This past weekend was full of dawats. And now that I feel like I’m some what of an authority on them, lol, here are my thoughts:
-I’m very scared that I’m quickly going to gain that 20lbs back that I worked very hard to shed prior to the wedding! Let me tell you, these aunties go all out! Palau (sp? – a rice dish), kababs, chicken tikka, lasagna, macaroni salad, varieties of meat curries not to mention rich desserts like tiramisu and mango mouse….the dawat hosts’ efforts definitely don’t go unnoticed, but oh how I’m scared lol!
-I despise this segregation business (and the patriarchy that accompanies it) at these dinners. First of all, usually in these dawat settings you walk in to see the formal living room full of uncles and only uncles and the main drawing / family room full of their aunty counterparts. Instantly, I find this bazaar. Yes – I understand the cultural/religious traditions behind it, but I think it’s problematic for many reasons. Here’s three:
1. I see that the room full of men are always asked to eat first which reminds me of my days studying International Development during undergrad and learning that how in developing countries women’s health is always poorer than men…the reason being because they are less nourished because they always are the ones to eat last, and sometimes there is just not enough food. So when I see men going to help themselves first after the women who have worked for hours cooking all the food put it on table, I’m deeply resentful.
2. If these aunties and uncles never actually converse with each other then they’re never able to access the diversity of thought from their opposing gender and as a result, issues never have an open platform for dialogue. The notions that the men go into a room and talk about Middle East politics and women are in another sharing gossip and cooking tips is troubling because those conversations about politics would benefit from the sharp insights that those educated women would bring, and secondly and probably more importantly, would work to squash the stereotype that all women talk about is cooking or gossip.
3. If these social settings allowed the natural free flow and mixing of men and women it would, in my opinion, help remove the stigma around the opposite gender. Why can’t I just walk into a dawat and sit down beside an uncle and have a conversation? The fact that I’m unable to because of the intense gender segregation at these dinners and in our communities is not, in my opinion, unattached from the larger troubling issues around gender relations that we see around us. (A talented writer friend of mine who started South Asian Parent Magazine so eloquently wrote about this very issue in the tragic aftermath of Jyoti Pandey’s raping and subsequent death – I would encourage every woman, and particularly desi woman, to read it and think about it and get the men in your life to do so as well).
This all to say – I appreciate the dawats and all of efforts behind them – but can’t help but analyze their power dynamics by gender and class (plug for all my fellow BA grads!)
The other dynamic of these events which obviously occupies my time is thinking about what to wear to them! (Also important stuff :p)
Here were my choices for this weekend – the pink number was actually an outfit I got from Toronto, it’s by Dhagay, I was drawn to it for the unique neckline, and the second is a ready to wear Mehdi outfit that I got in store while shopping in Lahore this past March. I love the embroidery and cut outs on the sleeves!
Anyway, that’s all for now!