When something goes wrong with a marriage, it’s generally the woman whose life is wrecked. I know quite a few women whom miseries have befallen after marriage and I often think had they not been married they wouldn’t have suffered. But if they had remained unmarried, their lives might have been empty. And I wonder if a feeling of emptiness is better than a life of pain. Or is it choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea? I don’t really know.
Anyway. There is one marriage I have seen which destroyed the man and not the woman. Marriage killed him. I mean literally.
I had attended her wedding. A typical wedding it was. And Tabassum made a typical bride — beautiful, bejewelled, stony. I looked at her up close. Her eyes were closed. There was nothing on her face I could read.
‘Oh God!’ I felt helpless. I wanted so much to know what was going on inside her head, inside her heart. If only I could have a glimpse of the soul behind the glossy, inert mass of bridal red.
She was getting married. To a widower. Her brother-in-law! And her dead sister’s children, bewildered and silent, encircled their Choti khala, their new ammi.
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).
Sometimes I wonder why most of the suffering humans I come across happen to be women. Perhaps I look at the world with a tinted glass, with a feminist hue. Which makes women substantial, of flesh and blood, anchored in the centre of my visual span. While men, papery, ghost-like, float at the periphery.
Is my perception selective? Might be. But I don’t understand this process of selectivity. It is in my genes which make me perceive, make me feel so intensely about my own kind? Or is it in the environ — the women’s condition — which etch them on my mind?
I try hard. Yes, I do remember a few men whom I know closely. Who had suffered in life. Or are suffering. Of poverty, or disease, or circumstances. But their miseries I always ascribe either to fate or to their own failure. That’s not the case with women. Somehow I always find a man behind a suffering woman.
It was for the first time in my life, as far as I remember, that I reacted to a murder in that peculiar way: awe and delight. My instant reaction was ‘Bravo!’ when I read the news, ‘She shot her lover dead.’
Slightly disturbed at this brutal reaction to a gruesome act, I tried to make amends by reasoning with myself: ‘But she destroyed herself too. Didn’t she? She might be hanged.’
But damn the gallows.
The fact remains that I was fascinated and still can’t make myself believe she did a wrong. And I am not alone. I talked to a few friends of mine, all women, about this episode that took place in Lahore and was reported two weeks back. And they all reacted the same way.
Could marriage be the most boring end of a romance? Once I thought it couldn’t be. And I used to be furious at those who mocked at love-birds when they took wedding vows. Now as I watch Seema and Umer, married for the last six months, I couldn’t help but yawn and say, “How boring!”
Since the days when I was an idealist and had a heady notion of love, I have observed some love marriages. And how did they turn out? Anywhere between sour, troubled, smooth or inspiring. Never before did I witness a love marriage that was boring.
For instance, Parveen and Sultan’s turned out to be a real tough one.
After marriage Parveen found out Sultan wasn’t ambitious enough and he discovered she was too materialistic. And they both realised their likes and dislikes weren’t the same.
Why can’t we have men friends the way we have women friends? A volatile question indeed, that often puzzles a friend of mine. She thinks women can have friendship with men.
What she means by friendship is a relationship based on mutual understanding and care and sharing of interests and ideas — minus motive, sans desire. Just like a relationship that exists between two female friends.