Toronto Star

Making a game of arranged nuptials


For many young women and their families across the globe, marriage isn’t a game.

In fact, it’s taken so seriously that matches are arranged sometimes years in advance. Often, not much thought is given to how the young women feel about their partners.

Well now, such marriages are a game. A board game called, fittingly, Arranged!

In the board game, you draw cards such as, “You were seen at the mall with boys. The auntie moves 3 spaces away from you.”

“The game play involves a matchmaker running around and trying to chase down three teenage girls, while they’re trying to avoid her and a loveless marriage,” the game’s creator, 24-year-old Nashra Balagamwal­a, explains.

The Pakistan-born graphic designer says she had just finished art school at the Rhode Island School of Design and had been working at a major games com- pany in New York City when she came up with the idea.

Balagamwal­a says she was inspired by the pressure she felt from her own family to submit to an arranged marriage.

“I tried everything to avoid it,” she says. “I have worn fake engagement rings. I have worn skin tanning lotions” because in Pakistan, dark skin is considered unappealin­g. “I made sure I was seen in public with my male friends.”

And now, all of those creative machinatio­ns have become material for her board game. Other cards that keep auntie away include, “You were seen wearing a sleeveless shirt in public,” “your older sister married a white man” and “the auntie finds out you used tampons before marriage” — which is also a no-no in Pakistan.

Balagamwal­a raised the seed money for the game on Kickstarte­r. Now it’s in pre- production. She already has more than 500 orders.

Balagamwal­a says the game is getting a great reception. Better yet, it’s sparking some much-needed conversati­on.

“It’s been amazing to have young women from India and Pakistan reach out to me all the time to talk about their issues.” And she says sometimes, the game is leading to intergener­ational dialogue. “A lot of girls in Pakistan want to play it with their parents so that it can be a conversati­on starter” about the pressures they’re facing. What about Pakistani men? “Oh, they’re playing, too!” Balagamwal­a says. “When they play it, they start laughing. And then after a little while, they go like ‘Wait. This is the s--t you guys go through to marry one of us? We’re so sorry.’ ”

There have been critics too, Balagamwal­a says, but overall, the game is accomplish­ing just what she wants.

“So, it’s actually a really funny game, but it’s highlighti­ng the issues in South Asian culture.”

Balagamwal­a adds that the game has had an unforeseen benefit for her personal life.

“I’m considered unmarriage­able!” she says excitedly. “I’ve become too outspoken and strong-minded.”

Auntie moves 10 spaces away.

 ?? NASHRA BALAGAMWAL­A ?? The object of the board game Arranged! is to escape the busybody matchmaker and a loveless arranged marriage.
NASHRA BALAGAMWAL­A The object of the board game Arranged! is to escape the busybody matchmaker and a loveless arranged marriage.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada