What price a woman’s heart?

intercultural marriage

Ten years ago today, I stood corseted in sumptuous silk, satin and brocade and consented to be sold to the man I now call my husband for a “token sum” of thirty pounds.


The anniversary of my Shaadi brings back memories viewed from a more experienced perspective. My lengha was studded with sequins and covered with ornate zardosi embroidery. My fingers, neck, ears, arms and forehead were bedecked with gold, my head bowed under the heavy folds of a vast duputta filligreed with fine gold chain and embellished with glittering zircon stones. The weight of my finery made movement difficult, its dazzling beauty a distraction from the nature of the transaction taking place.

I’m lucky. I married a man who finds the idea of paying for a woman’s hand in marriage laughable. We still joke about what a bargain I was, and I teasingly lament my lack of cultural nouse in not demanding more! But for many women, young and old, at home and abroad, this is the reality of their perceived status; something to be bought and sold, traded or passed around – a commodity in the hands of men.

It’s time we started examining our traditions, being realistic about the message they convey in our modern society and adjusting them accordingly. For every outdated custom we enshrine in ceremony and enact as a nod to the past, there’s someone, somewhere living it as a reality.

I will never forget my good fortune in finding a man who thinks for himself and refuses to bend to societal, cultural or religious expectations he doesn’t agree with – I was young and naive back then, things could have turned out very differently. One thing I was right about though, “Woh bohut achchaa aadmi hai”   Happy anniversary K.


Whitby Shores, Whitby, Ontario

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. Hey, don’t feel bad, at least he paid 30 pounds for you. I was “given” for free, lol! (“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”). Happy Anniversary 🙂

    1. The very same thought occurred to me when I was writing this Judy – it’s not just Islamic wedding ceremonies that denigrate women in this way, it’s a global trend.

  2. Oh! Lovely lovely lovely! A most happy anniversary to you. Oh, and thanks for the schooling on my spelling btw (always the bane of my existence, dyslexia FTW!!!). I was spelling Adhan as I heard it pronounced here, which, apparently was incorrectly. (herd, I mean!!).

    Anyway, what a beautiful love story. So glad you two found each other.

    1. Thanks Erica, K’s dyslexic too so I know how frustrating it is when brain and typing get out of sync! Your post was just gorgeous – we were on our way out when I opened it and I kept everyone waiting in their snowpants til I was done!
      Now, with this comment, you’ve got K and I debating who found who…

  3. Happy anniversary and great post. I look back on my own wedding (traditional Christian ceremony between an American and a Brit) and also think, Gah can’t believe I made such traditional choices!

    1. Thanks Jennifer. It’s weird isn’ it? No doubt at the time, we all felt very different from how we imagined our parents weddings were – steeped in tradition, pressurised to marry, prim and proper, etc. but really we were just as puppetised in our own way. What perspective a decade lends!

  4. When I saw the first lines of this I read on with dread. Some of the traditions in the world that relate to women’s lives are so awful. So happy that you married such a wonderful person. It’s a pleasure to read a happy ending.

    1. Hi Joanna, thanks for reading. I think women’s status in MOST traditions is pretty dire, even in the so-called developed world. I’m lucky I found my soulmate, even if it meant following a path I never imagined…

  5. I suppose it’s similar in a way to the “love, honour and obey” that used to be (and perhaps still is an option? I’m not sure) as part of the normal vows. No-one had believed them for years, but even so, it was important to get rid of them and certainly if they are still an option I’ve not heard them in a wedding ceremony for a good 20 years.

    The fact is, because of biology unfortunately women’s status in all cultures was much lower than it is today. I don’t think these reminders are ‘quaint’ though, I think they do need to be challenged. It’s great you and your husband can laugh about it but just like the “honour and obey” thing, for every 10 men who laughed at it, there would be 1 who took it very seriously. Just my two-penneth.

    1. Thanks for your comment, that’s exactly the point I was making – that although I’m lucky enough to be able to laugh about it, there are many others who live a life restrained by it. Hence my suggestion of appraisal and adjustment of the ceremonial traditions we adhere to .

  6. I agree that we need to keep an eye on the wording of cultural/religious ceremonies. We looked the other way for sentimentality’s sake at ‘who gives this woman’ and had my father say ‘her mother and I do’. But we definitely dropped the ‘obey’ crap because that was the vow Daniel and I took, going with the now familiar ‘love, honor and cherish’. You pick your battles. Happy Anniversary!

    1. I LOVE that your father said “Her mother and I do” in answer to the question “Who gives this woman?” It’s wonderful you incorporated that instead of parroting something that was meaningless. I guess changes happen in small steps with time – funny how arcane “to love honour and obey” sounds now and how it was still the norm a few decades ago.
      Thanks for commenting and for the good wishes.

  7. Did you write “you are a very good man!” in the last sentence….? I am taking Hindi lessons and it is pretty much the same! You look so beautiful!! You have a lovely family. My husband jokes that my dad paid him to take me! I was a bargain, too!

    1. Thanks for the compliments. I wrote “He’s a very good man”, which is what I used to reply to my father-in-law whenever he asked me why I married his son. Us bargains are proof that material wealth isn’t everything 😉

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