The Good Pakistani Wife II: Should she have kept silent?
She had traded her image of strength for real vulnerability – was it worth it?
Ali had cursed Amina on their final night together...
It happened after a few agonising days, when she mustered the courage to confront him. Ali played with his phone on an oversized leather sofa they bought together, little pillows carelessly scattered on it.
“Ali, I know you’ve been seeing someone else. And, I know you’ve never really loved me. I don’t think you even like who I am…”
“You’re imagining things. I am giving you everything you need as a husband, isn’t this love? Be grateful”.
There was no guilt.
Was she really ungrateful? She bit off the dry skin on her fingers until a light stream of blood appeared – release…
“Love, shove”, her mother’s words echoed in her mind.
“Your status and class is the key in this society” was her friend’s advice, “And they most certainly will not respect you without a man backing you. You have power, influence, class, status, money and a powerful man. Be grateful”.
Her best friend Bina with a bob, an industrialist’s daughter from Lahore, married an industrialist’s son from Karachi. The manicured Defence elite couple: adorned in clothes that were white and tight; big and dark sunglasses that matched the tinted windows of their four-by-four; they were regulars in The Social Times social pages posing at fashion shows, parties and galas in which all the women looked like each other and all the men dressed like each other. They escaped the winter for weekends to Dubai for a stroll in the mall; and Europe for the summer to pose for a kiss in front of the Eiffel Tower, reaffirming their love and then by haute couture boutiques in Milan to satiate their true love. They would host dinners for weeks, passing along pastries from Paris, filling the air with their stories and comparisons to Pakistan. And once they were tired, they jet off for their next photo session at the Sky Bar in Bangkok – they clinked their champagne glasses at the click of the camera and bought orchids and Thai curry paste for friends.
Ali sat unmoved staring into his phone: without guilt, content and at peace. She barely stood in front of him: guilty, tormented and afraid. Her hands trembled. She inhaled deeply. Her next set of words would pull the life out of her, but she said them anyway.
“Maybe, it’s time we end”.
The expressionless Ali transformed. His concealed distaste for her or his impenetrable ego rose up and exploded into the living room. His words scalded.
“I knew I couldn’t trust you. Who is the guy?!”
It was a senseless reflexive accusation. She did not know a single woman who had not been accused of betrayal as soon as she admits to losing love for her spouse. Apparently, every action women take is a reaction caused by men.
“There is no one! You’re the one who was seeing that…”
“That is none of your business!” Ali interrupted.
He stood and pushed his face close to hers. Amina tightened and closed her eyes. He pointed his fingers between her eyes and hissed,
“You have no idea the sacrifices I have made to keep you happy, yet you sit there dreaming like a silly little girl; irritating me. Your ways are driving me to other women!”
“Women would kill to have me as their husband. And other men would simply kill you”.
Shocked and heartbroken, Amina opened her mouth to speak, Ali interrupted.
“Be grateful I’m not the kind of man to raise my hand on you. Other men would not tolerate this behaviour.”
She felt small. She was weakening.
“You will never find a man who loves you. Then you will realise what you have lost!”
That was the curse.
Three years later, Amina’s curse continued. She was not loved. And she had never quite recovered from Ali’s words from that night. She worked hard instead of fighting off her silly need for love as she busied herself as a good mother and an invincible colleague. Riddled with guilt and sadness, she had stopped asking for love. Either because she wanted to prove that she was just as strong and could live without it; or that she was now too scared to ask for it, in case of more ridicule. Now the need was kept silent and endured in isolated secret.
An ornate glass table filled with a buffet of dishes from China to Lakshmi Chowk separated her from Bina and her husband. The couple laughed at jokes from around the table. Amina had always thought they were a happy couple. She had only just noticed that they never touched each other. Bina never touched her husband’s arm as she spoke of their romantic stories, and her husband never looked at her as he spoke of her. They were acting. Yet, it was a script they believed in. They simply functioned, but functioned well.
Watching this act; looking back; Amina asked herself, what is this “love shove”? Stepping out of her barrier was brave, but had left her entirely alone. She had traded her image of strength for real vulnerability – was it worth it?
Perhaps, her strategy should have been to keep silent, but keep warm.
She could not decide.
Read the first part of The Good Pakistani Wife here.