Begum Culture: The Non-Productive Pakistani Woman

This post was originally published in Dunya News Blogs.

Disclaimer: This post is intended as a satire and is only about a specific social group/class of the Pakistani female population who I believe, as a true feminist, are not contributing towards society in the same way as the majority of their talented, intelligent and dynamic female compatriots are.


I entered my friend’s house where I had been invited for a “coffee morning” rather tentatively. I was, as usual, quite late, and the discomfort of having my morning hours of peace and quiet hijacked by such an unavoidable invitation naturally put me in not the best of moods. Upon entering the hall I stopped dead in my tracks and before I could stop myself, the words were out of my mouth,

“Ya Allah! Kia yahan shadi ho rahi hai?”

The ladies in front of me were dressed in elaborately decorated “Kaam walay kapray,” with jamawar ghararas and shararas, dark party makeup and dangling earrings. And this was 11 o clock in the morning, mind you! My host had mentioned that the “theme” or dress code was “traditional,” but I had truly not anticipated that people will take the dress code so seriously. I inwardly thanked my lucky stars that I had not donned the jeans and top which I had briefly contemplated wearing just to defy the dress code, and had, in the end, pulled out a normal shalwar kameez from my wardrobe. Covering my head with a dupatta instead of my usual scarf, I thought I looked traditional enough. I had, as always, underestimated the Pakistani ladies’ zeal for rising to any occasion, especially if it meant getting all dolled up.

The lack of productivity amongst my female compatriots has always bothered me, but lately, I have become absolutely wary of it. From the begum culture of the big cities of Pakistan to the coffee-morning-and-kitty-party-attending class of the middle east, we Pakistani ladies have made our mark as being the most unproductive, indolent, idle females on this planet. The only thing, in fact, that we can produce untiringly is children.

The begum culture spans/extends from the upper class to the upper middle class. It consists of women who will get up around noon, put on a branded kurta, lather their face with makeup and leave the house in their chauffeur-driven cars in search of yet more clothes, possibly for an upcoming wedding. Weddings – a ceaseless activity in Pakistan – furnish them with yet another opportunity to buy new, expensive, unnecessary clothes, get appointments from salons filled with so-called makeup artists ready to turn any sensible-looking woman into a witch and, in short, provide them with a brief, fleeting sense of “purpose” in their otherwise pointless lives.

Amonsgt the Pakistani females living in the middle east, the most popular activities are attending coffee mornings or kitty parties or going out for shopping or breakfast. What is deemed as Coffee morning involves a full heavy lunch with biryanis and haleems and niharis and paye, with no sign of the coffee or light refreshment that the term apparently implies. The ladies sit their gorging on all that food all the while complaining about their increasing weight …

The discussion taking place in such gatherings is as rich and intellectual as can be expected, the favourite topic of discussion being the formidable mother in law, where all women participate in the “who has the worst mom in law” contest. Each participant tries to convince others that their mother in law is the most horrible female existing on the face of the planet. It actually makes me think that instead of the movie Horrible Bosses, we could have a Pakistani version called Horrible Saases. I am rather ill-qualified to participate, my own saas being a sweet, decent woman who has some admirable qualities!

Sometimes the discussion can also take a political turn, where Imran Khan’s recent wedding might be dwelled upon with utmost zeal, the pros and cons of this untimely move might be

Moving on, the only natural conclusion that can be drawn from this entire circus of events is that the life a Pakistani woman revolves around one single phenomenon: vanity. From shopping for weddings, getting dressed up for coffee mornings, lathering makeup to taking selfies and finally uploading them in the form of profile pictures, her sense of worth emanates from the self-gratification she draws from the delusion of looking better than everyone else, wearing better clothes, looking more made up or dolled up, looking the best in selfies and getting praise and compliments from everyone.

Perhaps it is time we took a long, hard look at ourselves, preferably in the same mirrors that assist us in dressing up – that hold and harbour our secret insecurities and vanities revolving around our outward perception of our appearance. There is productivity and potential, waiting to be unlocked – there are brain cells waiting to be unfrozen – there are new horizons beyond the mirror and the makeup palette …






  1. I love this so much. My sister forwarded it to me and I was prepared to have a few feathers ruffled but ended up being entertained.
    I understand this points mostly towards the elitists in Pakistan where the money rolling in the bank through the men’s toil is squandered away in meaningless pursuits by the ladies.
    I’ll browse through your other works now. I’m hooked!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An Amazing post Ms. Fatima. You are brilliant in portraing the reality of our modern cultural values which were never ours. Impressive one after a long time I have read such a great analysis of our changing behaviours. Somewhere some such things also adopted by mens. Which have same sort of culture following. I don’t know you but you have a great mind and thinking and analysis skills. Brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

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