• 08 Aug - 14 Aug, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

Pakoras, jalebis, halwa puri and chaat! Who cannot love the rainy weather in Pakistan? It is the gastronomy galore that comes with it which compensates the power outages, the flooded roads and at times the complete shutdown of the internet and cable!

Fawad and I reached Lahore only two days ago when the rain started to pour. And did it pour! It made the weather so beautiful and the air so clean, that there was no better place in the world.

We decided to spend our Eid with the family. Fawad hadn’t visited his parents since the lockdown. Both parties felt it best to stay put and not to travel too much for fear of being infected but now that things were better we thought it was high time. I missed going out too!

Being the guests and still being with family was the best combination. We all behaved like friends and were more than civil to each other.

I always had a good relationship with my sister-in-law, Fawad’s brother’s wife and over time my respect for her grew more. I admired how she always had it together. She had a young boy of 16 years in A’Levels and a daughter who was now in her early 20s. She was in university completing her degree. As a mother she was always in tuned to her children.

During the day, I would help her with the chores around the house and in the evening we would all sit in the TV lounge and enjoy some fun and family discussions. Ibrahim was probably the happiest around his cousins. He really liked the attention and he was getting really mature trying to be all adult with them. Just the kind of education I wanted him to get!

One evening my sister-in-law pulled me aside and asked me if I would join her in her room. She wanted to discuss something with me. I was a little concerned but more than that I was curious. She had never taken me aside in any manner before.

“Is everything okay?” I asked.

“Yes, yes. I just thought we could sit and talk about things, girl to girl.” She motioned for me to sit down on the room couch and she sat across me on the edge of the bed.

“This is a little personal, but I really want your opinion on something.”

I simply smiled encouraging her to go on.

“It’s about Nadia. You know, she is almost 23 years old now.” She paused and I thought maybe it was a good time to add something here, but I didn’t really know where this was going so I just kept nodding.

“When she started university, I told her how important it was to keep her head in her studies and not to be too distracted. I mean she should have friends but she also needs to keep her eye on the prize, on her degree and on her future. I mean, if she met someone in university would he be able to give her a future, a commitment? He wouldn’t be established just like her, and all he would want is some company and then he would break her heart and that’s it.”

Oh…so this is where it’s going. Did Nadia meet someone? Or was this about something more. I felt so dense at this point that all I did was nod. I wish I had some clues because now I really thought that my friend here was thinking I was dull and quite possibly brain dead.

“So, obviously she only studied and I’m really happy and proud of her. But now there are some proposals and I am confused about what to do.”

I almost breathed a sigh of relief. I could respond now, I didn’t have to look like an imbecile anymore.

“What does her father think and what about Amma and Abba?” There! That was smart indeed; maybe not that helpful but something.

“They are completely indifferent to it all. She’s studying; she needs to study, why am I so worried about it and so on. They aren’t that helpful you know.” I was surprised that she was impersonating her in-laws like that because in all other respects I had always seen her show high admiration and regard to them.

I was speechless once again.

I had no tactic on how to respond.

“Don’t get me wrong, Saima.

I respect everyone in this household but I feel like I am the only one who sees that she’s all grown up and is ready for marriage. One proposal was from Australia that I completely rejected. I mean how can we check on anything so far off? The family will give me all these goody details which could be lies. I contemplated that maybe someone from the family would send a proposal and I would be relaxed because you know everything about family, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Then, there are some local ones but to be honest I don’t see anything redeeming there either.” She sighed loudly.

“Saima, you have no idea what it means to have a daughter and to be living in a culture like ours. I mean I can get her educated and she can establish a thriving career but I feel so helpless when it comes to her future in marriage. And to have her pose in front of strangers and to be rejected, I never want my daughter to go through that. I only shared her picture with a few friends and they showed interest. I didn’t invite them over because at this point none of us seem to be interested. For all we know they might reject her once they come over. You know how fickle people are.” She threw her hands up in the air in exasperation. It looked like she would break into tears.

That’s when it really hit me. All those times of serving tea to potential proposals and to be rejected and then, rejected again just came flooding back at me. How could I have forgotten? Before I met Fawad, I had to kiss so many frogs, metaphorically speaking that I even lost count. I guess when we are this happy in a marriage to forget all those times of sheer horror that we’ve incurred in the past. It’s called the “trolley culture” but there is so much more to it.

And here was my friend worried about her beautiful daughter who was quickly becoming a woman; I had to give her solace, even if my words rang empty. Everything was happening too fast and even though she had her entire family around yet she was feeling lost and alone.

“I know what you’re feeling and it’s completely understandable. If I had a daughter all grown up, I would feel the same. Let her complete her education and live life a little and in the mean time you keep a lookout for something nice and I guess when it’s the right thing you will just know it. Something’s are best left to fate. We can only hope that our children have a life without any worry but the truth is that they will have their own struggles to face. And Nadia is such a wonderful person; you will find a perfect match for her in no time. I just know it.”

“I know, you mean well and you’re right. It’s just these terrible stories that I hear that make me worry. But I guess I have no option but to be patient.”

“You’re not just being patient. You are enjoying your family. Family is a huge blessing a person can have. Your children are wonderful. Just keep counting your blessings and more will come your way. Don’t worry too much. I hope that you’re feeling better now?”

She nodded a hopeful nod and then we both got up to join others.

It was a difficult time for so many mothers like her and though, I tried to help I don’t think I made much difference. The trolley culture was a very difficult and perverse culture in our society that was taking its toll on so many households. I vowed that when Ibrahim would be ready to marry, I would never put any girl or her family through that horror. But with all said and done, I just felt the weight of the world a little heavier on my shoulders that night for the sake of my niece and so many young girls like her and their mothers.•