50 shades of a red lehnga

I vaguely remember what he said; I was too busy imagining our wedding stage, honeymoon, first baby, family vacations..

Manal Farrukh Khan October 18, 2014
It came as no surprise. It had to happen. Years of pent up anticipation and apprehension had gradually built up momentum and all of it led to this – a nerve wracking walk, downstairs.

With adrenaline rush turning my ears into an alien shade of crimson and my heart skipping a beat, rolling in my stomach and jumping to touch my parched palate, I carried my wobbling feet into our drawing room.

Crap, that darned rebellious carpet always defying to be straightened out; I tripped but quickly steadied myself before I could fall flat on my face.

My mother led a slow sigh, my sister gasped and I am sure he must have smirked.

I closed my eyes, inhaled, looked up and said,

He was comfortably seated, between his mother and another lady. His sister was sitting on a sofa next to them. This was my panel.

I still remember when I was told, Gauhar was coming with his family to see me. Our family celebrated with a tinge of nervousness, elaborate plans were made, a fool-proof menu was agreed upon and even the course of our conversation was mapped out – basically I was told not to blurt out my career aspirations.

Don’t judge me.

See, Gauhar came from an affluent family, he was a young Chartered Accountant settled in the US and to top that, he was not bald or short! He was quite the opposite; tall, athletic and that perfect smooth hair. Haye. He was every bachelorette’s dream, and mine was so close to materialising. I could almost call it reality. Though starting off on the wrong foot, literally, the conversation gradually picked up a healthy pace. My glorious educational background with an apparent absence of future career plans did the trick. After all, who doesn’t want an over achiever wanting to settle down as a homemaker.

This bought me another meeting with him, and this time, it was without the prying eyes of our families. Finally, my eyes could gluttonously feed on his good looks. Calling him a visual treat would be an understatement. He came, dressed casually in flat front grey pants, with a white shirt holding in his well sculptured shoulders, pecs and torso… 

Where were we?

Ah yes, the coffee shop.

I, with all my social awkwardness, determination to make this happen and insecurity-instilling body dysmorphism, sat across him, smitten.

After exchanging pleasantries, we moved straight to business. As an expat, he did not believe in wasting time or beating about the bush so he asked me if I was happy with how things were unfolding.
“Hell yes!” 

The next question was am I seeing someone. I quickly turned down the notion, embarrassed by what might have made him ask such a question.
“Good,” he replied.

He was open about his past flings though, none were serious, obviously and hence he was here. This sent down a burning pang of jealousy through my body and I could feel my fingers tingle. Whoa. I reminded myself that the past is past and he is here right now, and of course he had flings – have you seen him?! Besides, girls these days, jeez, so chaalo, their pheromones are flying all over the place. Poor Gauhar. He told me that though he had seen many shades of women, the one that appealed to him most was that of a house wife.

He means a home-maker; I sat, silently correcting him. 

He believed in the wisdom of our culture, where a man is responsible for his wife and as a show of her gratitude, the wife is obedient to her husband. He saw that wife in me

Heart somersaults.

After that declaration, I only vaguely remember what he said; I was too busy imagining myself with him on our wedding stage, our honeymoon, our first baby, family vacations etcetera. But if I blur everything out and focus on his voluptuous lips… chasing butterflies now... I remember him telling me his list of expectations.

He expected me to dress modestly in public and not so in private. Sati savitri for the world, sexy Susan for him. He told me obesity disgusts him so I need to maintain my figure even after multiple pregnancies. Oh, and he said there were going to be many. I must respect him at all times and never say no to him. I will have to apologise to him, even if I don’t think I am at fault, because I will be at fault; he knows better. I must effectively and immediately break all forms of communication with my male class-fellows and slowly wean my female friends off me. He demands my complete and unadulterated attention. I am his. For him.

Lightheaded and slightly out of breath.

On a cocktail of his drop dead gorgeousness but obnoxious chauvinistic expectations, societal pressures, my parents’ exponentially growing worries, my career aspirations and America’s greener grass, I felt nauseous. I needed to breathe. A time out.

I told him, I need time to process and he will hear my answer, through my parents. He was caught off guard but replied with a smirk that this was his first. He was not expecting defiance after his lecture on submission. However, he said this was a ‘turn on’ because he liked to “tame” rebellious women and I had somehow managed to intrigue him. He was interested now. In me. With all my layers.

I went home and obviously said yes.

The next few months went by so fast and yet so teasingly slow. I saw some of the happiest, no, the most ecstatically joyous moments of my life, with him in our courtship but I also saw a lot of lows. From skilful flirtation and unabashed admissions of love to baseless paranoia and unnecessary temper tantrums, he was volatile. Combustive. Ready to ignite and consume. In a dichotomous world of yes and no, he was my ‘yes, please’ to ‘are you crazy?’, ‘an effing no’ to ‘maybe’.

So I took my chances because somewhere, behind that attractive yet repulsive exterior, I saw a little boy caught between an overtly ambitious mother and a spineless, inaudible father. I needed to bring that boy out and caress his ego, let him know that he is loved, and have him depend on me.

It wasn’t easy. Patience is a weapon and so is intimacy – always remember that. I gave up everything from my sense of self, my career, my concept of acceptable and unacceptable. I submitted. Surrendered. Completely and unquestionably.  But, only to conquer. And I managed do just that, didn’t I? With flair.
“Who do we hate most?” 

“Dadi and phuphi.”

Aurat buhat zaalim cheez hai beti, woh apna badla le hi leti hai, nah bhulti hai nah mauf kerti hai”

(A woman is an evil creature; she takes her revenge and doesn’t forgive nor forget)

So don’t over think things. When the time is right, a boy will come, wearing an oversized expensive suit. Don’t let him scare you. And in the meantime, wake your dad up and let him know Ma has a headache that only his ilaichi wali, miraculous chai can cure.
Manal Farrukh Khan A doctor who likes to jot down her thoughts, rhythmically. Author of, 'Of rainbows, gutters and prisms'. She tweets as @ManalFKhan (https://twitter.com/ManalFKhan)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


annaZ | 9 years ago | Reply I didn't get the ending quite right but I like the way you write;)
Indian | 9 years ago | Reply So true. Completely relate to this. Arranged matches often become like this...a behind-the-scenes powerplay over the next half century,where the bitter bride,with thwarted dreams of a loving marriage with prince charming,gets her wings are clipped instead, turns cynical & takes a slow,long revenge for being treated like a trophy wife .
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