Pakistani woman creates arranged marriage board-game to escape matchmaker
If you're in your 20s and unmarried, chances are you've often heard the dreaded question: "Beta, shaadi kab karoge?" To help you "escape" arranged marriage, 24-year-old Pakistani game designer Nashra Balagamwala created a game called "Arranged!" inspired by her own experiences. In the game, players can choose between three female protagonists or "Rishta Aunty" (matchmaker), who are engaged in a hilarious cat-and-mouse chase.
If you play as the bachelorettes, you try escaping "Rishta Aunty" or arranged marriage by making yourself undesirable, by not being the ideal conservative "bahu" (daughter-in-law). The aim is to get cards with commands like "you want to pursue a career...move four steps." You can also gain weight or engage in "besharam" (shameless) behavior such as hanging out at a mall with boys.
If you're playing as "Rishta Aunty," you must try getting the bachelorettes hitched asap. The "Auntyji" must try to learn about their ability to make round chapattis, the dowry amount they can provide and whether they possess "child bearing hips." The winner of the game gets to marry a "Mr. Right" for love while the rest get arranged marriage to "mama's boys" or womanizers.
"I had been facing increasing pressure from my family to meet a guy... Instead of worrying about those rishtas, I focused my energy into creating a game about the subject," Balagamwala said. The game is based on things she did to escape arranged marriages herself, including "talking about pursuing a career, wearing fake engagement rings, having male friends or getting a tan."
Balagamwala previously worked for board game giant Hasbro in the US before returning to Pakistan after her H-1B work visa expired. She claims she received "unbelievably overwhelming" feedback to the game. It raised $12,000 on crowd-funding site Kickstarter, as opposed to a goal of $6,000. "I've had several Pakistani and Indian girls reach out to thank me for finally speaking up," Balagamwala said.
"I've also dealt with a lot of criticism. Many Pakistanis have said negative remarks and have made it clear to me that I'm a disgrace because I'm bad mouthing the society," Balagamwala said. The game helped reduce pressure on her to get an arranged marriage as she's "no longer the perfect submissive bride" being sought but a "strong-minded and independent" woman.
"Although a game cannot change the world, I am hopeful that by discussing the problems these societies face, they might start to realize how flawed these norms are and eventually work towards fixing it," Balagamwala said.