- 24 Jul - 30 Jul, 2021
If It Works For You, Do It!
- 15 Sep - 21 Sep, 2018
Towards the end of July I was badly wishing for school to reopen. I had practically done everything humanly possible and now the days were simply creeping. Fawad was on a brief trip to Lahore to be with his parents. I was down with a bad flu and decided to stay in Karachi.
I went to stay with my parents. We’d go at times but mostly spend time at home with each other. We enjoyed one another’s company, watching TV and movies together, and hung out. Mom cooked delicious meals and it was nice to be pampered with nothing much to do but laze all day and play with my Tabby. I really needed to give the poor guy a name. He was growing up to be a handful now. He also seemed to like the change of scenery and definitely the attention, lapping it all up hungrily.
It was also nice to be in my old room. I could relive many memories and good times spent there. I felt that no matter wherever a person moves on to, the comfort of their old room and its belongings cannot be matched. Every crack on the old furniture, every scratch on the polish reminds a person that they have a come a long way and sleeping in that old creaking bed gave me immense peace and relaxation.
Mom was insisting me to call Saman and ask her to spend the day with us at home. She was such an old friend that mom found another daughter in Saman and she, too, considered us as her second family, a second home.
I left her a WhatsApp message around 10 o’clock asking her to come over but when she hadn’t replied even after “seeing” it, I gave her a call about an hour later. Something seemed amiss. Saman would at least reply. Despite being busy she would have left a text or a voice note.
She answered at the first ring.
“Hey Saman! What’s up? Mom and I wanted you to come over and spend the day with us. I’m staying here while Fawad is away and it would be nice to hang out together.” I was feeling cheerful and sounded energetic. I knew my energy would match hers but I was surprised that all I heard was an awkward silence.
“Saman? Are you there? Is something wrong?” I was terribly concerned now. I rarely found her like that.
“No, everything’s ok. It’s just that I’m kind of busy and I can’t come. I thought I had replied but I just realised when I saw my phone that I hadn’t sent the message. I’m sorry. Please thank Auntie for her kind invitation but today is not possible for me.”
“Saman, if something’s wrong you have to come over and talk to me. What happened? You’ve never been this low before. Come over. Maybe we can figure this out together.”
“It’s nothing, Saima. I just feel like being alone.”
“Listen Saman! I won’t take no for an answer. I want you to bring yourself down here now. I’ll fix you. Just come!”
I was almost pleading. As far as I could recall Saman was never like this. And I was concerned. It sounded serious. I went into the lounge to tell mom that she was coming soon and then I went into the kitchen to start preparing lunch. I began cooking with a zealous fever trying to keep my mind off Saman’s forlorn, sad voice. The down side of cooking, your mind is free to wander off in all directions.
What could have happened that made her seem so low, I wondered.
With all my cooking done I went into my room to change and freshen up as the doorbell rang. Mom would get that.
Saman knocked on my door a few minutes later as I was tying up my damp hair in a messy bun.
“Come in!” I called out.
Her normally cheery and happy face seemed a little less sparkly, as she smiled at me coming into my room.
I thought to myself how cute and adorable she looked in her pink coloured lawn suit. Even though Saman was just nearing her thirties, she was very youthful and full of positive energy. She was the only bachelorette that I knew so closely and she always made me feel whether she had gotten it right by not marrying or had we all gotten it wrong.
There were other women in my circles who hadn’t tied the knot but not by choice. They simply did not get married because they didn’t find the right person and as it happens in our country very often, once they get older, the list of potential suitors decreases and they decide to stay unmarried instead of marrying beneath their standards.
But they all wore the badge of spinsterhood on their shoulders like a band of mourning. Saman on the other hand chose to never marry. She kept the social and family pressure at bay and maintained a headstrong demeanour, simplifying that marriage did not mean the light at the end of her tunnel. She wanted to live life, travel, feel free and never be tied down by social norms and, society’s expectations.
She often told me that I was lucky to have found Fawad. The general population of women was not so lucky and most marriages were just compromises, and adjustments. Most couples were so unhappy that if given the chance, they would either kill each other or flee. And these were the people who were now going to bring into the world babies, then groom and educate them. These messed up people will take on the responsibility of creating messed up future generations.
She did not add the fact that it was ironical that a loving couple like ours was not even blessed with a child, but I couldn’t help think of God’s plan. He blessed poor people with dozens of babies and these parents could not even afford to feed them, while a happy and healthy environment like ours was deprived of even one child.
God worked in mysterious ways indeed.
“Hey Saima! Thanks for having me dear.” She reached out to hug me.
“How are you Saman? You look good!” I sat her down on the bed.
“Did you meet mom?” I asked.
“Yes, I met Auntie. She asked me to join you here while she said her prayers.”
“Yes, we’ll have lunch after she’s done. I cooked your favourite dishes. Chicken karhai and muttar pulao.”
“That’s great. I’m really hungry. I don’t think I’ve eaten a good and hearty meal in a few days. I’ve been so preoccupied.”
“Yeah, what’s with the sad and forlorn drama? What happened? I’m actually worried. Tell me.”
“Oh, it’s the usual. Emotional blackmail. Get married and all.”
“Oh!” I said, thinking that this wasn’t old stuff. Saman had to deal with this almost every couple of years, sometimes as frequently as every month. I could see that her patience was wearing thin and I was afraid that this time she might cave in. I mean I wanted her to be happy and all but being married was not the meal ticket to sure shot happiness. We all knew that hoax well enough. If being single, independent, self-sufficient and self-provided made her happy then who was to argue any differently?
“Of course, my mom thinks that this proposal is the ‘one’. Even though keeping in mind about the family that approached us last month or, in fact, last year were also the ‘one’. Actually, I have so many ‘ones’ that I’m thinking of changing the numerals in mathematics all together.”
“Oh Saman, don’t be mean. Did you look into it? Maybe this one is for you. Who is he and what does he do?”
Anxious as I was to console her, I also wanted some juicy details. After all, I was her best friend, her only close friend as far as I knew and I really wanted to know. Isn’t that what we’re here for? To help of course, but what was the harm in getting some details down.
“He lives in America – New York, to be specific. He hasn’t been married. He was pursuing his career. He’s a lawyer by the way. He works at the UNO in some legal capacity. And he looks like George Clooney too.” Saman robotically delivered all this while I sat there speechless with my mouth hanging. I finally spoke up.
“Saman! How could you not want to pursue this? How did he reach you? He sounds like quite a catch.”
I could barely contain my excitement.
“He knows my Aunt, the one who lives in New Jersey. They go to the same Islamic Centre.”
“Nothing, really. She linked us up and we talked briefly. I tried being as disagreeable and the opposite of girly, as I could really, but I think he got the cue that I was playing hard to get and now he wants to marry me! Can you believe it? Saima, he doesn’t read or watch movies, all he does is work. I’ll only be a home bound slave at the best – keeping his home and giving him babies. He hardly considers my work important and probably won’t let me work anyways. I’ll be torn away from family and friends and all that I call home to live in an unknown land with unknown people only to dress up and hang on his arm at fancy parties and charity dinners. I don’t want to be a trophy wife.”
Saman was almost screaming.
“Oh Saman, it won’t be that bad. You just said that he goes to the Islamic Centre. That shows he has ties to the Muslim/Pakistani community. Besides, one goes through a phase of adjustment in any relationship.”
“Argghh! Please don’t call it a relationship. I’m allergic to that word. Besides, there were times when I wanted this. I really did. I thought that marriage and having kids was the ultimate happiness that any person craved for. But thank God! I came to my senses before turning that fantasy into a reality. I feel caved in, Saima. I feel like I’m choking. I really have commitment issues. I mean, you know where I’m coming from. I gave people a chance, didn’t I? It was so hard for me. I let myself be close and open to the ones I thought were real and genuine but look what happened? I let myself fall in love and only got hurt. I can’t do it anymore. Besides, I’m at a place where I have enough emotional energy only for myself or my loved ones. I can’t include another person in that small knit. And there is more to life Saima than just this typical tale of boy meets girl. There are places that I want to travel to. There are people I want to help. I want to break free from the stereotypical picture of the Pakistani girl.”
“Oh God, Saman! Do you think you’re superwoman? Keep it real please.” Saman really brought on the drama. Then I asked, “What does your mom want?”
“She wanted me to talk to him. Believe me Saima, if I were a man I would run in the opposite direction after the way I treated him and spoke to him. But he proposed!! That in itself is suspect of his true nature and intentions. He either thinks I’m putting on airs and he has to chase me or he is truly twisted. I’m even afraid of him now.”
“Ok, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.” I tried calming her down.
“Saima, my younger self would have found this situation romantic but after watching those endless episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, I know better. And I am calm. I just need my family to understand.”
“I have an idea. Why don’t you reject him? I mean you are talking to him and you can tell him yourself that you don’t like him. No one will have to be the wiser.”
“No Saima, he’ll go tell my Aunt and mom will be more upset. I’ll just keep my head strong, chin up and face all the emotional blackmailing till they all give up.”
As if she knew that our discussion was over, mom peeped in to say that she wanted us at the table to have lunch.
So we both got up and joined her at the table.
I felt better and I could tell, so did Saman.
We were famished and quickly filled our plates with the wholesome meal. •