Saadia Azim

Others


1.5  

Saadia Azim

Others


Simply Divorced!

Simply Divorced!

14 mins 19.6K 14 mins 19.6K

Friday night at half past ten!

“Half past eight in Doha, Qatar was still two and a half hour behind”, Talat estimated as she looked up at the wall clock and hurried to finish the dishes.

Quickly she filled a glass of lukewarm water and another with hot milk, arranged in the tray and rushed to her Khalu Abba (maternal aunt’s husband). Khalu Abba laid quietly settling his glasses and trying to locate his favorite channel resting in the newly furnished sofa. He had been watching television all through all day long. Still he surfed through channels looking for Urdu News, he so admired.

“405, Abba!” Talat helped. She kept down the tray on the side table and hastened to get his medicines. “Did you take the medicines, I kept here?” she asked, in midst of doing everything everywhere -making of the old man’s bed, providing him food and medicines and discussing politics.

“Abba”, she continued, “Did you hear about the infant thrown in the dustbin. Is there a law to stop people being thrown out of their homes”?

She was talking. He wasn’t bothered.

That day Talat was in an unusual hurry. Not because she was tired, but she had an urgent message emailed to her by Khalil.

Khalil, her husband of three months with whom she spent the first few nights of their marriage in midst of festivities communicated with her through WhatsApp messages. WhatsApp messages are free of cost and faster to reach out.

Everyday he sent her messages on Faith, Spiritualism, and Quran - The Holy Book. She wondered why, but then she thought he cared.

Today in the most unusual manner he had sent her a mail. And followed it with an urgent WhatsApp message!

Khalil was Khala’s (maternal aunt) eldest son. Yet since their hush-hush wedding he talked very little to her. “He is shy always”, Khala, his mother comforted “also he is busy earning money. Just for us”!

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That day Khalil followed his first message with three others.

The first said, “Have sent an urgent mail, read and accept”.

“Urgent! Very…very urgent!” noted the second.

“???”, was the third showing his restlessness.

“What’s so urgent”, she guessed. “Is he fine”, her heart pounced. “Or something at work”, she panicked. He was on a contract for two years and she knew foreign workers had “no say” in the Middle East countries. “Was he hassled”, she reasoned. “Does that mean he is returning” she was happy. “Or was there another issue”, her heart dropped.

“He wouldn’t tell me”, she relaxed. “We never spoke heart to heart”, she calmed. “So why send an urgent email”. She was nervous.

That night Khala, her aunt as usual groaned from her bed as she passed by. It was Khala’s way of asking for her daily night foot massage. Talat sat back near her aunt on the bed to press her feet. While the urgent message from her husband waited she wouldn’t let Khala sleep in pain.

Another pop up message from Khalil broke her thoughts. “???” He was impatient.

“Khala, I have an urgent message from Doha”.

“Is he fine”, Khala, her mother- in- law was anxious.

“He must be. Or else he would call you”, she consoled.

“So you guys are now on phone all the time”.

“No! He has an urgent message sent on my email. I have to answer. I need my computer”, she answered.

“Huh! Finish the massage first so that I sleep peacefully”.

Another round of uncounted minutes passed by as Talat rubbed her aunt’s feet and silently dozed off unaware of how much time passed away.

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Since eleven years of age, she had been fond of Khala. Khala called on her at times of need. When she visited their home Talat made tea for her, when her feet ached, Talat massaged her. When there was no water in the house Talat fetched water from the public tube well. Khala loved the obedient girl. Also Talat was her younger sister’s eldest daughter and a replica of her mother. Ammi, her mother was a fighter and so was she in times of distress.

When during a regular Friday prayer Abbu (her father) passed away suddenly, life changed forever. Abbu had a heart attack. He fell ill while squatting during Namaz (prayer). But then he always had an ailment. This was the third heart attack and he would not have survived. She knew this somewhere within and so she prayed every day for him that he lived on.

But he wouldn’t.

When he was brought dead at home, Talat did not cry. She had no time to. She was busy attending to the mourners. Khala had hurriedly come with her two daughters in the newly owned car. Her eldest son Khalil had bought it for them on his return from Doha. Khalil worked for an American company and was paid in dollars. So Khala afforded the renovation of her old house and bought the car. “An elder son is an asset”, Khala believed in.

But Ammi was hysterical at the death of the sole earning member of her house. And also because she had dependent daughters! So Khala proposed marriage for her grieving sister’s elder daughter with her elder son Khalil. In the middle of all the grief and misery, it was marriage for Talat. “Talat is my daughter. Let her remain mine for life”, Khala told all those mourning that day.

“You must ask Khalil once”, Ammi meekly protested.

“What is there to ask? A daughter will stay back in her own home?” she had argued. “Khalil knows her well. It will all be in the family”.

Ammi went reassured. “When Allah closes all doors he opens a window for us”, she consoled Talat. Talat was comforted. She knew it was within the family. Khalil was her first cousin. Now he will be her soulmate.

Khalil only said, “Whatever made her (Khala) happy”.

Just when the forty days of mourning period were over, twenty five people had come in with the groom to wed her. Uncles and aunts, cousins and their wives, priests and preachers belonging to both families were invited through handwritten letters. Talat wrote on behalf of Ammi and Khala in chaste Urdu, “In the name of Allah, the benevolent, we, sisters (Rahima and Shamima) have decided to formalize the wedding of our children, Khalil and Talat. As part of our family we invite you to the Nikah ceremony. With your blessings a new chapter of our relationship is being written. ”

The Maulana Sahib (religious scholar) read the Kalima, out and loud. Talat sat in midst of elderly ladies, all groaning and moaning. She had nodded her head vehemently during the Nikaah and signed eagerly in a thick register of the Qazi. The marriage was solemnized.

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When she met Khalil that night alone in her room, he was watching a video on his smartphone. He said, “I am leaving for Doha on Sunday”.

Sunday, was three nights away. But before she could say something, Khala called her loudly. She wanted Talat to know her new duties. By the time Talat returned, Khalil was fast asleep.

She slept next to him clinging on one side of the large bed. Late that night in the darkest hour he reached out, holding her in his warm arms. She did not move she just melted. He whispered, “You’re the first! Amongst blood relatives,” and joked away. She went red, smiling in the dark.

He was her husband, her beloved!

For the next three days Khalil remained busy. He went out with friends and came back with them. They sat together in the room till late at night, playing video games and eating Kababs.

When Khalil left she took over his bed and slept peacefully for the first few days. Later her younger sisters- in- law noticed her delight. They barged into her room to watch TV away from the prying eyes of their parents. Then they took over her bed. Instead she shifted in an additional couch in one corner of the room near the computer table.

Talat was happy. That way she got her own space and also the computer. Long after she finished her daily household work at nights she worked on her computer learning embroidery designs for handicraft work. She planned to put up a sale exhibition of her products when Khalil came home next time.

Khala did not approve. She thought Khalil sent good amount of money for home. And Talat did not need any.

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This night was special. First time Khalil had written a personal note to her. A week before he mentioned about something important during their one-liner phone chats.

“Is it about us”, she had asked.

“Yes! Are you happy?”

“Yes! How about you?

“I don’t know”.

“You mean you are not happy with me”.

“I did not say so”.

“What is there in your mind?” she was confused.

“Something illicit”, he taunted. “Keep to yourself”.

She did not understand.

Two days back again he had sent her another message. On her mobile phone!

“Your Ammi will be hurt. I love Khalajaan. She took good care of me in my childhood”.

“What is it about?”

“I don’t want to hurt anyone”.

“If it is about us, it won’t hurt others”, she wrote innocently.

“It is about you”, he answered nastily switching off his phone. She could not nudge him further.

So that day when the email came she was filled with an uncertain fear. The fear of an unknown loss, grief, heartache! “Was she loved? Was she home?”

“What if Khalil did not want her?” questions hounded her.

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Late that night slowly and silently she got up in the dark and left for her room. The table lamp was left switched on her computer table. The two sisters in law slept peacefully on the larger bed. She switched the UPS on first and then the desktop. It took a few minutes for her to go online.

As she signed in to her inbox there were a number of junk mails. She searched for Khalil’s and spotted his name in midst of the pile. He had sent it with an attachment. FYI was written on the body of the mail. He had signed it off with his full name Khalilur Rehman, B.E, Aristocratic Systems Inc, Nakheel Street, Doha.

She double clicked the attachment, her heart pounding. It took minutes for the word file to open. It was a five year old computer and data connectivity slow. She stared at the email message on her computer, her mind racing so fast that the words blurred together and no longer made any sense. Just three lines, but enough to make her life--the life she’d worked so hard and sacrificed so much to build--begin to crumble around her.

“Was it the end?” She asked herself. “Was she alive? “Who was she now?” “Something had changed!”

She looked around. Everything was at peace with themselves except for the tremble in her hands. Her mind went racing, heart jumping stomach churning. She struggled to gulp air, her mouth dried. Eyes welled up and something hit within, reaching out to the left of her chest.

“Death was near! She thought. “Or someone was dead?” she tried to regain control clearing her vision. Indeed, she was crying. The tears dropped on own.

Her world had just come down crumbling. She sat in the chair as still as possible, as little as possible. There was no water around to drink.

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It was Khalu Abba’s morning Namaaz that brought her back to senses. He was attending to the “Fajr (dawn) prayers, the first among the five times of Namaaz of the day. Collecting all her bit she rushed passed Khala almost toppling herself from the corner of her bed.

Her aunt whined. “Who’s there?”

“It’s me Khala!” she answered. “Are you awake?”

“Talat, it’s Fajr time. If you can’t sleep go for Namaaz. Let’s talk in the morning”, the older lady dozed off.

Talat withdrew, quietly to her bed. Was Khalil awake? She checked his WhatsApp status. He had seen the messages at ten last night. She removed the curtains of the windows near her bed. The street lights were dim at dawn. There was no one on the streets.

Khalil’s email had just three lines.

“In the presence of Maulana Abdul Rahim Qazi, Maulana Parwez Hamid and Maulana Zakiur Rehman as witnesses, due to my personal needs that you did not fulfil as a wife, I hereby divorce you according to Islamic law”.

“Talaq, Talaq, Talaq!”

“Now abide by the rules of the Nikahnama and decide for yourself on your own.

Khalil had pronounced “Talaq”, in writing, the most detested word in Islamic marriage. Yet it meant she was divorced, separated, estranged, deserted homeless forever. The Maulana sahib during her marriage had explained “Talaq was the last step in a failed marriage. Allah does not approve of it. Yet for the well-being of the couple who no longer want to stay together, the man can divorce his wife pronouncing Talaq three times”.

Khalil wrote she had not fulfilled her duty “as a wife”. But had he, as a husband?”

“Will someone ask?”, yet the foremost thought in her mind were that of Ammi and Khala. “What will they do?”

Nikah was a written mutual agreement between couples in Islamic marriages. If he had not wanted her why did he agree to marry? He was the man, powerful, resourceful and knowledgeable. His parents would have listened to him. They would listen to him now too. “Who’ll listen to her?”

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It was Khala’s distant voice that broke her thought. “What do I hear?” Khala shouted. “What did you do?” Khalil had called up his parents first thing on that fateful morning.

“Why didn’t you ask for forgiveness?” Khala was angry. Talat stood stoic. She did not know if she breathed. She tried to feel the air around.

Khalu Abba talked to Khalil over the phone. “This is the practice” she heard him saying. “Talat has to be sent back to her home NOW”. “Marriages are confirmed by Allah’s law. And it is over between the two of you, she has to go”. “We’ll work out the Meher (Nikaah settlement). I will speak to Maulana Sahib”, he said.

Khala was on tears. For Khalil, she was crying. He was her son. “If you had told me ahead of time I could have done something”, she told Talat.

Talat herself did not know what happened. She never knew “Mere words could break heart. It broke homes. And no amount of blood in the relationship worked.”

Within minutes Khala dialed Ammi. Khalu talked to Maulana Sahib on the landline phone. They would all come together to discuss her future. In twenty minutes time Maulana Asraful Haq with his two disciples were in. By then Ammi had called up and spoken to her thrice. Ammi was coming over with Chachu (uncle) to settle matters. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents were all called. It needed a family forum again. Relationships had to rewritten following the e-mail.

Faith said she was Haraam (forbidden) for Khalil. So she no longer belonged there. Some people talked loudly, some in whispers. Some discussed faith, some practice. Some talked sense and some were senseless. Talat stood staring the blank. The newly painted wall near the doorway provided her support.

We will provide the Meher money. But now on she does not belong to this home, this family .If she stays on that will be Haram ( the forbidden). This is the Quranic law”, Maulana Saheb explained. “She cannot live here, out of his money. She is now just another woman… for Khalil. They have no relation. She has her dignity”.

“Talat is the unfortunate”, “her life is over”, Ammi had come over crying.

“But she is married according to Shariah (Islamic) law. The divorce though discouraged in religion, yet is complete and acceptable. She has to move on”, Maulana Sahib was particular about “Faith”.

“The husband cannot take her back unless she is purified by “Halala”. That meant she has to wed someone else and seek re-divorce to remarry her former husband. This is the ultimate punishment for the man who left her. Nothing can make him more remorseful than seeing his wife wedded to someone else. And the woman can decide never to come back to him. This is Faith, this is the practice. In any case she has to leave”.

In midst of all the crying, arguments, accusations and insinuations, people talked about her as she remained unwanted, uprooted. She had no place of her own.

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Quietly she took out her mobile phone from her jumper pockets and noticed Khalil on the display screen. He was smiling and seemed at peace with himself.

"How can laws be so unjust. Who made this; all the life a woman's home is made or lost by whims and fancies of the man", "and still the law is said to Quranic words. Can this be true?" she thought. "Why do his decisions have to take away my home, my family every time?” "Should I just agree to this", "I need home, my own place" she kept wondering questioning herself. "Can any law stop people being thrown out of their homes” “those like me, banished by marriage and then with Talaaq (Divorce)”.

She looked at Khala, in hope. The older woman was on similar thoughts. She slowly walked towards Talat. Khala was murmuring, “He betrayed and he’d be punished!”

“Talat is my daughter-in-law for life. Relations cannot be made and determined just by son's" "No Maulana Saheb, we will not agree".

Khala went louder for all to hear. “Allah’s law cannot be unfair, Maulana, I think your interpretations are. Please revisit the laws. How can a just law take away her home who made it", "Talat made home with Khalil, how can he decide to break it by himself. Khalil has to go away for Allah’s sake. I own this house and Talat will be my heir, by law. Her children will then inherit her”

She placed her hands on the small bulge at Talat’s tummy, and walked away holding her. They knew their struggle had only begun.


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