Necessity is the mother of invention.
And going by the inherent conditioning of our society where the question, “Beta, shaadi kab karoge?” has become an incessant pain in the heart for all youngsters (and not so young) who are still unmarried, this game comes as a fascinating reflection of changing times, modern outlook and how the world has changed, but certain questions still remain the same.
This board game called Arranged, created by 24-year-old Pakistan-born graphic designer, Nashra Balagamwala comes as a befitting tool for the eligible bachelors and unmarried girls, especially with regard to Asian society.
Nashra has been incessantly overshadowed by the expectation that eventually she will have an arranged marriage, and the first time she faced this pressure was when she was 18. After hearing stories from friends and families about their experiences with arranged marriages, both good and bad, she wanted to start more conversations about the practice.
So, after working for a board games giant Hasbro in New York City, she did what came naturally – she designed a board game. She first came up with the idea of creating her game, after making a list of all the things she had done to avoid an arranged marriage.
“Wearing fake engagement rings, getting a tan or being seen with male friends in public, [these are] the things I had done to avoid an arranged marriage myself,” she confesses.
About the game-
Arranged forces the players to confront the struggles of an arranged marriage.
The game involves a rishta aunty, or matchmaker, trying to marry you off to ‘any and every boy she can find’ while you, as the player, try to steer clear of her nosy ways and an arranged marriage. You can do so by talking about having a career, gaining weight or hanging out at a mall with boys and other besharam (shameless) behaviour.
Cards with commands like ‘you want to pursue a career…move four steps’ will help push you further away from the matchmaker in the game — but at the same time, Balagamwala hopes that they will also serve as talking points.
“At the beginning of the game, players usually think it’s all fun and games; however, they start to realise the deeper issues that are present and have the urge to talk about it,” she explains.
The premise of Arranged! is simple: Avoid an arranged marriage if you’re one of the three female protagonists or get the eligible bachelorettes hitched ASAP if you’re the rishta aunty.
A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Nashra says response to the game has been ‘unbelievably overwhelming’.
“I’ve had several Pakistani and Indian girls reach out to thank me for finally speaking up about something so important, and have talked to me about their own arranged marriages and family pressures,” she says.
“I’ve also dealt with a lot of criticism. Many Pakistanis…have made it clear to me that I’m a disgrace because I’m bad-mouthing the society.”And ironically, it’s the game that has helped relieve Balagamwala of the pressures of an arranged marriage.
“This game has really helped decrease the pressure of getting an arranged marriage. Ever since I’ve spoken up…I’m no longer the perfect submissive bride these women are looking for because I’m…too strong-minded and independent.” Balagamwala adds that she hopes the game will ’empower’ women to ‘pursue things such as an education, a career or a love marriage’.
“Although a game cannot change the world, I am hopeful that by discussing the problems these societies face, they might start to realise how flawed these norms are and eventually work towards fixing it,” she said.
An unfortunate consequence of going viral? “I’ve also received over 500 Facebook friend requests…and uncalled for messages like ‘pretty girl’ or ‘wanna fraandship?’ ever since an article about the game was released on the front page of an Indian newspaper,” she confides.
“As for the aunties, they haven’t stopped whispering remarks and rolling their eyes at me,” laughs Ms Balagamwala. “I couldn’t care less though.”
Arranged is certainly an innovative board game which mirrors the deep rooted malaise of our society of giving undue focus and attention to marriage and putting pressure on young people for getting into an institution which is meant to be sacred and should be embraced in an organic way. No wonder more marriages are ending in divorces and separation and breaking up for lack of patience and understanding and maturity.
Kudos to Balagamwala!