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Tasnim Jara: You can’t be forced to do something just because you were born a girl

Bangladeshi bride Tasnim Jara, who rebelled against the image of a ‘dolled up bride’ and dressed plain for her wedding, talks to us about her post, the reactions, and her motive behind doing this.

more lifestyle Updated: Aug 30, 2017 12:49 IST
Aditya Dogra
Tasnim Jara, who works as a doctor in Dhaka, sits next to her husband in the picture she shared online from her wedding.
Tasnim Jara, who works as a doctor in Dhaka, sits next to her husband in the picture she shared online from her wedding.(Facebook/Tasnim Jara)

From wearing designer dresses to being ‘adorned’ with expensive jewellery, the societal pressure to look perfect on your wedding day is something every bride-to-be faces (along with all the stress of planning their big day). But, Bangladeshi bride Tasnim Jara decided to swim against the tide and shared her rebellion on social media recently, posting a picture from her wedding reception that went viral.

What’s so special about yet another bride? Well, the picture shared on Facebook showed the newlywed Tasnim wearing her grandmother’s cotton sari, without any noticeable make-up or jewellery. It was captioned: “Certain members of my family even said that they won’t take any photo with me because I didn’t dress like (they imagine) a bride. I was troubled by the singular image of a bride that our society has – with tons of makeup, a weighty dress and mounds of jewellery weighing her down...(sic)

Read the full post below:

In a short time, the post received over 120,000 reactions and 30,000 shares. While many lauded her move to resist the pressures of society, some questioned her motives, called them flawed, and even labelled her an attention-seeker, Tasnim stood strong. We got a chance to talk to her about her post going viral and all the drama around it, and this is what she had to say.

“When I decided to dress my way on my wedding, some of my relatives supported me, while others tried from their positions to doll me up,” says Tasnim. “The latter group thought they were giving me good advice — because if I went ahead with my plans, they feared that people would think less of me and my family.”

But Tasnim is no pushover. As a doctor and the president of Aroggo, a health care start-up in Bangladesh, and a former president of a UN Youth Advisory panel, she’s capable of handling pressure. So, she asked her well-meaning relatives some questions. “I kept asking them how makeup, gold or an expensive dress increases a bride’s or her family’s worth and I was simply told, ‘Eguli korte hoy (This is what is done)’. When I questioned the norm and asked them why I must wear gold, I was told, ‘You’re a girl. Why wouldn’t you wear gold?’” she recalls. “But none of them could give me a good enough reason why I really should, apart from giving in to social pressure, so that they don’t lose face.”

‘Some even called me an attention-seeker, and I couldn’t agree with them more. I am a social activist and the whole point of my activism is seeking attention for an issue I care deeply about.’ — Tasnim Jara

Asked about the criticism she received, Tasnim says, “I think both quarters resonated with two pressing problems (agency of women and expensive weddings) in society, and some have conflated two distinct problems into one. While I, too, think that our expensive wedding culture brings hardship to many families, I was making the point that sometimes women are pressed and forced to dress and appear against their will on the most special day of their lives, and that should not happen,” she says.

“In fact,” adds Tasnim, “when people were commenting that I should’ve gone to a different venue with a different decoration, they were coming with the same attitude [that] I was protesting against — that society feels it’s entitled to decide on behalf of a woman. Some even called me an attention-seeker, and I couldn’t agree with them more. I am a social activist and the whole point of my activism is seeking attention for an issue I care deeply about. I have done this for as long as I remember, and I intend to do so in the future as well.”

Tasnim adds that the sari she wore on the day of her wedding reception belonged to her grandmother, something that could be called a family heirloom. “I grew up with my grandma. As a kid, I spent most of my time with her. I’d wake up seeing her in the morning and she’d feed me lunch after I came back from school. The memories I have with her are countless,” says Tasnim. “My grandma was a wise and graceful woman. She was my teacher, counsellor, friend and sanctuary for the longest time. She has passed away a few years back, but hardly a day goes by when I don’t remember her. As a kid, I saw my grandma wearing this white cotton sari to weddings and special events. This sari has memories sewn in it, and I wanted to keep her very close to me at my wedding reception despite she not being there in person.”

‘[My husband] told me, ‘I am very proud to see that you’re not cowing down to social pressure and standing up for what you believe in. In case you need any support, know that here’s a person who is willing to go miles.’’ — Tasnim Jara

When it comes to support from the family, Tasnim quotes her husband’s words: “He told me, ‘I am very proud to see that you’re not cowing down to social pressure and standing up for what you believe in. In case you need any support, know that here’s a person who is willing to go miles.” Tasnim also urges people to add their voice to empowering messages. “I am no fashion expert, and I do not want to be an advocate of how women should dress up for their wedding. It’s their personal choice and society must respect that,” she says. “[But] if we see a girl being forced to do something against her will just because she was born a girl, please take the responsibility to protest against this.”

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