Meghan Markle broke every rule in the Pakistani marriage handbook with elan: divorcee, older than husband, actress, mixed heritage. And yet she got her Prince Charming! Not of any obscure Scandinavian country, but of Great Britain. It’s enough to make any Pakistani rishta aunty’s head spin.

The dress and make-up had most women in tears — of dismay. The cardinal rule is that no self-respecting bride should be dressed so starkly. The bridal couture houses were shaken to the core. After all, they are specialists in ornate embellishments which start from the dupatta and gravitate to the ankles. They take great pride in leaving not a single bare spot on the outfit. If Pakistani brides started aping Meghan’s sparkle, the designers would soon be out of business.

But they know there is no real threat. Consider this: the desi bridal ensemble with the heavy jewellery, rich make-up and hair rising upwards like baking soda in pakoras… voila! That’s a real bride.

Not only did Meghan mess up with that dress (it was of middling concern that it was by Givenchy), it was not even fitted properly. A celebrity who can’t find a tailor to take in her dress a few inches? What is the use of doing yoga from the age of six (30 years!) and not wearing a tight dress cinched at the waist when you have an audience of millions? She didn’t even need to Instagram or Snapchat her pictures to get views.

Meghan’s train was held by seven-year-old twin boys who were an astonishing model of decorum. Now if they had been Pakistani, the train would have been in tatters, the white streaked with shoe marks, the veil and tiara on the floor.     

The Royal Wedding almost caused Pakistani begums to have apoplectic fits

The make-up was too natural; the freckles on full display — such frugal use of concealer? Surely, the whole objective of being a bride is to look totally unlike yourself on the wedding day? It’s the shock-and-awe strategy.

Meghan’s hair stylist said it took him only 45 minutes to do that schoolmarm-ish bun for her, with tendrils escaping here and there. Suffice to say that many fingers were itching to hairspray it into place just like those girls’ at the French Beach whose hair doesn’t move an inch in the sea breeze.

And still her prince all but swooned when she glided in on the wings of that glorious sunshine. But there was an explanation on desi social media; Meghan mothers lil’ Harry who is such a baby, no wonder he is devoted to her.

During the service, Pakistanis were as gob-smacked as the royals at the inclusion of so many black people. First, there was the animated African-American preacher talking about slavery and Martin Luther King, like one’s embarrassing uncle at a wedding who just won’t stop talking once he has the mic. Then came the gospel choir singing soul classic Stand By Me, then the cute black cellist and “the black Anglican female priest who wore the shaved hair of the Black Panther women warriors.” There was Oprah swaying in her seat with Idris Elba looking on.

Was this St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle or Wakanda?

Meghan’s dysfunctional family struck a chord in every Pakistani breast, because who does not have those relatives miffed at their snotty kids not receiving a nikkah invite or who carp at not getting enough attention at the wedding? The only difference is that one suffers these horrendous relatives while Meghan clearly didn’t.

The make-up was too natural; the freckles on full display — such frugal use of concealer? Surely, the whole objective of being a bride is to look totally unlike yourself on the wedding day? It’s the shock-and-awe strategy.

Superwoman Amal Clooney was the clear winner in the style stakes, but Kate Middleton’s dress outraged every local fashionista worth her salt since she had worn it on two earlier occasions. Imagine, the future queen of England repeating her clothes and that too at a royal wedding? In Pakistan, where new clothes for weddings are splurged on at the drop of a hat, this was a body blow. Her family also came in for scathing comments: the Middletons are materialistic and conniving and are milking the royal name, ranted a queen in all but name who is said to have secretly carted off all the fittings from the family home before divorcing her husband. 

Did Meghan’s sparkle make an impact in Pakistan?

A friend groaned when told that relatives were coming over.

“But Amma, I have oil in my hair!”

“Arrey beta, so what? Look at Meghna with her joora (bun). See how nice she looked? You girls should be simple.”

The columnist is a freelance writer.

She tweets @MaheenUsmani


Published in Dawn, EOS, May 27th, 2018