It was time for celebration. Faaizah’s two younger sisters were happy for her but also saddened at the same time. Soon, Faaizah would be married. A few weeks later, she would leave with her husband to a far away land, thousands of miles from Pakistan.
Almost every moment Faaizah was meeting distant relatives she hadn’t seen in years. Her popular uncle from her mother’s side, who exported fruits, was there. He sent many delicious mangoes to relatives, and yes he brought a few crates that day as well. His wife was talking with Faaizah’s mother and their five young adorable kids were adding chaos to pandemonium.
Another famous uncle, from her father’s side, a renowned doctor, came with his wife and two daughters. Their two daughters would showcase their talent on Faaizah’s body. They had brought henna. A day before the wedding, they would decorate Faaizah’s hands and feet with intricate artwork. The next day, a grand wedding took place. Thousands of pictures were snapped of the hundreds of guests who ate, sang, and danced all evening.
Saleem was the lucky man. After the wedding, he was busy meeting relatives and old friends. He spent little time with Faaizah. She didn’t mind. The family’s joy had been replaced by a sense of sorrow. Faaizah and Saleem were now leaving for Britain. Faaizah’s mother, sisters, and even her father couldn’t hide their many tears. After spending 24 years in the same house, Faaizah was leaving. Forever.
The plane landed at Heathrow. Saleem filled the forms and got through customs effortlessly. His English was impeccable. They took a taxi to their home. Throughout the entire trip, between them not a word was spoken. Saleem gave Faaizah her own cell phone. She would chat for hours with her mother and sisters. Back in Pakistan, there were talks of her younger sister’s marriage.
The days passed by. Faaizah would stay home all day, keep the house clean, cook the food and wait for Saleem. His work finished at 4 in the evening but he would arrive home at 7 or 8. On most days, he would eat the food and go to bed. Sometimes, he would be intimate but in a distant manner. One day, he came home visibly angry at 8.
Finally, after frustrating months, Faaizah confronted Saleem with her suspicions. “I never wanted to marry you,” he said coldly. Faaizah went numb. “It was our parents who decided,” he continued. “I wanted to marry my love, but no, my father wouldn’t budge, and I had to respect his decision. What would you have done?”
Ten years ago, Faaizah’s uncle, sent his only son, Saleem, to Britain. Saleem had taken software engineering courses. At that time, Faaizah’s father and uncle, her father’s older brother, merrily decided to marry Saleem and Faaizah after their studies were complete. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Faaizah, unlike most girls, went to college and got a degree in geography.
“You-you-you would see her after work?” “Yes,” was his reply. “Did you ...,” before she could finish, he nodded. She had never thought that Saleem would commit adultery but he had, repeatedly. Faaizah was broken. What could she do? Her mind told her to divorce him. “She broke up with me last month when I told her I was married,” he said. She felt sick, very sick.
She was pregnant. How could she divorce him? How would she take care of their baby? What would her father and his older brother think? What reason could she give for a divorce? What would people say of her parents? Who would want to marry her younger sisters after her rejection of such a rich life? Perhaps, now that he is not seeing her, our life can be different. The baby will bring us together.
Saleem took care of everything in the next nine months. They had a beautiful son. Saleem would come home right after work, and play with young Aarif. A few years later, Aarif would get whatever he wanted. Faaizah had little say in the matter. Aarif wasn’t religious, or good at his school work but no matter, he was the prince. Faaizah’s thoughts and opinions had no weight. Saleem didn’t see much point in Aarif going to college. “He has all the money he needs. Why would you want him to waste his time with heavy books and boring professors? Let him live,” Saleem once said with a broad grin. Alas, their son had marginalized her completely.
Silver lines were appearing in Faaizah’s hair. She had kept Saleem’s foul secret. Both their parents were happy with Saleem and Faaizah. No one, not even her mother, knew how Faaizah felt. She had all the material wealth she could desire. Yet, she would never know the warm touch and love of a mate. Her last years would pass by with a growing melancholy.