I Don't Like Wedding Planning

This is NOT meant to be a commentary on the spiritual state of people who love wedding planning and are fully invested in it. I have found spirituality in far too many unlikely places to think that weddings are completely devoid of it. This is only my subjective experience.

To those who have been through the process of a South Asian wedding, they know it’s never as simple as: “It’s your wedding, you should do it your way.” There are people to engage, norms to follow, and expectations to fulfill. It’s about something much bigger than you. So the onus is on the couple to honour their parents’ wishes and ways of going about things.

Plus, I acknowledge the importance of a milestone event like this. It sets clear in everyone’s (including the couple’s) minds that a transition is taking place, and it’s a big deal.

All that said: at the end of the day, wedding planning gives me a strange kind of sickness. It feels like I am indulging in something that is spiritually depleting. In terms of negative energies, it gives me same kind of queasiness that the following things do:

Is puking rainbows supposed to be a good thing? I’m doing it all the time and it doesn’t feel so good.
  1. Junk food
  2. Too many tv shows/movies in a row
  3. Too many social outings in one week
  4. Working too hard
  5. Not praying

In short, I’m not the nicest person when I am wedding planning or doing any of the above things. Just like the woman who wrote the vent “My big day? Yeah right…”, my bridezilla flares up, but not because things are not turning out as I want them to. Rather, it’s because I have to undertake an endeavor I couldn’t be less interested in undertaking.

Since I got engaged, most people I am surrounded by can be divided into two camps: those who wish me well and then continue talking to me as they always have, (thank you, bestie) and those who think I spend my evenings and weekends contemplating the event from every angle. The latter folks always end up giving me loads of unsolicited advice (an experience also bemoaned by a fellow writer in her piece “Bad bridal priorities”). Just…why?

Moving on to a solution: to keep myself intact from the wedding industry complex, I have devised a strategy to do the work of wedding planning while not letting it get to me:

  • I won’t linger over any decisions for longer than I have to. I know that I’ll be equally happy on the day whether or not the décor or dress turn out as I’d like them to. Why spend time fussing over the details?
  • I’ll focus on planning something else to take the focus away from wedding planning–honeymoon planning, for instance.
  • I won’t bring it up with people (which I don’t) and try to change the subject if anyone else brings it up with me (which I could do better at).
  • I’ll continue life as normal and enjoy the usual old stuff and new stuff like cooking and skating, since life will continue long after that day is done.
  • I’ll plan and look forward to my marriage: from financial planning to brushing up my cooking skills to enjoying the growing bond I have with my fiance.
  • I’ll practice mindfulness and remember death, for it’s a bigger challenge to do that when life is treating one well.

som

May Allah save us from weddings being nothing more than a money-sucking plight.

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Ableism in South Asian matchmaking

I once overheard a conversation that revealed so much about attitudes towards disabled individuals that I was profoundly shaken.

The topic of discussion was a young man of a decent earning and standing. The catch? A childhood illness permanently affected the functioning of the left side of his body, and he had onsets of mild tremors from time to time. According to the conversers, his tremor was enough to mark him as “spoiled goods.”

Impressions of the disabled seem to be fraught by flawed assumptions about their forever-compromised worth. As a result, those with disabilities are tucked away out of sight and spoken of in pitying terms, as this man was.

Surely we can do better.

Here are some of the ludicrous sayings floating about, and some responses I would like to everyone to consider:

Myth: We want our children to have healthy spouses, can you blame us?

Response: The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Let’s be honest about how “healthy” “normal” individuals are. Given this age of rising obesity, diabetes, and cancer, there is no telling whether those perceived as “normal” will outlive their disabled counterparts. There’s not even a guarantee that they’d have a decent quality of life.

Those with disabilities face a different set of challenges in achieving full health, yes, but that does not make their state inferior. We all are struggling to be healthy in the truest definition of the worth, and that makes us more similar than different.

Myth: Children are out of the question.

Response: This foolish and automatic assumptions in play: (a) the traits the person possesses can be passed on to their children, or (b) disabled people aren’t “interested” in reproducing; they’re asexual, or (c) their disabilities render them as inadequate potential parents. The only response I’ll give to this nonsense: Just because someone is disabled does not mean they do not want to or cannot have children.

Myth: if there’s a physical condition, who knows, there may be mental condition as well

Response: This is the absolute worst. First of all: no, people who are physically disabled do not automatically have mental health issues that affect their ability to have a relationship. Also, what’s being implied is that if someone has an invisible disability such as a mental or learning disability, that’s fine. What kind of a double standard is that?

Is disability a non-issue? No. Is extra consideration required when making such matches? Yes. Should people be absolutely certain that they will love and support their lesser-abled spouses for as long as they can? Yes.

Here’s what not to do: treat and regard them as subhumans to be pitied.

The conversation I overheard that spurred me to write this ended on an interesting note. One of the people (you’ve probably figured out by this point that it was a well-meaning but ill-informed matronly matchmaker, a.k.a the rishtaa aunty) said: “Perhaps the only way [those with disabilities] can get married is not by arranged marriages, but by finding someone themselves. The families don’t have to make the decision, so the children will make them themselves and settle down.”

This impression is a double-edged sword. It gets precariously close to acknowledging that everyone is deserving of love and lifelong companionship, while at the same time disavowing responsibility for such a match. For when it comes to status, beauty, and wealth, rishta aunties are blazingly confident in making the right matches. But they stutter and flail helplessly at the prospect of someone with a tremor.

May we be redeemed for transgressing against the vulnerable and underprivileged members of our community. May we get over ourselves for thinking that normality exists.

Note: I’m blessed and privileged to be able-bodied, and I hope this little rant doesn’t come across as self-righteous or a claim to speak on someone’s behalf.

Yep. Still a Parrot.

In the process of creating an eBook, I tried renaming an EPUB file to give it a .zip extension so that it is a zipped folder. It doesn’t work. I open it to find it’s still an EPUB file. Every time it happens, I am reminded of the anecdote where a parrot is taught to say the shahada and chants it all the time, only to squawk when its moment of death arrives. “Because it doesn’t matter what you make the parrot say,” my teacher explained. “Its heart is still the heart of a parrot.” Ergo, don’t just put the shahadah on linguistic repeat and think you’ll have it going for you in the Afterlife. It’s whether your heart is in a state of shahadah that counts.

So I tell myself, Stop renaming your file and think it will work, dammit. Its heart is still the heart of an EPUB file. At heart it’s still a parrot.

My mind is weird.

Bismillah. From the beginning to the end.

Something is off. I prayed Isha–the longer Isha with several units involved–I pray the longer ones to slow down my thoughts and focus on what I am saying. For even if I do not understand the particular verse I am reciting, there is something particularly soothing about the pure act of recitation on it.
Here is the part when I am supposed to be calm and joyful and the world has nothing but happy endings in store, because after all happiness ultimately lies within your own self, right?

Right?

There is a wall-hanging in my house that displays the one hundred names of Allah. I prayed the Isha–the long Isha–in front of it. When I finished, I looked up at it. Looked up at those one hundred divine names. And wondered which by which name I should call Him out this time. In which name lies my salvation.