It’s the time of year when everything is hustlin’ and bustlin’ from mazaars to bazaars, when flights crammed with eager expats head our way to savour a heady slice of family and friends, when we gear up for socializing like it’s a competitive sport. It’s Decemberistan.
Preening to look our best, we sob over low-carb diets and lust for warm gaajar ka halwa. After tedious hours spent acquiring brassy Goldilocks ringlets and layers of makeup to rival the most serious Huda Beauty YouTuber, we make repeated visits to couturiers in search of outfits to out-dazzle our fellow walking chandeliers at society weddings. We hope that we appear poised despite our blistered feet balanced precariously in killer Valentinos. Gargantuan heaters can’t quite stop the evening chill seeping through the cold shoulder cutouts of our hand-embroidered wonders, or indeed the chill from anyone else happening to wear the same exorbitant Élan outfit. And we realized we’re just a wee bit jaded—seen it all, done it all, no longer suitable, impressed nor moderately excited. Kashmiri chai in hand, we’re left wondering how we’ll physically endure the rest of the season and how we managed to do it in the past with so much enthusiasm.
Cynicism sets in. No amount of under-eye concealer can conceal the effects of consecutive late nights air-kissing the same hundred-plus acquaintances. Why do we put ourselves through this, we ask ourselves, when we could be on our sofas basking in the warm glow of our low-budget Christmas trees?
Why? Because it’s Decemberistan. Just like marriage in Pakistan, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. And we’re damned if we’ll ever be left out.
Karachi is the more organized of the two metropolitan hubs—one may guesstimate dates fairly well in advance to pencil in balls and brunches hosted by country clubs and charities. Lahore is comparatively spontaneous. You might not know exactly what you’re doing the following week, for example, flitting from one sundowner to the next, relieved to be home in time for work the next day.
The social fabric of Pakistan thrives on its wedding season. Rain or smog, protests or bomb threats— the shaadi circuit is a permanent entertainment fixture, with first weddings making place for second and third weddings, along with destination weddings, and stag and hen nights. Divorce parties are the next big thing, making way for yet more weddings. Die-hards among us attend everything unflinchingly and Insta-story their hearts out while the pickier among us wonder: must I make an appearance? Am I still tired from last night/last week/last month? Will I feel left out if I don’t go?
While shendis tend to be the most compact and merciful with a concentrated dose of tradition, decadence and dancing in one go, multi-week torture fests have rejuvenated thanks to continued inspiration from Bollywood power couples and gazillionnaire Indian industrialists. Mehndis and gaanas are now accompanied by sangeets in addition to dholkis, which have nothing to do with their namesake and are another excuse to Despacito your way into a frenzy. The more outlandish #couplegoals productions are so much more than mere nuptials— they’re entertaining millions of social media users.
As for the actual nikkah contract, few have little idea what they’re signing and what rights they’re giving away, as long as the camera captures one’s best angle. Oh no, don’t discuss things like haq meher and divorce rights— that’s such a bad omen! In-laws kya sochein ge? Log kya kahein ge? You can’t blame Bridezilla and Groomzilla either. They’re just pawns in a season that relies on them for social entertainment, for extended family get-togethers, for flirtation, for matchmaking, for honing average dance skills, and for keeping afloat an entire wedding industry of event planners, fashion designers, stylists, jewelers, caterers, plastic surgeons and photographers. It isn’t rare for guests to don their own exorbitant bridal outfits and rival the bride. As for the men— there’s a small but alarming increase in larger-than-life turbans, Ranveer-inspired manbroidered outfits and man-necklaces that can outshine the bride. Sweetie, NO.
The best part of Decemberistan isn’t necessarily the big fat crazy weddings, but the big fat crazy reunions: when friends and family visit from all corners of the world, bringing with them an infectious enthusiasm, steadfast patriotism, and an unwavering proclivity to be everywhere all at once. They attend the same dos without rolling their eyes— we’re the jaded ones, you see, fakin’ it convincingly.
But then you reach a point where you sneak out from one holiday party too many, after the DJ abandons David Guetta for ludicrous mixes of Jumma Chumma and your life starts flashing before your eyes. It’s the final straw, you tell yourself. You yearn for the bliss of your bed in your stockinged feet, for bad rom-coms on Netflix with leftover Toblerone. In other words, JOMO.