story which highlighted the fickleness of relationships even in dating with intent.
The UK has low rates of arranged marriage; most people here will pursue what the show calls “love marriages”. Living in the West, you will be familiar with the organic way in which this will happen: you meet, you date, you get married. This can span over as many years as you want, and the main difference really is that the end-goal is not always disclosed. I’ve read stories/watched shows where a couple has been living together for 10 years or so and it all falls apart because one person decided to randomly mention over breakfast that they are not interested in marriage, leaving their partner heartbroken. Growing up seeing these stories, I always thought “why the hell did they not talk about this in the 10 whole years they were together?!“. It never made sense to me. Did this never ever come up in conversation before? Didn’t a family member ever ask what the couple’s future plans were? Interestingly, divorce rates in the UK are around 40%. This feels really high for a decision that is made by two consenting adults, with presumably all of the information they need beforehand. So maybe love doesn’t, in fact, conquer all.
Indian Matchmaking really got me thinking about the way I personally view marriage compared to the way my Egyptian family views it. They seem to hold the attitude that with the right foundations and respect in a relationship, you can learn to love your partner and build a marriage. It’s actually really sweet. I have been asked a few times by my family whether I would be interested in an arranged marriage. Each time, I immediately said no without hesitation. Now, I think there are actually a lot of perks to it. Anyone who has done the whole dating thing in the last few years will tell you that it’s tough out there. No one knows what anyone wants because a lot of people themselves have no clue what they themselves want. You realise that 9 times out of 10, you just know what you don’t want – and that’s them. So can you imagine how great it would be if you could just say exactly what you are looking for before wasting days, weeks, even months, on trying to understand what the hell this is?! [cue meme]
Another Google search showed me that divorce rates in Egypt are at minimum 40% and could be as high as 60%! The last 20 years saw a large increase in divorce in Egypt when legislation changed to allow women no-fault divorce in the year 2000. Now why is the divorce rate as high as in the UK, where it is mostly love marriages? There are so so so many reasons for divorce, it would be really hard to pin down exactly what the issues are. You could perhaps boil it all down to unmet expectations, but I worry that this is a very simplistic take on it. As someone who has not been married, I can’t fully grasp the pressures a married couple experiences.
I wonder whether the issues lie in what we, as people, believe make good partners. I noticed some problematic ways of thinking in the Netflix show. While I understand that being attracted to your partner is vital, it seemed overly superficial to choose someone with a specific height, and it feeds into harmful concepts of colourism to prefer light-skinned Indians over darker-skinned ones. Sima says it multiple times in the show that it will be easier for her to match the skinnier, lighter and overall prettier women. In a world of swiping left and right on dating apps like Tinder, I’m not at all surprised at the importance of looks in finding the “perfect” partner, but think how many potential matches were sifted out based on such criteria that are completely out of an individual’s control! Having said that, a lot of them did prefer partners who had similar backgrounds to them. In terms of religion and culture, I see why they would find this more appealing. The more similar your upbringing, the more likely your values will be compatible. And when being set up with strangers, you don’t have much else to go on.
Going back to dating apps, I notice that they really aren’t that different to the way Sima’s matchmaking works. You have your “biodata”, which everyone puts in their Tinder bios anyway like a badge of honour: their height (adding on a few inches), where they’re from, their hobbies, photoshopped pictures, and a few people actually like to disclose what they’re looking for (casual dating, serious relationship, etc.). The only difference is you cut out the middle man (or strong headed matchmaking Indian woman), and do your own swiping and ta-dah! You’ve become your very own matchmaker. All Tinder needs now is a horoscope section to confirm your compatibility and you can be on your way to the nearest Nando’s in less than 24 hours.
For what it’s worth, I don’t believe there is one right way of “doing” relationships. Whether it happens organically or is arranged, you still have so much to face as a couple, and each one comes with its own specific set of challenges. The only thing that can help in any situation is strong and honest communication. And that takes years and years to master and refine.
So there you have it. Whether you love it or hate it, you have to admit it’s simply intriguing to immerse yourself in this world of Indian Matchmaking.
Disclaimer: JK Rowling is not my favourite person right now. I don’t agree with her recent essay on her (harmfully simplistic and inaccurate) views on sex and gender. I found this video explained why really well if you are interested. I do, however, love the Harry Potter franchise, a world I grew up with and found solace in many a time. Hence the title.
*SPOILER ALERT* I ruin the ending of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. But to be honest, if you haven’t seen it by now then you probably deserve this.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” – Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
These words may be some of Dumbledore’s most famous. He utters them in a lovely scene at the end of the first Harry Potter film, right before awarding Neville Longbottom 10 points for being so brave in standing up to his friends who were breaking Hogwarts rules. The whole school then goes on to cheer and congratulate Neville, including the 3 protagonists who he was trying to stop! So everyone is happy, the good house wins, and no one resents anyone for getting petrifies-totalus-ed or for trying to sabotage the defeat of Voldemort.
After a long day at work, I found this exact scene swirling around my mind. And only now am I realising how unrealistic the ending to this film actually is! Not because three first-years managed to defeat the most powerfully evil wizard in history. Or because this evil wizard managed to escape somehow without a body. Not even the fact that these magical beings live among us muggles without us knowing. No. Because Neville Longbottom is still friends with Hermione, Ron and Harry!
So this guy wakes up in the middle of the night to find his three classmates up to no good. He attempts to reason with them, explaining that they need to stop losing Gryffindor house points. And you know what his three mates do? They cast a body-binding spell on him and leave him there on the floor for who knows how long. Outrageous.
Today I had to stand up to some people because they wanted to do something unethical. I wanted no part in it, so I spoke up. It was difficult. It was uncomfortable. It may have been brave. But it was definitely stupid. Standing up to authority figures will often lead to the same place that Neville found himself – paralysed on the floor. After I stood up to them, I found myself sitting on my bedroom floor feeling violated. I didn’t like being put in a position where it was expected that I would go along with something so blatantly unethical. Something that was ultimately wrong.
And you know what?
There is no Dumbledore to give me 10 extra points for being brave. Nope. Unfortunately, when you’re not featuring in a children’s book, you don’t always get rewarded for doing the right thing. Instead, you get awkward conversations. You get certain people avoiding you. Worst of all, you realise how many people, in positions of authority I might add, are more than willing to turn a blind eye to moral codes in order to make their own lives easier. To be honest, I don’t really get why they do it. Maybe I’m too naive to understand it, despite trying my whole life to stop seeing things so black and white. I try to understand the intricacies of complex situations. But ultimately, this is how I am wired. I can’t change the fact that I have strong principles. Sometimes I really wish I didn’t. Do you know how much easier my life would be if I could stop myself from standing up to mean bosses? If I could stop myself from standing up to drunk strangers in the street? If I could stop myself from standing up to judgmental family members?
It’s probably time for me to stop expecting 10 points from a magical gay old man every time I show this “bravery“.
Or maybe I should award myself 10 points instead!
Honestly, I don’t know.
I just know that I would have so many more positive, albeit superficial, relationships with people in my life if I stopped being a Neville. I wonder how much Neville actually liked those three. I bet he secretly resented them. In which case, maybe I should carry on as I am.
This was written 2 days after the 2015 Paris attacks. My unfiltered thoughts on the matter.
The recent attacks in Paris were devastating. I remember the moment I heard about them and immediately my heart sank as I switched the tv on to watch the news. I was up until 2am that night discussing how heartbreaking this was. At that point, ISIS hadn’t yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. But everyone was already thinking it, if not saying it: Muslim terrorists.
As a Muslim, I found this really distressing. I noted that when I spoke about the attacks, I made sure to use the name of the terrorist group – ‘ISIS’. I didn’t just blame it on followers of one of the main religions in the world. I knew at once the effects of these attacks.
The Paris attacks in particular.
Despite the Lebanon attacks occurring only a couple of days before, not many people had heard about them. I know it’s not a competition – both of these attacks were as heartbreaking as each other. However, I can’t help feel that the Paris attacks are more important. For one, they got more coverage on the news than the Lebanon attacks ever did (even when the death count in Paris was at 30, compared to the 43 in Lebanon). I can’t decide whether it’s the media’s fault, or the people’s. Nowadays there’s no excuse for not being “in the know”. Why did people not support Lebanon by donating like they did to Paris ? Why did Facebook not switch on the “marked safe” option for Lebanon ? There’s no doubt that the Lebanese use Facebook. Why did world leaders not make statements to show solidarity with Lebanon? I am so glad they did so for Paris – I found it very touching. But couldn’t they do it for Lebanon too?
I read an article recently about how “Arab Lives” don’t seem to matter to Westerners as much anymore and I can’t help but agree. The article also mentioned that Arabs themselves were more sad about the Paris attacks than the Lebanon attacks. Even Arabs don’t value their lives as much as Westerners’ lives. So does that mean only half of me matters because only half of me is British ?
I predicted the backlash that would affect normal non-extremist Muslims. It’s no secret that Islamophobia is bigger than it’s ever been before, especially over the last few years, but now that ISIS have actually carried out attacks close to home, it’s coming close to reaching its peak. And it scares me what will happen if they continue.
I have no clue how a terrorist member of ISIS thinks (if they do at all), but I’m pretty sure that this is the effect they want. They want Western society to turn against Muslims. They want to show Muslims that the “West” do not care about us. This can’t be true. I identify as a Muslim, but I also identify as a “Westerner”. So this makes no sense to me.
I was intrigued enough to look up Facebook comments on articles about these attacks. I’m sad to say that a lot have used the words “terrorists” and “Muslims” interchangeably. I don’t have to explain that this is so ignorant and prejudiced. I reported a hateful comment that talked about “nuking Mecca”. Facebook got back to me stating that this comment doesn’t violate their free speech rules.
I can’t believe how many likes the most hateful comments get. They say Islam is to blame because of the violent verses in the Qur’an. But there are also so many peaceful verses. Islam is a peaceful religion.
Only 6% of global terrorist attacks are carried out in the name of Islam. White right-wing extremists killed twice as many Americans in 2013 as Muslim extremists. These figures must mean something, no? Why doesn’t the media portray this? I guess it works in their favour to have an “enemy” they can report on. I’m not saying Muslim extremists don’t exist and that these attacks aren’t as bad as others. All terrorist attacks are all disgusting. I just want to know why is it that some groups are held to account for how extremists act, and other groups not?
After these attacks I have felt very vulnerable here in the West. Even more so being a Muslim here. The Muslim extremists are out to get me and the Islamophobes are out to get me.
It’s been almost nearly 5 years and I’m back. Wow!
Hello to everyone who remembers NEWTS and followed it and supported it. Nice to see you again. Apologies for ending NEWTS and rebranding my blog to be my creative writing space. Things have changed – I have changed – and my blog is coming along for the ride.
When I re-read my blog now, not having looked at my writing for years, I feel like I’m meeting my younger self. It’s beautiful how someone’s writing captures their very essence. This is not me saying my writing is so unbelievably genius that I am able to accentuate all that I am. No. The level of the writing doesn’t come into it. I appreciate how raw my posts were back then. It feels like a clear screen into my younger self.
The main difference between now and then is that I am now comfortable enough to actively share my blog with people in my life. It may not seem like a big step to some, but this was such a worry for me when I started it. I didn’t want just anyone in my life to see such a personal side to me. But over the last few years, I’ve become more and more comfortable with myself. It’s really touching, actually, how far I’ve come in terms of self-acceptance.
Delving deep into my NEWTS blog felt a bit like a time capsule to me. Funnily enough, for ages I have been meaning to create a form of time capsule video for myself with standardised questions that I would revisit every few years. But to be honest, this works just as well for me. Maybe even better.
The rain droplets hammered the ground angrily.
They hit lampposts that tried to shine through the storm. They pelted car windows bravely protecting their passengers. They cleared the dirt and pollution, washing away the memories of today.
They took advantage of the wind to gain force and strength. But despite their best efforts, they could not get at the birds. So they settled for the passers-by instead.
Men stomped from shelter to shelter, while women fled across the open spaces. The raindrops streamed, inducing the shrieks of children as they let go of their parents’ hands.
Then, came the flood.
The trouble with being weak
and asking for support is that
they label you as weak.
Ignoring the fact that it is your strength that has brought you this far.
Where do I even begin?
I can’t begin.
I don’t want to begin.
Because beginning this signifies the end.
The end of us.
It hurts to even write “us” now.
What have you done?
What have I done?
What have we done?
We killed it.
I can’t decide whether we suffocated it until its dying breath or whether we just watched it struggle and die, doing nothing.
Does it matter?
All that matters now is that it is dead. Over.
And now we both have to live with the pain.
The consequences of our actions.
Your lack of.
What I am grateful for today:
Whenever I feel a bit under the weather, I make sure I take the time to appreciate 3 things about the day. It’s also nice to do this even when you’re feeling perfectly great !
What are three things you are grateful for today ?
I am currently attending a training course in order to work in the health sector. Today, we covered the topic ‘Abuse’.
At the end of the day, we were each given a blank piece of A4 paper and 5 minutes to write down any thoughts we had about today.
These were mine:
Made me think of all the abuse there is in the world,
They’re not bad people, the people abusing, they’re more people who need help themselves.
If everyone had support and love, the world would have less abuse.
People need to learn compassion.
They need to learn to love themselves,
Always appreciate how much everyone shares in this safe space.
It brings up stories of my own.
But I keep them to myself,
I’m not good at sharing.
Feeling guilty about not coming back.
Not seeing all of these people again,
So non-judgmental and kind.
Leaving this safe space.
As you can see from the title, this week I went veggie. Or more accurately, pescatarian. I normally eat meat fairly often, so this was a little bit of a change.
My week’s meals went as follows:
I started off fairly simply. I made some tagliatelle and added some roasted tomato pesto sauce. This is one of my absolute favourite meals! I would have used lemon pesto but my housemate has a severe nut allergy so I don’t use nuts in the shared kitchen. I also sizzled some spinach and roasted some tomatoes to add to the pasta. It was delicious !
I was feeling lazy, so I made the same meal without the roasted tomatoes, but kept the spinach. This time, I also added a couple of Quorn sausages. Just to keep up my protein intake (God forbid I miss out on a day’s protein!).
Tuna pasta bake with spinach. I swear I’m not obsessed with spinach (but I do adore it), I just bought a big pack so I had to get through it before it went off! This was fairly easy to make, you just mix it all up and leave in the oven for 40 minutes. Easy stuff. And super yummy.
Leftover tuna pasta bake… I tend to make bulk meals (not so much because I’m trying to be efficient but..) because my eyes are too big for my tummy !
Friday (CHEAT DAY)
So I started the day with a a delicious spinach omelette for brunch. I kinda pride myself on my omelette-making skills (I should add it to my CV). I had it with some yummy pitta bread.
Then, I cheated. I had a slow-cooked pulled beef burrito. I’m sorry but I don’t even regret it because it was amaaaazzzinnggg. I’d had a long week and I wanted to reward myself at Changos Burritos. It was so worth it. I wanted some churros too but the queue was too long 😦 (maybe that was the universe teaching me a lesson for cheating on my NEWTS challenge week..)
I had nothing planned for today, so decided to take time to make some stuffed peppers with mince Quorn, rice, vegetables and feta cheese. I got the idea of adding feta from this recipe. I followed this recipe very loosely – as a guideline kinda. The main difference is I used Quorn instead of beef.
I had leftovers …. again … because I made waaayy too much rice/mince stuffing. This was my dinner (and lunch) for the following couple of days too. Yay.
All in all, it was great being veggie ! I will try to cut down on meat from now on for the sake of the animals, the Earth, and my health in general. I actually felt a lot healthier this week but various other factors had changed so it wouldn’t be right to conclude that it was due to cutting out meat. It also made me put in a bit more effort into my meals, which paid off !
One day I hope to try being vegan for a week, but I’m not quite ready for that yet. I don’t trust myself to do it properly… and I love cheese (and milk and eggs!) way too much.