Diary of a Feminist: The Mystery of Love and (Second) Marriage

Love is a mystery. Or so they say. But marriages in our society puzzle me more. Particularly the sec­ond marriage. Sure, sec­ond marriages are no en­igma for men. It’s quite simple and easy for them. But why? And how could it be so smooth, so painless?

I wondered as I watched Bano Qudsia’s drama of ’83, Hikayatain, Shikayatain at my friend’s place. In a fara­way, small, peaceful city of Azad Kashmir. My friend is married. And like most of the couples I’ve come across, they’re quite a mismatch. My friend and her husband have only three things in common — age, blood and temper. Both are 29, first cousins and temperamental.

So there I was — a house guest — watching the play late at night. My friend’s husband was in the other room with their four-year-old daughter (he is not interested in plays. He prefers to watch wrestling, cricket).

For a while I watched a few scenes from a 20-year-old marriage. Qavi and Najma Muhboob’s passionate love for each other at that age made me a little irritated at the writer, “A fairy tale,” I muttered. And when a young girl (their daughter’s friend) entered the scene and they showed Qavi’s close-up I de­clared, “He will fall in love with her.” Then I dozed off.

I missed a few scenes. When I opened my eyes my friend’s fixed gaze forced me to look at the screen. As I yawned I heard Qavi’s voice “I don’t know how it happened. But it has happened. I love you. I want to marry you,” or some­thing of the kind.

I was wide awake (Ishq is that powerful). Just as I said. I was right. The old man did fall in love with a new woman. But it wasn’t his daughter’s friend. It was a pretty lady doctor he went mad about.

I watched, fascinated, as the story unfolded – the crisis in the family, the wife’s disbe­lief and anguish at the betrayal, the daughter’s trauma. I scratched my head, “Yaar, how can a man do that to the woman he loved for 20 years — his wife, his daugh­ter? How can he abandon them so ruthlessly? I can’t comprehend it,” I said.

“You have to become a man to comprehend it,” my friend told me.

“Become a man? Ugh,’ I felt a bad taste in my mouth.

How time changes. How I have changed. As a little girl I ardently wished I was a boy. It was a dream I frequently dreamt. I considered my brother, my cousin brothers and all the boys as the luckiest people on the earth.

“They’re free. Powerful. They can do anything, go any­where and their mothers don’t say anything to them. They don’t have to clean the house, wash the dishes. They only have to study and play on the street.”

I thought God had played a trick on me. “That’s not fair. Why didn’t God make me a boy,” I would whimper to my­self. Most of my childhood fantasies had this affixed to them: ‘If I was a boy…’

If I was a boy I would have become a wanderer, climbed the mountains, tread the forests (as there were no mountains, no forests in Karachi, they were even more tempting). But as a girl I could only do boring chores at home and study and aspire either to become a doctor or to get mar­ried. Up until my teens I thought I had only either medicine or marriage as an option. I grew up when I couldn’t attain either.

And as I grew up I saw that men are not all strong and neither was their life a bed of roses. And I realised a person doesn’t necessarily have to be a man in order to live a life of his/her own. I think it’s wonderful to be a woman. And if God would give me nine lives I would ask Him to create me a woman nine times.

Why do I go off the track? Wasn’t I wondering about sec­ond marriagesand love? Oh yes. It’s beyond my comprehen­sion why men fall in love at 50 with women 15-20 years younger than them. I have seen many old, married men doing exactly that. But I haven’t yet come across a wo­man of even 40 falling in love with a boy and deserting her husband or child.

“A mother’s love is the most powerful emotion. The child’s love puts a heavy chain at on rid her. She can’t break it, you see.” my friend said. “But for a father this love can be fragile. As momentary as lust. Only a man can crush his feel­ing for his child. But never a mother,” She switched off the TV.

And I kept on wondering. Even if a married woman is empowered by the love of another man, even if she deserts the husband, the children, like Anna Karenina, she is a woman destroyed, burnt inside, licked by the conflict. Why not the man?

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