Perhaps a necessary tragedy of becoming an adult is realising that there are certain rules that one must follow.
This could include the so-called “necessity” of marriage, of getting a degree, of following certain social norms such as paying visits to distant relatives.
These are the things we must do to function within society; that’s just the nature of the game, as opposed to the nature of nature, where one would invariably have to reside in order to live without any of these societal expectations.
In many cases, this is perhaps not that harmful; the complaints are first-world, third-rate.
So what if you have to visit your mother’s cousin’s brother’s sister-in-law because your parents once stayed with them for two nights while they were visiting Jessore on their way to India?
And boo-hoo you getting a wife and kids and not having the freedom to pursue your dreams of becoming a Dadaist painter.
That is the deal you make.
Dark-skinned damsels in distress
There has been a veritable shift in our perceptions of beauty. Where this shift has occurred is a matter of debate.
While some would argue that a significant portion of Bangladesh (and South Asia, in general) has moved away from the age-old idea of fairness trumping darker-skinned damsels, others consider this to be class specific.
The claim is that this change has taken place only amongst the echelons of Bangladeshi (or Dhaka?) society, which has been exposed to a wider variety of beauty.
This has fed into newspapers and magazines, which have then gone on to portray “Dark is beautiful” style articles, featuring ostentatiously dark models in all their glory.
Beauty, suffice it to say, is tricky business. While it is difficult to say who the true pallbearers of society are, women are no longer the solitary target audience for the beauty industry (is this a good thing?).
Men now flock to saloons before Eid or any other event, to get that “blade” just about right on their sides, or that trim just about perfect.'
The fact that weddings require so much preparation, and how this preparation has been geared towards a certain list of things one must follow, is a shallow trend of deep and widening proportions
Beauty is nowhere as prominently a feature as weddings.
This brings me back to my original point: While marriage has almost always been a necessary feature of a life’s journey towards adulthood, weddings, too, have become the norm. Where turmeric-stained “holuds” used to be small, inner-circle, rooftop shindigs, they have blossomed and bloomed into intricately designed, horizontally-expanded events. And that is only one example, one notch on the eventual bedpost of marriage.
But there is an entire industry that thrives on the expectations tethered, the validation required, for every marriage event.
The fact that weddings require so much preparation, and how this preparation has been geared towards a certain list of things one must follow, is a shallow trend of deep and widening proportions.
What does a wedding require? If you’re a man, perhaps, just a suit and a panjabi. If you’re a woman, however, it requires you to wear new clothes at least (specifically designed for that particular wedding, where the colour matches the carpet, especially if you’re close to the bride and groom). It requires an almost necessary visit to the parlour, so that you may have your make-up done by “professionals.”
This isn’t cheap.
One is, essentially, spending thousands of taka just for the mere privilege of being invited to a single event.
And then there are the photos which accompany, so that you may say you were there, so that one may be scrutinised for the multiple choices (good or bad) made, their tastes judged and analysed and put under a microscope.
The point of the matter is …
So, where does this lead us? While the gripe (if there is one) isn’t with weddings themselves (God knows that has been before), there is a certain ugly capitalism involved with the beauty industry and it feeds on any major event where people’s eyes will wander and wonder.
While our perceptions of beauty have changed (I would dare to assuage that this is a good thing), our interactions with it has not.
This hodgepodge of culture, all the way from the most Western corners of the world in Los Angeles to the most eastern in the land of the rising sun with our tastebuds craving sushi, there has been created a version of beauty that seems to be only eligible if you complete certain steps in a long process.
If you complete certain financial transactions which take you there.
Why have we allowed an entire industry to fool us into believing these steps were necessary?
Or has one completely missed the point, with it being that women (and men) have evolved as social beings and do these out of their own volition (without having been blindsided and brainwashed) because looking good and “groomed” is just as important as feeling good?
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.