Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 143: Waqt ki (Zabardasti) Paabandi

For a nation that considers itself "Islamic," Pakistan is home to far too many people who ignore the significant and obvious part of their faith that calls for the respect and value of time - their own and that of others. But this is an incomplete statement, because I should rather say that the entire sub-continent of Asia has given birth to a group of people from 7+ nations and their subsequent diaspora communities that do not respect and value time. This issue is never more visible than at weddings, and today's Walimah (for whom this walimah was I still have no idea - I was simply told that they are friends of a relative, and that I simply must attend) was a perfect opportunity to discuss the issues and advances made in regards to time (waqt).

Pakistani-American weddings seem to be occurring on time more and more (at least in Los Angeles). Sure, you will run across a few weddings every year that begin 1-1.5 hours after the given invitation time, and about once a year you will run into the 2-3 hour late wedding, but on the whole I'd say I've seen a positive inclination toward timely weddings. What do you feel might be the reason for this?

On the other hand, I had been hearing that weddings in Pakistan in the 2000s had become absolutely ridiculous in terms of disrespect of time, so much so that my relatives told me that they stopped going to weddings because of it. The reason was that wedding invitations would say 8pm, for example, and the groom and his family would not show up until 12am, which means food would not be served until that time or much after, nor would any of the entertainment occur until then. Adding to the blatant disrespect and devaluing of time in these cases was the fact that in Pakistan, weddings occur on a daily basis throughout the major cities of Karachi and Lahore, which means traffic all the time and at odd hours on weekdays in addition to weekends. This issue is separate from the other that was also becoming out of hand in Pakistan: "competition" through increasing opulence of weddings (this is a trend I have seen grow in the Pakistani-American diaspora communities, and I hope that it curbs itself soon).

The combined effect of both the absurdly late timing and opulence of weddings in Pakistan caused a law to recently be put in place here that does not allow weddings done in hotels or gardens to continue past 10pm, whether on a weekend or weeknight. While 10pm might seem a bit early for our desi weddings (what with all the necessary rounds of food, chai, dessert, speeches, entertainment, and dancing), it is, I think, an unfortunate but necessary "waqt ki zabardasti paabandi" - the forceful respect of/adherence to time.

So now you may ask, "How can they just end a wedding party at 10pm?" I asked the same question myself, until I went to the walimah this evening. The invite was for 7pm, we got there at 8pm (not even knowing whose wedding one of our relatives had invited us all to) and saw that we were some of the first ones there (walked in just as the bride and groom were entering to a mostly deserted tented area). Most people did not show up until 9pm. Dinner was served around 9:15pm, everyone quickly lined up and ate (I have no idea what was going on on the stage with the bride and groom), and 5min to 10pm the lights of the huge tent began to dim in waves. at 10pm. all the lights of the tent were turned off, and that was the end of it. We had to leave because we couldn't see. It felt extremely rude, but it is what we deserve: without giving respect and value to the time of others, we cannot expect our own time to be respected and valued. Perhaps kicking us out in darkness is the only way we'll learn our lesson.

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