Part 1 – The set up
When people talk about arranged marriages the sympathy and focus tends to be on the woman. The majority articles also seem to look at mostly situations where one person is forcibly married to someone from another country. Usually these articles seem to be written by observers rather than people stuck in them, a prison looks very different depending on which side of the bars you are looking from. Here’s a note from an inmate who happens to be male.
Arranged marriage was always on the cards for me. Born in Birmingham, raised in London, I automatically knew this was to be my fate. It didn’t bother me and I didn’t think about it much. Cousins and people around me would get on with it after marriage anyway. My sister had her arranged marriage when I was 18 (she was 23). Then my older brother when I was about 24, he was divorced by the time I was 29.
I myself put it off as long as I could. Not the sensible way of discussing with my mum or dad, but just avoiding the whole situation. It must be said I wasn’t tied down and beaten into my prison. My father asked me if I had someone; I had broken off recently from quite long relationship and was still a little heartbroken from it. So I said no and he talked me further into it. I thought I haven’t done much to make my parents happy in life so if this will, well fine. I reckoned that I had let them take all the major decisions in my life when I couldn’t make them as a child so let them make this, the biggest one as well. After all, they are almost certainly going to make a better choice than me right?
One evening after a night of smoking the great green herb, I came home and thought I had successfully sneaked into my room unnoticed. Alas, my father walked in a few minutes later. I remember I had a sofa in my room and as I lay buzzing on my bed, he sat on the seat. He went on and on and on about this girl. Oh she’s from a good family, she’s got a good heart, she took her father to Hajj alone when he was old and she was 15. She will take care of the house and be a good Muslim wife, blah blah blah blah… damn this dude wasn’t stopping. So I looked at him
“Dad, if I say yes, will you shut up?”
“Cool dad, do it”
My dad was relieved. As he walked out he looked at me before walking through the door and asked “You happy though yeah?” I just smiled at him and replied “yeah”. I should point out that as a result of this night, I subsequently decided to give up marijuana for the rest of my life. Cloud, silver lining and all that crap…
I didn’t bother going to my own engagement. I figured somehow if I didn’t see here then she didn’t exist… Not the cleverest thought I’ve had, but I was having flings with girls here and there so in my mind if I didn’t meet her she didn’t exist like I said and thus technically I wasn’t cheating. So I carried on in my merry way, my dad asked if I wanted to see her nope. My sister said should she get her phone number, and I said nope again. I just didn’t want to know. Ain’t seen her ain’t spoken to her so she don’t exist. Dumbass…. boy did she exist…
I did get some information thrown randomly at me. The girl was from Lancashire. Her family was neighbours for generations to my granddad from my mum’s side in their village in Kashmir. He father had served in the British navy. He had died some years ago and was famous for being a nice if strict kind of man. The household was taken over by his eldest son who I had met a couple of times before any of this was cooked up. He was older than me but I had always respected him. Girl was British born, educated here (didn’t even complete GCSEs I was later to find out) had done the Hajj pilgrimage which is a big thing for Muslims and one of the pillars of our religion. Fair play I thought sounds typical of what my parents would like and a far cry from the girls I had dated over the years!
So the date was set. I got the suits and I think everything else was arranged by my family. All I had to do was turn up. Unfortunately, I did just that.
Before that though, about a week before the date set, I realized, Holy shit this is really happening. So while everyone was decorating the house and stuff, I pulled mum and dad to one side.
“Umm pops, mum, I can’t do this”
“What you mean?”
“Well, ya know, I don’t think I’m kinda ready for marriage”
“NOW you tell us?”
“Umm well yeah, can we like not do this please?”
I was told how I would ruin the girl’s life, how the girl’s family would be disgraced and all the wedding cards had gone out and all sorts. True, I couldn’t blame my parents for this. Why the fuck I was in a comatose state up till now was beyond me. Maybe it was the girl I had just met, Heather. I had met her in Barbados, and she was telling me to come down to the States and it was tempting. Maybe, maybe I am just slow in reacting.
I had put my parents in an awkward situation and now had really check mated myself. I thought and I remembered someone telling me about Istiharas. Now these are funky! What you do is say a prayer and go to sleep, then God tells you apparently in your dream what to do. A drowning man clutches onto straws. So as I had no idea how to do this I went to a religious scholar or Imam. This guy was cool; he could speak English properly and was more or less same age as me. So I told him to do some of this dream stuff for me. There had to be specific questions I was told so I asked him the questions and had to come back a couple of days later. We met up and he told me he had don’t the Istihara many times (afternoon naps included I guess!) and had come with the following results
Question Should I go to America?
Answer Strong no
Question Should I marry this woman arranged?
Answer Yes I should
Question Will I be happy if I marry her
Answer No Answer
Fucking A …. That weren’t no help! So I guess I thought that meant I should go ahead with the marriage.
Me and my friends all got in a limo and headed up to Lancashire. There were cameras, everyone was dressed up and it was a festive atmosphere; and hey we were cruising in a Limo so hell yeah we were having fun! My tummy started to feel a bit funny when we got closer. We drove to her house and I was bundled into a room full of guys. The imam started saying some prayers then I was asked to repeat them after him. I did so, the Nikka paper was duly produced and I signed. Remember, I still haven’t seen her yet. The Imam takes the paper to the other room where she is in the same position with loads of women around her and returns. We all raise our hands and pray and then everyone starts congratulating me. Hugs and smiles all around. Right, I am married.
Back into the limo with the boys. We drive around the corner and find the new in laws are quite umm… cheapskates? It’s a dinky weird looking hall. Inside there is no décor just tables with white paper covers with plastic cups and plates. Really not much to be said here. Once we were fed at the hall, I was taken around to the woman’s hall. Lead like a primed goat on Eid day. I walked up and barely glanced at her. Didn’t want people saying I was eager. We sat next to each other as people came and greeted. I don’t really remember looking at her or saying anything to her. Just people staring at us while we sat on a stage. They took turns to come up on stage and have photos taken.
We got up and went back to hers in separate cars. From there started the Ruksadi or departure. I saw her a few times now, but quick glancing looks. The events around us were such, people all over the place, made taking her in properly quite difficult. Still, didn’t make me scream and run for the hills I suppose so couldn’t have been all bad impressions.
Most couples would go off in the same.car. I decided to jump in with the boys once again. Far more entertaining. We took the long journey home.
It was late when we got in, and there were a few traditions that I had to go through. I went through them and about an hour later I walked up into my bedroom to find my new life partner tucked up in what would no longer be my bed. “listen love, this is hard enough for me as well without you falling asleep on me” she moved and said she wasn’t asleep. Great I thought, this is one of them chatting all night missions…
Part 2 to follow The life