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This Pakistani Woman Has Turned Arranged Marriage into a Board Game!

This is a game that will teach you how to evade Rishta Aunties like a pro.

Nashra Balagamwala with Arranged Marriage board game

Every place has its own board game, be it checkers, Monopoly, etc. We in Pakistan have Ludo.

But now, there’s a new board game in town that might just replace Ludo. A Pakistani woman just invented a board game about arranged marriage, and its looking quite good to say the least.

Nashra Balagamwala’s “Arranged”: A Board Game about Arranged Marriage

While Ludo is a great pastime, Nashra Balagamwala’s board game ‘Arranged’ is already winning fans, because its theme hits closer to home (read our hearts).

After all, Nashra did design the game to vent about how she really felt about arranged marriages .

Nashra – 1, Rishta Auntie – 0

Image Source: Nashra Balagamwala

Nashra Balagamwala: A Profile

The 24-year-old freelance game designer from Karachi has experience working with board game companies like Hasbro Inc, which is a pretty big name in children’s toys and games.

News outlets such as  BBC, Vice, The Telegraph, and The Guardian have already recognized the stellar work done by the Rhode Island School of Design graduate. Professionally, Nashra has done pretty well for herself.

But since she is as desi as the rest of us, Nashra was tired of being judged all the time, since you only get good proposals based on ‘log kya kahengay’ (what will other people think of you). As a girl, she too grew up hearing phrases like ‘don’t dress like that, don’t sit like that, everyone’s watching you etc.’

Here’s what Nashra says about the whole thing:

“I was tired of being judged by the color of my skin, my ability to cook a perfectly round roti, or make a good cup of chai. So in an effort to vent my anger, I turned it into a board game.”

From Player to Creator

So how did this girl get into designing games? It all started when she started playing a plethora of board games. Nashra wasn’t one to follow rules, so she made up her own for the games she bought.

Arranged: The Board Game

“I’ve been ‘designing games’ since I was a little girl. My cousin and I would buy several games, throw out the rules and then create our own versions of the game. I never thought it would be a career choice though, until I took a game design class in college, and that’s when I knew it was the perfect medium for me to express my thoughts.”


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Why Arranged Marriage?

Arranged marriages are the norm in our part of the world, and even then, it is a widely misunderstood topic for most.

Is it a means of establishing alliances and trade agreements between two families? Or is it a way for two people to actually have a say when it comes to getting married?

So many questions. And what better way to help people understand the concept of arranged marriages than to make a board game about it? Remember how Monopoly helped us understand capitalism?

This is exactly what Nashra did for arranged marriages. With the help of Arranged, she can now educate others, even those in the West, about what it means to have an arranged marriage. This is a good thing because in the West, the term arranged marriage is used interchangeably with forced marriage or even child marriage. That explains the horror of the international media when her game was published.

The media wasn’t helping so she decided to educate people herself. Board games are definitely a fun way to learn about it.

Image Source: Nashra Balagamwala

In fact, she learned a lot along the way too. She said that she learned more in six months developing the game than she did ever before.

How To Play

The three thousand rupees question (that’s how much the game costs) here is how does this game work? How do we play this new thing?

The game begins with a Rishta Auntie (where it all starts in real-life). The Auntie pursues three single girls in order to get the groom married.

Here is where it gets interesting. The catch is that the Auntie is trying to get the girls married to one of the less than desirable suitors. These suitors have icky personality traits such as “pervy perversion”, “the womanizer”, or “mama’s boy”.

Image Source: Nashra Balagamwala

The girls evade the rishta auntie throughout the game by drawing cards from a deck. All the cards include ‘scandalous things’ the girls must do in order to get out of the arrangement. These examples of ‘scandalous behavior’ includes things like being seen out with their male friends in public or photoshopping alcohol into their pictures.

Image Source: Nashra Balagamwala

The auntie can gain on the girls by drawing cards from her own deck. This deck includes power moves used by rishta auties to market a bachelorette like “girl with childbearing hips” or “girl whose parents have been collecting dowry for 10 years”.

The game ends with the girls marrying off. You can only evade the auntie for so long (*sighs*).

Nonetheless, Arranged remains a pretty fun board game from the look of things. Perhaps it is exactly what we need to help us understand the nuances of Arranged Marriages better than anything else.

Written by Ummara Sheraz

Entertainment & culture writer at ProPakistani/Lens. Occasionally dabbles in other news.

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