The good Pakistani wife
Amina could not dream of calling her friends to reveal her issues; they would revel in it.
Amina sipped her tea as she noticed the new red flame like flowers that had bloomed on the Palash tree outside her window. Spring had finally arrived. The days would become brighter.
This should be a welcoming thought after the brutishly dark winter months. Instead, Amina worried. Her stomach wrought with anxiety. She bit the skin off her lips and tapped her slim fingers vigorously against the cup.
Her husband was cheating.
Introduced by their parents Amina and her husband, Ali, consented to marry because their match appeared correct; educated, good families and good looking. Amina felt lucky and knew women would be envious of her good looking and successful husband. She was pregnant soon after they married.
Although he was always home till late, hardly touching her, she assumed that this was the normal married life as she had seen of her parents and heard from friends. He fulfilled all her financial requests and she fulfilled all her duties as a wife. She took care of their daughter, his parents and hosted his family and colleagues with a buffet of dishes and presenting herself well by speaking little and smiling a lot. She had little idea who his friends were and assumed his friends were men and, out of possessiveness, he did not ask her to meet with them. She did not think while searching for her earrings that morning that Ali’s phone would light up revealing a message from some Sarah, who was missing her husband desperately. She stood paralysed while she imploded within.
Amina watched her husband check his phone; she searched his face for signs of guilt or excitement – he was expressionless. He simply said,
“I’ll be home late.”
Amina knew very well that the majority of Pakistani husbands in her circle cheated on their wives; and now she was the latest victim. She had read an article in which some Western couples decided to have open marriages because the expectation of a spouse to be reliable, compatible friend and exciting lover was unsustainable – it seems however Pakistan is already a step ahead. The Pakistani man enjoys a forgiving society in which without the explicit consent of his wife and with implicit consent from his society, he, without guilt and fear, breaks monogamy.
Her society is far more unforgiving.
She was the wife and mother of his child and caretaker of his family and home. The Pakistani wife is not to be touched or spoken to; the ideal Pakistani wife stands silently and submissively by her husband because they both know that she needs him more than he needs her.
Amina could not dream of calling her friends to reveal her issues; they would revel in it. She phoned her mother instead, who came over immediately. Amina sobbed as she told her mother about Ali’s new Sarah. Amina’s stout mother smiled.
“This is nothing! You almost had me worried, beta.”
Amina, shocked, stared at her mother blankly.
“What do you mean Amma?”
“He’s a man! It’s in his nature. As long as you’re a good wife and keep the house comfortable, he will be too dependent on you to ever leave for such loose character women. He’s given you a child, a home, security and a good lifestyle; what more do you want?”
“But Amma! He doesn’t love me!”
“Love shove! Only fools marry for love. Love dies after a while anyway. Marriage is about security and family and you have that. Besides, what will you do if you leave him? You know everyone will blame you for being a selfish fool. Who will care for you and your daughter? It is hard enough to be a woman in this society; do you have any idea how difficult it is to be a single divorced woman with a child in this society? Who will marry you?” her mother shook her head in disgust at the thought of her daughter getting a divorce,
“Be smart beta. Have faith in Allah”.
Amina’s friends always stayed away from divorced women, calling them nothing but trouble.
Exhausted, Amina crawled into her bed; she needed to decide her next steps but struggled to stop herself from wondering what Ali liked in Sarah.
Could she be like the Hetaeras in Ancient Greece engaging him intellectually and exciting him physically?
She must feel confident knowing she offers him sexual openness in a society where this quality appears rare. He must complain how boring his wife is; how he cannot do things with her that he can with Sarah – Amina wept into her pillow.
She sat up as she heard Ali walk in late that night. He silently sat down on the edge of the bed with his back towards her, undoing his tie, barely noticing her swollen eyes from her torrential tears. She detected a hint of alcohol and a woman’s perfume. She controlled her tears and pushed to smile through them. She must confront him.
The warm glow of the lamp softened his features; she did not know who this man was or whether she even liked him anymore but she loved him still for the provider and father he was.
She had to decide; could she live in this suffocating silence forever? Would he stop seeing Sarah if she asked? Would he run after her if she left?
She needed to know.
Her heart raced as she looked towards him, she asked softly,
“Have you had dinner?”
Read the second part of The Good Pakistani Wife here.