We build homes from the bricks that we find laying around us and so I built my home on the bricks of heartbreak and regret. What else could I do? Did I have any choices? No, I did not. I felt cheated, angry and disadvantaged for many years of my life. I was forced into a life and a home that I did not want to be apart of. But there was no escape for me, no way of undoing what had been done and as much as I lament or wallow over the events of my life at times, its simple to see that this life was meant for me. If I didn’t live here and now and with him, I wouldn’t get to know her, to birth her, to love her…. Her name is Layya, she is the arrow that did not miss its target, she is my daughter…..
London became my true home, my place of peace and my sanctuary for London was where Layya was and wherever Layya was would be the warmest brightest place on this entire earth even if the sky was almost always grey. I sacrificed living the life that I wanted so that I could give my daughter a life that she deserved. To teach her, to show her, to make her understand the beauty of life, the hardships of life and to live happiness through her beaming eyes.
My mother in law would never cease to make life unbearable for me! This I could see very early on in my marriage. My husband would never be the husband that I envisioned, that I wanted or that I needed him to be. There was more to life than walks in the park or falling hopelessly in love, he once told me. I was the wife of a prestigious Pediatrician.
” You should be so grateful! My son could have had any girl that he wanted”!
My mother in law spat out this reminder at me ever so frequently.
And I was, I was grateful, really I was eternally grateful, but not to her, nor to him but to Allah for giving me a child through my husband. I asked for a reason to live, a reason to smile and Allah gave me more than that. My husband was a good father and my mother in law doted on her fair skinned grand daughter. I guess eventually it made her more tolerant towards me; the fact that I brought a beautiful life into this world…..
But it turns out that my husband had found his romance and walks in the park elsewhere. And although his love did not reside in my heart, it did in someone else’s arms and heart. My heart was too consumed with someone that I would never have to have noticed it before. His walks in the park were taken with another woman’s hand laced within his! He too needed the love that I was robbed off, the love that I was craving! He too was a product of culture and tradition that would not let him wed the woman that he was so deeply in love with! Although he could marry any woman that he wanted, as my mother in law had said, it turns out she would not allow him the pleasure nor the honor of doing just that.
The sturdier I tried to build my home with effort and attempt at being what those around me dictated I needed to be, the more evasive and distant my husband became and the emptier my home felt! Eventually he could not live a life of only seeing to sick children in the pediatrics ward of Homerton Hospital. He too needed to be loved in ways that I was not capable of loving him for my heart had long flown away and settled in a familiarly unfamiliar land that was no longer apart of me. I could not retrieve my heart as it was lost forever, wandering, following closely behind Zaheer….
Layya had just turned 10 when I discovered that my husband was in an extra marital relationship. Call it a midlife crisis, call it a case of true love, call it whatever you must, but know that what is meant to be will always be.
I was not hurt nor was I heartbroken because I was not in love with my husband. When I confronted him about my accidental findings on his emails, he admitted to it with painful eyes, defeated by the truth. My husband was not a bad person, he was a product of culture and tradition just as I was.
She was his one true love he said but his mother would not let him marry her! She was a “paki” as my mother in law distastefully referred to her. I could just hear her words smothered in her posh accent when she discovered that her son would rip her izzat from under her imaginary throne! ” What will people say Umar! Is this how you thank me after all that I’ve sacrificed for you!”. He was shipped off to boarding school immediately in an attempt to save the family’s good name! The love of his life was forced to marry her cousin in pakistan who turned out to be a wife beater who would later divorce her leaving her with 2 children to bring up! She was just 19 when she married him.
My husband was made to marry me a few years later. Life was sorted! Fixed! And near to perfect! For all sets of parents perhaps but not for any of us stuck in this love rectangle. I loved Zaheer. My husband loved another woman and yet we were four souls lost, wayward, lonely and living unfulfilled lives all at the price of honor in our parents eyes.
My heart bled for him. I could relate in many ways to what he went through and eventually I told him about Zaheer. He said that he knew… He was told that he was going to marry his mother’s niece from South Africa before she runs off with a boy from Hyderabad. Like me, he went with the ebb and flow of motions in an attempt to be “the good child”…
But is this what islam teaches us? Were those who were sent before us forced to live such lives of marrying against their will? Did anyone come forth with this message, that of culture and tradition over ruling everything? Is this a matter of culture and tradition or is it one of religion? The more I thought about it the more I realized that this had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with tradition and ego’s.
Every indian mother at some point or another has always used the line; “ what will people say?” Or ” what about my izzat!”. But what about Sunnah and following Allah’s commands which state that two people should not be forced into a union of marriage if they do not wish to marry each other or how islam places no emphasis on skin color and tradition? ” Allah looks not to your faces but he looks at your heart and actions” – hadith….
Perhaps generations to come will forever be changed due to the oppression that their parents had faced. Perhaps our purpose here is to set the action of following Quran and Sunnah into motion and to shun the misconceptions of tradition and culture. Perhaps in order for our children and grandchildren to be better servants of Allah, we had to make the sacrifices…..
I was content to live a life such as mine. Happy but not euphoric. At peace but slightly restless. Breathing but sometimes forgetting to exhale.
Just when we accept the lot that we have been served in life and just when we make peace with the past, it always comes knocking on our door laced in a scent of seduction!
Zaheer, I realized would haunt me until I draw nearer and closer to my final breaths even if he did nothing to lure me, my heart would always be in synchronization with his heart.
The tapping began in my mind. A persistent knocking of hope as I wondered; Could I finally be with him after all this time? Would my husband release me from my nikaah in an attempt to finally find love in a land that I have mostly forgotten! Did Zaheer mean it when he said that his heart and arms would always be open and how would all of this affect Layya?
I contemplated calling him after all these years. I knew nothing about his life now. I made no attempt to find out for the mere utterance of his name caused my heart to tremble and ache.
Excitement at the possibility of what could possibly be churned daily within me until finally I picked up the telephone and made the call that would change my entire life….
To be continued…🌹
Next up, the finale…