We never heard from Ilyas’s family again, which was to be expected. I put the incident out of my mind and concentrated on my madrassah and family. A part of me was hoping I wouldn’t get any other proposals, till I had finished madrassah at least but I had no such luck. Two months after Ilyas’s proposal I received another one, this one from some Nabeel Umar. It was Imraan chacha who approached dad with the proposal, adding that he had seen the boy around and thought him to be a nice, decent boy. Mum and dad did the usual background checks, found nothing wrong and gave me their go-ahead. I sighed and gave in. Now that the ball was rolling I was resigned and compliant; feeling like I had taken a front seat in a show and was watching to see how it all played out.
And so it happened that one week later I was readying myself for my second samoosa run. This time the nervousness that had marked the first one was conspicuously missing; in its place was a calm acceptance. It couldn’t get worse than the last one and that was some comfort.
Nabeel arrived with his parents in tow. The men adjoined in the lounge while I sat with his mum and mine in the front room. His mum seemed nice, speaking in her low, quiet voice. She asked me few things but mainly spoke to mum of general things. After the samoosas and refreshments had been served dad called my name and I got up to go to the dining room.
I walked in confidently, a smile fixed on my face, then halted, trying to make sense of the scene before me. Nabeel was seated in a chair at the far end of the dining room, his chair angled towards the wall. He was examining the same wall with complete absorption and didn’t look up even once when I entered, though the clattering of my heels announced my presence perfectly well. I hesitated, wondering where to sit. The chairs were all placed around the dining table which was some distance from where he sat. It would be weird to sit there then speak loudly to be heard. The whole house would be able to hear us at that rate! But did he really expect me to drag my chair over to him??
In the end I decided to do just that, out of a belated sense of prudence and wisdom. Shame, the guy must be really shy and awkward. I should try to make things easier for him at least.
“Uhmm, Assalamu alaykum,” I said once I was seated.
“Wa…” his voice cracked and he cleared his throat a few times. The muscles in his throat convulsed as he swallowed, “wa alaykum salaam.”
“How are you?” I asked.
The silence that enshrouded us was so thick that I think even my mother’s sharpest, longest kitchen knife wouldn’t be able to cut through it. I opened my mouth…shut it again…stared at his head and his left ear which was a deep shade of pink, then at his cheek which was painted in the same colour…and wondered if he would actually faint from shyness. Did such a guy even exist in these besharam times we lived in?? Which rock had he been hiding under? I mean, I knew haya was a really good and valuable quality to have but there were times and places for that also. But at a samoosa run when it was halaal to look at the girl?? That was way over the top now.
Cut him some slack, Faz. Bicharo, at least you know he hasn’t messed around with girls before. And he might be nice once he gets over his shyness.
I leaned slightly to one side, trying to peer into his eyes which were fixed so resolutely on the wall in front of him that it seemed he was trying to see right inside it, to the bricks and mortar concealed within.
“Ahem…” he jerked slightly but didn’t move his gaze, “would you like to ask any questions? Anything you’d like to know?”
His gaze never wavered though his ears and cheeks went even redder.
“What would you like of life?”
“Huh?” I blinked, confused. When he didn’t elaborate any further I started disassembling his sentence, “do you mean what I want in life? Or how I would like to spend my life?”
A brief nod was his answer.
“Well, I want to finish off my alima course. Then I’d like to teach and be a good wife and mother. Instill islamic values in my children, all that. Live my life as a good Muslim…travel to different places…I love travelling…” I smiled, not that he could see it. Then I leaned to my left again, to look at him better. “And you, Nabeel? What would you like in life?”
“Err, same. What you said.”
“What? You’d also like to be a good wife and mother? Won’t it be too much if both of us adopt the same roles?” I teased. When all my teasing earned me was a short jerk of his mouth and even redder cheeks and ears I sighed.
He shook his head and lurched to his feet. “I have to go now.”
“Is this your first samoosa run?” The question slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it. It made him start slightly then hunch forward even more.
“Well, you can relax, you know. Us girls aren’t dangerous creatures. We don’t bite, kassam.”
“I know,” he mumbled.
“And you’re allowed to talk to girls on samoosa runs, you know. You can even look at them. It’s not besharam or a sin, honest. I mean, I’ve been looking at you for so long that I can even count the pimples on your cheeks but you don’t even know what colour my eyes are…” okay, I really should stop before the poor guy digs a hole and buries himself right here. But I was enjoying myself for the first time since this meeting began, “if you don’t know how I look how will you know if you should propose or not?”
He shot me the briefest of glances, mumbled, “you’ll pass,” and ran out of there like there were wild beasts on his heels. Which he probably thought there was. A big one. Me. He probably thought I’d football tackle him to the ground and eat him whole if he remained in the same room as me for even one more second.
“I’ll pass? Gee thanks, mate. I’m honoured by your gushing compliment,” I said to the empty room, rolling my eyes. I was overcome with the insane urge to laugh but I controlled myself, arranged my features into a suitable, timid mask like the haari pooiri I was and went to sit with his mother again. I studiously avoided looking at mum, Sumi or Han, who were making eyes at me, for fear of cracking my carefully erected mask. By the time they left I felt like a dam about to burst and I did as soon as the door closed behind them. I slid to the floor and laughed and laughed and laughed, ignoring the dozens of questions thrown my way.
“Faz! Seriously man, was he that funny? Tell us what happened in that dining room now, go on!” Han demanded.
I sat up and wiped tears of mirth from my eyes. “I think I scared him away,” I admitted with an impenitent grin, “poor guy.”
I narrated the whole story to them while they gaped at me in amazement.
“You mean he sat facing the wall the whole time??” Sumi blurted out, “I’ve heard of haya but this is extreme, man!”
“Exactly. And he didn’t say anything at all except when I asked him if he had any questions. Then he goes, “what would you like of life.” I was there scratching my head wondering what he meant and he didn’t even bother to elaborate!”
“Shame man, must be one shy guy,” mum said.
“Too shy man. I’m too loud and rough for him. He needs a soft, quiet girl like himself.”
“Opposites attract. You could complement him well, you never know,” dad put in but I shook my head.
“I don’t see myself with him, I really don’t.”
“Let’s see if he proposes first then we can see what to do next,” mum said and that was that.
Much to my surprise Nabeel did propose. His mum told mine that he had found me to be a nice, quiet girl and thought we would suit. I tried not to look so shocked at that. Mum told me to make istikhara at least though I had no positive feelings for him. I went ahead and did so but didn’t receive any positive answer and so, with some relief I closed the door on that as well…
P.S. Next post will be on Friday inshaAllah