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?