As narrated by Arshad
“Whatever happens in life, as long as we’re together, everything will be okay…I love you” , I whispered into her ear as she snuggled up beside me
Wrapping my arms around her, basking in the glory of a new found happiness that comes only with marriage, while she drifted off into a peaceful slumber, I replayed the events of this beautiful day in my mind. We were married. She was my bride. We had a whole new world waiting for us…
“Bru have this” , Immy said handing me a cup of coffee and, snapping me out of my daydream
I shook my head, flummoxed that I had been lost in my own world for God knows how long.
“Have it Arshoo.. it will help you to relax a little” , Nemo said slowly
“I don’t need to relax bru.. my world is falling apart… the last thing that I need to do is relax”
I looked up at Laeeka, Aara and Maariah who had entered the lounge and sat in front of the fire place along with the rest of us. Nobody spoke much after Zainab had left. My father in law himself was clueless about why she had asked him to fetch her and because we had left Adnaan with them for the night, he said that Zainab would stay the night and I could fetch them in the morning. I’m sure that by now, they too would have heard the news because she had never taken such a drastic decision before…
All of them sat around me in silence, waiting for me to say something and so I finally did.
“After we had gotten married, our circle shrunk a little. Zoheb and Aara were travelling, Nemo had left.. and it was fine because like Riza, Laeeka, Immy and Mari we were also enjoying our privacy and newly married status.. and eventually when we couldn’t meet up much with each other we would hang out with some of Zainab’s cousins and their friends. Initially it wasn’t so bad but it wasn’t like how we are, you know,not as chilled as it was being with you guys… and both of us weren’t very comfortable in the beginning because we had grown accustomed to the no expectations, no image thing”
I sighed as I thought back on those times….
“Eventually they would come around sometimes and sometimes we would go there, sometimes a movie, sometimes a meal, sometimes sport or a weekend getaway and it was fun until it started getting out of hand”
“How so Arshoo? “, Immy asked
“The high life. Always going out, always on the move, always with the ” group” can eventually make a person want to be just like that. I mean its clinically proven that the company that you keep eventually shapes your character to be the same. You develop the need for the same interests as them, and you constantly crave it until it happens… that is IF you allow yourself to get swept up into it”
I looked up at them and realised that I was talking in circles…
“I can’t blame any of them for what happened between us but it was the major contributing factor to our problems… these women would leave their kids with the nanny every night and still “be free”, going out as a group we looked more like we were going for a wedding than just a group of regular people hanging out.. and before I knew it, my Zainab was changing..I’m not saying that she didn’t care for Adnaan no, but she began putting her social life above his time.She demanded more and I gave in because that’s what I worked for, to provide the best for my family .. She would want us to go out more and I gave in, I mean I was at work the whole day, she was at home, surely being within the same space with the same people daily would make one feel claustrophobic eventually… She would be on their Watsapp group the entire day and night if we didn’t go out, I never complained. She wanted me more “groomed” and more “classy”, I gave in because she’s Zainab after all, this was something that was naturally her…but it wasn’t..it was her wanting me to be more like them ”
I stopped. An image of Zainab dressed in a slinky black dress came to mind. She looked gorgeous. But she never dressed like this to go out before. I was so tired that night but she insisted that we go and as always, I gave in. I felt a burning deep inside my heart and soul when Zainab left our room with an abaya over her dress, greeted my unsuspecting parents who were only too happy to give us our time while they watched Adnaan, and bounced happily to the car. Once we were inside the car, she tossed her abaya in the back seat, pulled off her scarf and neatened her freshly curled hair.
“Babe you should neaten your beard.. Make it more like Raees’s ” she said candidly
Why didn’t I say anything then?
That night had dragged on. Five married men, who, astagfirullah looked like they had escorts on their arms.
I fooled myself into thinking then that it was okay and that she was my wife…
But all these men were undressing her with their eyes.
Was she really that blind to it? She laughed and joked and giggled with her friends. It was just the beginning of the end for us.
“Zainab was losing herself slowly and I struggled to hold onto whatever identity I had left in this circle of mayhem”, I continued, ” and I didn’t see it then. Every time the nights out became longer and longer until the one night Adnaan fell ill and we were in an out of coverage area. Aara that’s the night that you and Zoheb helped my parents rush him to the Emergency Room. It quietened down a little after that but not for long and that’s when the fights started, first they were small and make up was quick…and then they turned ugly..harsh words were thrown about, words that can’t get taken back”
I looked down and stared long and hard at the carpet before speaking again…
” She wanted to move out of my parents home..I mean..our section of the house was renovated especially for us, I am my parents only child, they never dispute anything that she says and she’s never had a problem but ever since they asked us not to stay out till so late after Adnaan got sick, Zainab’s been hell bent on moving out and her obsession with turning me into someone else grew to its peak. I didn’t want to be someone that I’m not and after the scare that we had with Adnaan, I realised that this was not a path that I wanted for myself or for my wife…I want different things out of life”
“What is it that you want….”, Laeeka asked softly
“Look at me Laeeka, I am comfortable with my beard, with my dressing, this is who I want to be I don’t want to cling on to a shred of my so called youth because we are still young…being the way she wanted me to be was just wanting to be…wrong. Life is about change, we are muslims, if the need to change for the better taps you on the forehead every second of every day, we should consider ourselves lucky”
Riza nodded in agreement.
“I had to be firm, it was for our own benefit…Zainab grew distant, she accused me of wanting to cage her, wanting to make a slave out of her and it killed me because that was genuinely not the case at all. It wasn’t as though we didn’t go out, but I objected to going out with them. I eventually relented and we would join this “group” every so often, but every time that we did she wouldn’t acknowledge my presence at all, it was almost as though she was trying to suck up whatever she could from that evening and it scared me. I consulted a psychologist and even scheduled an appointment for both of us together, but she refused to come. Someone was filling her head against me because she grew more and more distant and if we ever had the opportunity to say two words to each other it was always vicious…but whenever we would be together with you guys or our families, it was different. She avoided me as much as she could but she was civil too, and so I kept it up from my side, for both of us. I wanted her to see that we could be happy again, I wanted her to remember what it was to be happy together again…but it backfired, just like tonight”
I leaned back against the couch and exhaled. Now everyone knows what I kept inside my heart for so long.
“Zainab is not a bad person guys…I just need to get her on track with herself again”, I whispered, trying to reassure myself more than anyone else
“Okay, this is a critical problem Arshoo but..how did it end up with you guys wanting to get divorced?” , Maariah said softly
“A month after Hana was born, and when someone asked Zainab when baby number 2 was coming she literally lost her head…and it pains me to say this aloud but it’s as though the thought of having a child with me, another child with me repelled her. As though it would seal her fate..like she was trapped. Like…the more years that she spent with me would mean her losing something that she could never gain back”
And I remember that dark night, as though it was as clear as day….
“I can’t do this anymore…I can’t be with you anymore…these people don’t know that we don’t share that kind of relationship anymore”, she sobbed
“I miss you Zai..I WANT to be with you..please…come back to me”, I cried
She shook her head frantically…” I can’t….I can’t…I want a divorce Arshad, I want a divorce!!!”
And back to reality it was…
“You know I can’t exactly blame her completely, it’s my fault too. When we love someone so much we want to give them everything that we can, that we are able to, in our quest for making them happy we lose track of not only what we’re losing..we lose track of what they are losing too. All we see is their smiling face and life stops there for us.But it shouldn’t be that way..it cannot be that way. Our hearts should and must first belong to Allah alone and when we do everything to please Him then only will we be truly happy..because His love stays with us our whole lives, while any other love will one day let go of our hands”
Aara looked up at me immediately with tears in her eyes..
We chase and chase…and don’t stop chasing. But we’re chasing an illusion and the closer we get… the further it goes…
“So yes, I am to blame too”, I said as I stood up, ” I am to blame and even though I tried very, very hard to fix things…maybe this love was meant to let go of my hand too”