Proud Nashra Balagamwala is the owner of a board game, Arranged!. She made this monopoly sort of game, indicating the arranged marriages in Pakistan, and luckily she got out of one with the help of it. Yes, the very fun game that she developed, helped her out in getting out of a perfectly arranged marriage.
“I’ve spoken up about a topic that Pakistanis are uncomfortable with, and now I’m no longer the perfect submissive bride they’re looking for! It’s great!” Nashra reveals to Broadly.
“I don’t know anyone in my parents’ generation who had a love marriage.”
Like we all Pakistanis know, and some of us have been through it at least once. Duh! Balagamwala was also under the escalating tension of her family to succumb to an arranged proposal.
“I couldn’t accept the fact that I’d have to spend the rest of my life with someone I’ve only known for a couple of weeks, and someone that was chosen for me based off his wealth, social status and other superficial factors.”
To protect herself from forced matrimonial, she fled to New York to study at the Rhode Island School of Design. She also worked at Hasbro on and off for one year. As her visa was about to end, Balagamwala knew that her doomsday was arriving pretty fast. This is when she started working on a board game that was the mirror study of the arranged marriages happening in Pakistan.
“I took examples from the numerous things I’ve done to get out of an arranged marriage, such as talking about pursuing a career, wearing fake engagement rings, having male friends, or getting a tan—darker skin is considered to be less appealing in Pakistani culture—and turned it into a lighthearted game that is both fun to play as well as eye opening.”
Arranged! Is a fun game and around it players must have to protect themselves from the wrath of the “Rishta Aunty”. Cards drawn at random help to push the action forward for the runaway brides, with commands like “you want to pursue a career… move four steps.” If players land on the same tile as the aunty, they face the threat of being married off to one of the many male suitors scattered around the board game. There is also potential to marry a man that the player has chosen for themselves, though the chances of that happening are pretty slim (“I wanted it to be an accurate reflection of Pakistani culture,” Balagamwala explains to Broadly).
This isn’t it, seeing her struggle through an arranged marriage in the country, the responses she got were totally heart-warming:
“People from all over the world have reached out to help with my visa and living situation, as well as to provide moral support. I’ve had many Pakistani girls reach out to thank me for finally speaking up about something so important. I’ve also dealt with a lot of criticism. Many Pakistanis have had negative remarks and have said I’m a disgrace because I’m badmouthing the society.”
Though there are a lot of negative forces in action, Balagamwala has pretty good news under her pocket. The Kickstarter for Arranged! crossed 6,000 target 17 days ahead of its deadline, and over 200 advance orders. The board game is soon going into the production with 500 games to be produced in the first round.
As for Nashra Balagamwala, her visa has ended, but she is still fighting the pressure of arrange marriages in Pakistan, and we are hoping that she wins here.
“Speaking up about this topic was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. I’ve risked losing a lot, but I did it in the hopes that someday, a girl out there will look at this story and it will give her the courage to do the same.
“If I have anything to say about it, it’s not happening! I’m going to keep fighting my way out of it till I meet someone I actually want to marry.”