Published in The Dawn Magazine
on Sunday, June 29, 1997

THE OLD woman was adamant. We want a divorce, she insisted. Horrified, you did your best to explain that her daughter-in-law had not done anything wrong, after all many women had to work nowadays, all the more so since her husband had not sent her a paisa (cent) after he'd gone abroad a year ago. No woman has ever worked in our family before, she said, and when my son calls me next week I'll tell him to send the talak nama (divorce papers). You fervently appealed to her to consider their two children, that the couple had been married for five years now, but she didn't budge.

The son returned a couple of months later for his second marriage (to a divorcee), and when you heard the bride's father saying, "Please, Bhabi, please pray that this time she'll be lucky," you almost wept, you had a tough time controlling yourself, for you knew the family well enough to predict that the marriage wouldn't last. And although you weren't a praying man you went to the mosque early the next morning and implored Him who knows all things, to make it work.

A month later, he visited you and said that after his divorce he had been looking for another bride and had now found her. You thought he'd lost his sanity. You reminded him that you'd attended his second marriage dinner just a month ago in a posh hotel. Oh, that, he said blankly, didn't you hear? I divorced her after a week. She said that she'd only had one child, but it turned out she was the mother of two. You almost threw a vase at him. So what, you screamed, you too, had two children from your first marriage. But that's different, I'm a man, he said. You wanted to tell him that a real man wouldn't have done what he'd done, but you didn't, because you're a spineless human who'll never have the guts to speak out whenever he sees an injustice being done. So spineless, in fact, that when he asked you to be the best man this time, you readily agreed, although you hated yourself for it.

By Shakir Lakhani

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