March 21, 2006

Pakistani Aunties & Uncles

This blog would not be complete without at least one post mentioning the Pakistani Aunties and Uncles (A's & U's non related to myself) that make it their business to know everything about everyone. You gotta love 'em!

Being a half Swedish/Pakistani growing up with two cultures in one home, I suppose the "pakiness" of my father was somewhat moderated by the presence of my Swedish mother. Having said that, I was of course not spared entirely, for besides my father, every daughter of a Pakistani knows, that her business and her life is every Pakistani Aunty & Uncle's business.

I find that there is a strong cultural peer pressure, that leads the parents of such cultures into acting and saying things they normally perhaps would not be so passionately against. An example:

A few years back I was on my way home from work, and I suppose it was a bit late after ten or so (anything after 4 pm is late in their eyes), and I was walking with my Swedish colleague, a girl, mind you. When I reached home (and this is how fast the A's & U's work), dad had received a phone call from one of his friends who got him all worked up. Question is, if he himself had any idea why he was all worked up?

Dad: "Where have you been?"
Me: "You know where I have been, at work?"
Dad (uneasy and agitated): "Yes I know, but you were with a blonde girl!"
Me: "Umm, yes? and Mom is blonde too. Who told you anyway?"
Dad (increasingly annoyed): "Uncle so and so called me up and told me that you were walking with a blonde girl."
Me (unable to grasp what his point is): "Yes she is my colleague and what is the problem with me walking with a blonde girl?"
Dad (confused and not sure what to say): "Well, umm, don't talk back to your father!"

A classic remark. It is amusing however mind you, there are girls who are deeply affected by this mentality.

My dear friend had another incident involving her mother. She was out in town with her younger brother (he must have been 19 at the time), and they are very close and sometimes walk arm in arm together like siblings sometimes do. The moment she stepped through the door she found her mom in tears:

Mom: "Mera bacha (tr: my child), what did I do to deserve this?"
Friend: "Mom what's wrong? Who died?" (usually someone has died back home i.e. Pakistan, and even if it is the neighbor's dog, it is customary to feel upset.)
Mom: "Aunty so and so called, and she told me she saw you with a boy hugging! Aik larka ke saat! hay Allah maine kya ghalat kiya?!" (tr: With a boy! Oh God what wrong did I do?)
Friend: "What? What boy? When?"
Mom: "Jhoot mat bolo! (tr: don't lie) She said she saw you today and she called from her mobile phone."
Friend: "Mom, I was with bro the whole day?"
Mom (thrown off her Bollywood Drama act): "Don't talk back, I am your mother!"

So there we have it, the A & U News Network. I tell you, CNN cannot hold a candle to them.

Another hilarious story.

My friend, a half Pakistani/Swedish such as myself (mind you we have an even harder time since any wrong we do is blamed on our poor Swedish moms), moved to another city to pursue her studies at a university there. Nothing odd about that, right? Wrong.

After a few months she came back to visit, and had gained a pound or two, it usually happens, being homesick and all that, and she stayed a week and later on left. By this time, the A's and U's had spotted her near her home and naturally noticed the slight increase of weight.

Minds were now at work and rumor quickly spread:

A's & U's: "You know that girl, Aamir's daughter, she is pregnant! Yes, it is true. I saw her tummy. That's why she is living in another city. Haan, dekho, jab laug Swedish aurtein ke saat shadi karte hai to yeh hota hai." (tr: Yeah, you see, when people marry Swedish women, that's what happens).

There are so many stories, so many gems, but on a final note I leave with this last one (for now).

When I was 19 I decided to move to Syria (with a close friend of mine) to learn Arabic. Didn't really know anyone in Syria, besides one family that had previously lived in Sweden, nor been there before nor spoken a single word so it felt like it was pretty obvious that I am going there to study Arabic.

So I left, and came back to Sweden after 10 months. Like planned, I could now speak a bit of Arabic and read and write some. So, there was a Pakistani function of some sort held and against my will, I attended it. Of course all of the A's & U's were there just waiting to look at me, perhaps to see if a baby had popped out while I was gone (after all it only takes 9 months). And so I met with everyone and most of them don't know the difference between Syria and any other Arab country so most of the questions I got were:

"So how was it in Iraq?" "Did you like Algeria?" "Is Libya dangerous?"

Harmless, I thought. Not too bad after all. Till I sat down with a good friend of mine, who had the decency to be upfront with me.

Friend: "Shaykhspeara, there has been a lot of talk about your Syria trip, and I just thought you should know about it."
Me (bracing myself): "Oh really? Well thank you for telling me. What exactly has been said?"
Friend: "Well the Aunties said that you went to Syria because you wanted to marry some Syrian guy."

Rumor has it, ladies and gentlemen.


Dil-E-Nadaan said...

HA! Hilarious! I never tire of posting about the crazy pakistani aunty and uncle culture :)

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Welcome Nermeen! Thanx for stopping by :) Yeah it is a topic that really is like a well that never dries out. At the end of the day, one has to be able to both laugh at it and see the seriousness in it at the same time.

sky said...

Reading your post reminded me of watching "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and being able to relate to every single thing that poor girl went through.

As a Palestinian, I can completely relate to your stories. In fact, most Arabs can. A & U are so bloody nosy and so tactless sometimes it drives me nuts, but as you said, you have to laugh at it sometimes.

I try to stay away from any of that gossip but I overhear them sometimes and I'm usually quite speechless.

You also very funnily brought up a good point. "usually someone has died back home i.e. Pakistan, and even if it is the neighbor's dog, it is customary to feel upset.)"

I find that our cultures guilt us into feeling upset about every single little thing, and god knows I can be a drama queen. But I've come to really hate this mountain-out-of-a-molehill attitude and have been trying very hard to distance myself from it!

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Welcome sky! :( Lol I know, Big Fat Greek Wedding is soo much like our cultures. The attitude of marriage and women, the plastic on the sofa, the meat issue.

And about the guilt trip, yeah there is definately an amount of that, in every thing, not just concerning the death's of people one has never even heard of.

How many of us have not had to hear the stories growing up, of how it was "back then", and how one only got a new sweater once a year on Eid.

Destitute Rebel said...

Totally Agree with you I think A's & U's have nothing else to do in their life other than talk about others. Even though it is none of their business they spred rumors and thoose rumors spread like wildfire untill one fine day someone goes *BOOM* you did this and this I am so dissapointed in you. And you are like what the hell are you talking about. One example, when I was at college, I skipped a semester due to some work I had to do back home, when I got back I had an accident so had only 2 classes that sem, in effect I missed two semesters. I worked my butt of the rest of the two years took 21-25 credit hrs a semester to save money and graduate with my class and I did finally after all the hard work graduate with my class with a double major, guess what the rumor was, he skipped a year and graduate with a double major, impossible, he didnt compleate his degree and just came back after 4 years. All I can say is loosers have nothing else to do and I pity them.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

D rebel it is a classic case of jealousy. They just cannot stand success in others. Man do I have many stories about that.

A father had a clothes shop in Stockholm, and his son, opens his own clothes shop, opposite his father's, so both in the end are forced to close down because of the lack of enough customers for both. Instead of teaming up and being successful together.

opinionatedinjerzee said...

you are so right!! its like these desi uncles and aunties have nothing better to do.. its the same here in the states.. i write about it alot in my blog!! nice blog by the way!!

opinionatedinjerzee said...

hey, forgot to add.. i added you on my blog as a buzzworth blog link.. hope you dont mind!

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Hey jerzee! Thanks,I am honoured :)

It is fascinating how similar the whole Aunty & Uncle behaviour is no matter where in the world you are, the desiness just never dissapears! lol

BuJ said...

hey, what does DESI mean?
is it like gori?
or is that batcha? hmmm

Diligent Candy said...

Ha ha ha! This is so so funny. I so know what you mean....

koonj said...

Tell us more about being swedish pakistani. i'm curious.

You know, about the A's and U's: being married to a gora and out of touch with relatives has given me a lot of freedom from surveillance. I have to say I (gasp) sometimes miss it.

Boo! said...

LOL @ your stories Shaykhspeara. A lot of uncles and aunties have problems with other peoples' kids doing well... or doing anything at all for that matter.

I do think, for some reason, the problem is exaggerated outside of Pakistan. And I explain... in Pakistan, most people will gossip behind others backs (not saying its better or worse, but its there). Auntys (and some uncles) when sitting together don't have much else to do other than gossip about the absentee. And that happens abroad as well.

What only happens in desi communities abroad is that A & Us tend to take it upon themselves to "keep all the children on the right path", and so if they see you with a blonde girl or your friend with her brother or something like that... they tend to call your parents.

And I agree with everyone above about 'my big fat greek wedding'. I watched it in a theater in the US and while everyone in there seemed to me laughing out of amusement, I was missing home!

kaya said...

LOL Shaykhspeara
I loved reading your post. It is a classic.
having lived my whole life out of Pakistan I have managed to avoid hanging out with too many desi's, as I am sick of being "BHABI" with no name and no brain. I have to do a BHABI post!!! You are so inspiring. But I tell A and U's aside desi mom's are no better.
Kaan kay kacchay they will in seconds believe the worst of their offspring and have no faith in their child nor in their upbringing.

BuJ said...

tell us more about the syrian guy :)

Ah-muh-nuh said...

Your post was HILARIOUS :) I grew up in San Diego amongst the Pakistani community there. A&U's and the constant Q&A were one of the reason why I moved away. I remember one fxn my mom had in our house. I was probably in 7th grade at the time. She insisted that I take town all my music posters (Cure, Depeche Mode) because 'WHAT WOULD THE COMMUNITY SAY'. Always about that damn COMMUNITY. :)

Um Ibrahim said...

hehehe LOL :))

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Ah-mu-nuh welcome! :)
I know, the most important line anyone will learn in the desi community is "What would people say?".
And let us not forget the "holyness" of wearing shalwar kameez. I think that needs a seperate post by itself!

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Buj, "desi" is basically the term used for people from India, Pak and so on. "Des" often means "home country". Whereas someone who is pardesi, is not from the des, Ya3ni zay kilmet "ajnabi" bil 3arabi.

In hindi "des" means country. In urdu we say "mulk". So somehow it has become so that desi means coming from "back home" i.e. The Indian Subcontinent.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Kaya you definately have to write a BHABI post. Yes I agree with you on the whole having no faith in your kids. They will always believe the absolute worst possible thing to believe.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Koonj nice to see you here :) Kesi ho? Yaar, if you ever need a desi dose of drama, let me know. Bechara Svend doesn't have to suffer too though, spare the man from all the "hay, hay" lol
Well I will try to share more of my "swepak" life, almost sounds like a butter. Lurpak, Hmm...

Boo! You bet! The A's & U's are self designated caretakers of the "javaan laug" who are acting "bilkul gorey jaise"

Arabized said...


Ironically many people here have never heard the word 'desi' before haha. I only know it because of growing up in the states and having so many desi friends :)

Man SS, can't resist them hot syrian men eh?

Haha hilarious post.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Who me? lol

Junaid said...

All ur overstated concerns on A's & U's seem to have a little weightage......

If we all think someday we wil become A's & U's as well...

but this has got easy solution in case someone relly wants to take it up...

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Welcome Junaid!

I am not quite sure what you mean by overstated. Whatever I have written speaks for itself. These are clean cut true stories of how some Pakistani Aunties and Uncles behave. Unfortunately one can even say, MOST. Not all...indeed, not all.

Yes we will inshallah all become Aunties and Uncles, and that's great, but bad character can never be justified through being older, being Pakistani or anything else for that matter.

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thejellymill said...


this is so true! I have an American mother and Pakistani dad. I lived in Pakistan til I was 12 and since i was young I wasnt much bothered by aunties n uncles. Once I moved here and started attending the masjid, around age 15 or 16 I started hearing about what ppl had to say concerning me being matched up with various sons and nephews of community members. I thought I would be free of desis but noooo, I met this great guy and got married to him 3 months ago, not knowing his mother is a TYPICAL PUNJABI AUNTIE (My dad's family is Muhajir/from Karachi).

I have more of an unbiased American/Islamic sort of mentality. I hate desi ways of thinking.

God help me.

- JM

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Jaafer said...

After visting Oslo for 11 days this month, I really got an idea of how Pakistani culture works in Europe.

Awesome piece of work :)

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