Posted on 28 April 2010 by .
A week ago when I asked Tarlochan Singh, an Indian Member of Parliament, on what he thought about Shoaib Malik, the Pakistani cricketer, and his wedding with Sania Mirza, an Indian tennis player, he said “you guys [the media] have made a big deal out of it; who cares whether Sania marries Shoaib or an American or anyone else for that matters.”
Really, who cares, who these sport celebrities marry? Well, probably desi electronic media does. A few days ago, a soap opera was created on a news channel where the first 16 out of 25-minute news bulletin time was devoted to showing the plane that had Sania and Shoaib on board, their suite in PC, and the bathroom they would be sharing as a couple. The same scene was broadcasted repeatedly as if it was a footage released by Pentagon. The reporter described the bed at the suite as “this is where Shoaib and Sania will lie down,” and as for the bathroom he said “this is their bathroom that has wonderful white tiles and golden taps.” Disgusting, I know.
Shoaib and Sania’s wedding has been dogged by a number of different controversies, one being Shoaib’s current marital status. Indian and Pakistani media showed Shoaib calling his first wife, Ayesha Siddiqui, his “appa” [the big sister]. On the same day, however, Shoaib miraculously recalled that he at one time had a telephonic nikah with Ayesha. So within a day Ayesha’s relationship to Shoaib changed from being an elder sister to an ex-wife. How ironic!
According to Media, India and Pakistan getting married.
News reports and articles in the media cite Shoaib Malik, the 28-year-old cricket player to be “an outstanding player” whose sportsmanship is compared with Rahul Dravid and Inzamam-ul-Haq. However, as of now, he is banned for a year from cricket by Pakistan Cricket Board and has about $20,000 fine to pay for his misadventures. He is also a failed captain. Similarly, the “top” Indian tennis player, Sania, is currently at No. 92 in the tennis rankings. Is it possible that excessive romance drama breeds mediocrity? Well, we now know where they were both putting all their efforts but of course, to be fair, both players at one time were the stars of their respective games.
Attention deserving, 22-year-old Naseem Hamid, first Pakistani female athlete to win the 100-metre gold medal in 11.81 seconds at South Asian Federation Games held in Bangladesh.
To top things off, Sania’s mom wanted to sell the exclusive rights of covering Sania-Shoaib wedding to a TV station at the cost of several hundred thousand dollars. If they are not making money in their fields, then why not through advertising, right?
The Heaven for the couple made in heaven.
See, where we are getting with this? The media (and the couple’s families’) have transformed this marriage into a circus. They have managed to hype up a simple affair into the glamorous portrait that they probably don’t deserve. As safety measures go, the highest level of security was provided to Shoaib and Sania. However, the bride and the groom left the walima before time. And, yes, Sania was shooed away crying because of paparazzi-like role desi media had played in Lahore. No wonder Shoaib told one reporter, “Pakistan is known to respect its women” implying he and his wife deserve some privacy. Again, ironic, because their invitation cards were sold for up to $150 each, which did nothing to alleviate the out-of-control situation.
There are thousands of weddings that take place every year between Muslim families living in Hyderabad (India) and Pakistanis. These families were torn apart at the time of partition in 1947, however the family bonds have not broken and familial lineages continue through marriages. You would think that after sixty-two years of independence, the media of the two countries in question (India and Pakistan) would contribute to bettering relationships on both sides of the Indo-Pak border. But the Sania-Shoaib wedding might have done just the opposite of promoting Indo-Pak friendship. Pakistan Traders Action Committee’s chairman, Siddiq Memon, has threatened to launch a country-wide protest over the issue. He said, “The Indian Government should provide security to Shoaib and remove the hurdles being created ahead of his wedding. Otherwise, Indian goods available at trade centers would be set on fire.” Kind of drastic, don’t you think, Mr. Memon?
One newspaper columnist wrote: In India, the rightwing Hindu nationalist political party, the BJP, has asked Mirza to “reconsider” her decision to marry a Pakistani, while more centrist parties have remained silent. In Pakistan, the Islamic rightwing political parties – who would usually have a lot to say about women who wear tennis skirts – have remained silent, while more centrist parties have voiced their congratulations. The contrasting attitudes on both sides of the border actually reveal the same assumption: a wife belongs to her husband’s “household”, so an Indian woman marrying a Pakistani man is unpatriotic, whereas a Pakistani man marrying an Indian woman is carrying home the spoils of victory.
Haven’t we learnt anything from the partition of 1947?
Ayesha Siddiqui, the only “Appa” who became an ex-wife.
Shoaib-Sania wedding hasn’t taken place between a Muslim girl from Pakistan and a Hindu Air Force guy as pictured in Veer Zara. The love affair wasn’t even between, say, Wasim Akram and Sushmita Sen, or between Shoaib Malik and Sayali Bhagat, to get the attention of the media to influence the masses to look more openly toward Indo-Pakistan relations. In fact, before we get all ruffled, let us remind ourselves, that this is a consensual love marriage between two muslims. Shouldn’t the patriarchal societies in the countries be happy that a traditional intra-community marriage is taking place, instead of giving it the importance that it probably doesn’t deserve?
But as we all know, human nature is fallible, and, well, to be frank, in a male-dominated patriarchal South Asian society, a woman with brazen arms and miniskirts, running up and down the tennis court does attract attention. A LOT of it. Or, at least, that’s what two male psychologists said to us when asked what’s so special about Sania-Shoaib. Believe it or not, it is nothing really! Shoaib isn’t the kind of guy who most women would be attracted to. He doesn’t have those big biceps like Hrithik Roshan or the body that Shah Rukh Khan built for Om Shanti Om. But it’s a different story with Sania. She is attractive and quite dazzling; at least, that’s what the TV footages indicate. And, as far as personal opinion goes, she wore an awful wedding dress. With all the money being spent, she could have afforded a fashion consultant, no?
For all the flak the media is giving the couple (for falling in love and getting married, because obviously it’s a crime, right?!), it is the media who should be under attack. For one, the electronic media of South Asia is in its infant stages. It needs regulation and time to mature. It has played quite a role in raising the issues of common people, but at the same time, it has also glorified not-so-meaningful event like Shoaib-Sania marriage.
It brought attention to 22-year-old Naseem Hamid who was the first Pakistani female athlete to win the 100-metre gold medal in 11.81 seconds at South Asian Federation Games held in Bangladesh. This talented young woman was brought into the limelight by the media. After winning, she was promised a home and other benefits by the government, however after a brief period of her being a role model for young athletes, she was no longer the centre of the attention. And last we heard, she wasn’t given a house as promised by the senior officials of the government. These are the issues that the media should badger the people with, instead of focusing on juicy gossip. Apparently, whatever sells is whatever works.
And the media needs to check its “morality” as well. Glamorizing a guy who switched from calling a woman appa to ex-wife within a day doesn’t really deserve to be on the news at prime time. Maybe at shows like Entertainment Tonight, but not on the news. Plus the media, I was told by my mentor, is a mirror that reflects our society. It needs to be accountable and regulated like all other areas of the society. It cannot be an ultimate god that can make a man hero or a zero in a heart-beat. It has to be responsible on who it portrays and how truthfully. And, in a world with media without morals, shouldn’t we check ourselves before we play a role in accelerating the situation?
And, yes, I don’t care who marries who, when and where, but I have written this whole piece nonetheless. My reasons for doing so are different though.
Author: Asma Amanat