Women’s lives can no longer be dictated by outdated social expectations
Amidst all the strife across the world and trying to pick up the pieces of life left in shambles by corona, the news of a young woman called Farhana bringing out a motorcycle cavalcade to celebrate one of the events leading to her wedding day has given us a much-needed dose of exhilaration. I watched the video of the bike ride, which has gone viral, and then watched it several times more.
I admired the video not just because a woman in resplendent clothes riding a bike looked dazzling, but because Farhana showed exemplary confidence in handling the motorcycle.
While many have extolled the young girl’s escapade in the spirit of youthful zest, others have vociferously disapproved of the bike brigade led by a wife-to-be. The rationale for the latter emanates from an absurd concept which we have been tolerating for ages: A wife cannot be assertive and should always act coy and diffident.
Once more, the hypocrisy that we embrace so dearly and refuse to let go of has come to the surface. The issue about a bride riding a bike to celebrate her marriage irks those who feel jittery at the image of an assertive woman.
For centuries, the common norm of marriages in South Asia relegated the bride to the role of a sobbing lass, unsure of her new life ahead, and constantly seeking support from elders. In short, a new wife was supposed to be a doormat.
Equality platitudes falter during weddings
The criticism aimed at Farhana showed clearly that society doggedly maintains some hackneyed notions while projecting vacuous rhetoric about equality. A marriage is about fun; it’s about putting aside life’s tribulations and jumping into a few days of unrelenting exuberance. That’s exactly why no expenses are spared in weddings.
What Farhana did deserves applause because she engineered something spectacular in Jessore which thrilled the whole country. The girl proved that to catch attention and do something sensational, one does not have to be a resident of the capital.
Confidence of the new age woman
Anyone watching the viral video will marvel at the way Farhana controlled the bike, which looked like a 150cc vehicle. She weaved through rickshaws and slalomed through busy roads with pizzazz.
It was the panache of the new age Bangladeshi woman on display; there is no reason to denounce it because it’s about time we threw out the “demure/diffident” image that has been sustained for too long.
Back in the 70s and 80s, it was customary for a woman to wail uncontrollably at the end of the wedding when it was time for her family to bid her farewell. What total humbug! Back in those times, as soon as a woman became an adult, she was made to feel that her ultimate destination was to get a reliable husband. When she got married, it was also necessary for her to pretend that she was being sent away to be a wife against her will.
Sorry to say, but society, in the name of tradition, has maintained a wide variety of customs that reek of double standards.
Thankfully for Farhana, her in-laws stood by her and supported the girl’s bike act in the true spirit of a modern day wedding.
Spicing up the regular marriage format
Looking at Farhana’s caper, one must say that she has made her marriage a nationwide media item. Without question, she has pulled off one of the most memorable publicity stunts ever. We often hear about the groom arriving in a helicopter or a horse-drawn carriage, which is later related (read embellished) by excited people and, sometimes, covered by the media.
These are done to come into the limelight and make a wedding a little more outstanding. A few months ago, a guy went to get married in a bicycle brigade, discarding the commonly preferred arrival in a flower-decorated car. That made the news, the images went viral.
Once upon a time, it was common for grooms in rural areas to come in decorated rickshaws. Over time, with society becoming more obsessed with gadgets, the vehicle of choice became the car, though I feel we may soon see the resurgence of the three-wheeler as a mode of transport for the bride and groom. I can visualize that exotic scene -- a long row of rickshaws, all in one colour, illuminated with lights, decorated with flowers, speakers blaring Leelabali.
So far, men took the initiative to add piquancy to their wedding programs; this time, it was a woman. A sure sign of her creative mind -- what men can do, women can do as well, or with a little more oomph.
Farhana is the trailblazer; I won’t be surprised if we get to see some more sumptuous action by brides in the coming winter.
The days of the acquiescent bride are over; get ready for the brides with bling!
Thanks to Farhana for giving us some much needed thrill from the post-lockdown blues.
Towheed Feroze is a journalist and teaches at the University of Dhaka.