In South Asian countries like India and Pakistan, marriages are a complex process. They are not mere celebrations of two people coming together in legal union as partners but a social phenomenon, replete with high familial engagement, material competition and even stigma and superstition. And most importantly, a wedding in India is expensive. After all, in India, the size and variety of the wedding menu and the jewelry worn by the bride often spell the family's social standing in society.
On top of that, Indians are also skilled at reducing marriage to a mechanical alternative to ageing alone. Unmarried people beyond their thirties are often viewed as dysfunction, social pariahs, who have failed to make something of their personal lives. With high stigma regarding both unmarried men and women who are ‘ageing’ without 'prospects', getting them married off often becomes the prime impetus for families to unload their duties. So much so that couples as well as their parents often end up divesting all their lives' savings on weddings.
But while everyone gives so much thought to the wedding itself, marriages are often ignored. The sheen of social validation and the glamour and joy of a wedding often disregard the most important question when it comes to a marriage — Are the couple really even good for each other? Are they compatible, will they be able to love each other and live a happy life in each other's company?
This is the question, a Pakistani illustrator and filmmaker asked when she created a new ‘wedding card’ design that is breaking the glass ceiling that separates designer weddings from real-life marriages.
The card, designed by artist Komal Ash, is in fact not a wedding card at all but a ‘divorce card’.
The card, which was shared on the artists's Instagram page, caught many eyes as it focused not on the societal expectations from a wedding but on the fact that “people deserve to be able to find their best fit beyond the ideas of sex, status and money.”
The card highlights the taboo related to divorce of families in South Asian countries and how the idea of marriage towers above us like a column of social conundrums and pointless celebrations.
In the post Komal said, "I can't take weddings seriously, all I see are men twice the age of some scared 21 year old with her frontal lobe barely formed. They've probably barely interacted and it's the roll of a dice as to whether or not they're compatible. It's so risky, so insane, and so much money. So let's celebrate the girls who escape this and get divorced."
While it's not an everyday marriage thing we see, but the post goes on to bring out a lot of underlying factors, which the society isn't comfortable in addressing.
Drawing influence from another Pakistani illustrator Ameer Ali, who “designs beautiful wedding cards”, Komal told News18, “I thought that courage should be celebrated in our social context, instead of met with shame, and so I parodied cartoon wedding invites.”
The card reads, “Welcome to my divorce” against an elated and animated woman.
The other part of the card reads, “Unwilling, educated woman marries Mediocre manchild”.
It goes on to ask for a response from, “Angry aunty pretending her anger is tough love but she will immediately gossip about you, parents slowly realising their mistake, and the looming regret of spending a small country’s GDP on shaadi table decor”.
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SWIPE for back of card! I can't take weddings seriously, all I see are men twice the age of some scared 21 year old with her frontal lobe barely formed. They've probably barely interacted and it's the roll of a dice as to whether or not they're compatible. It's so risky, so insane, and so much money. So let's celebrate the girls who escape this and get divorced :D feminist blog @komalwritesalot . . . . . . . #pakistaniwedding #weddingcard #indianwedding #divorce #divorcequotes #savethedate #weddinginvitations #illustratedinvitation #celebritywedding #womanistan #womenartists #womenwhodraw #yarcollective #artoninstagram #desimemes #pakistanistreetstyle #pakistancreates #artstagram #weddingdress #indianart #indianartist #pakistani #illustration_best #illustration #girlsdrawinggirls #digitalportrait
The artist admits the ludicrous social rules a society places on women, act as inspirations for her comic content.
“Our perception is built around them being a walking uterus,” she said adding, “Divorce is seen like she's lesser of a woman for not sticking to her holy wife/mother roles.”
According to Komal women everywhere, have a huge pressure to marry early so that they can have children, and this affects how clearly they think about it.
According to the artist, however, “it is their parents' responsibility to stop constantly filling their heads up with the significance of their weddings. Educated mothers should make sure that they teach their daughters to see themselves in dimensions beyond their marital appeal.”
Finding arranged marriage regressive “because it is ultimately just about sex”, Komal added, “It's based around the idea of controlling promiscuity- one man should only have sex with one woman, and so to make sure they don't sin we must immediately get them married.”
That means, one can't guarantee whether the couple will love each other, or be a good fit for each other just because they had a grand wedding.
The illustrator further went on to point out that if we gave significance to the couple instead of the event, we could get rid of a lot of flashy displays of wealth along with that third cousin's opinion on the bride's skin tone, the sepulchral whispers of aunties around unmarried girls over 25 and demands to know the groom's salary.
“When marriage is so sacred, divorce is the ultimate expression of free will," Komal says. "It means fighting immense social pressure and is an assertion of identity."
The post has received nearly 1,500 likes with many users taking to the comment section to share their stories regarding the social taboo around divorce and the strength it takes to put an end to failed relationships.
Komal resonates the thought of many such women that is, "The end result of marriage should be a person who can make smart decisions about who and when to marry, based on their own happiness. There's no need to complicate happiness."