How I Met My Son’s MotherPosted: November 21, 2013
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“Here, I have her bio data from your aunt.” With a gleam in her eye, my mother turned around her laptop towards me. “Take a look.”
Kids, the year was 2006 and the hunt for my other half was in full swing. My parents got emails daily and all the aunties had been Put On Notice. Now, one of them had sent a biodata to my mother. Slightly curious, since I have heard so many good things about this latest prospect – who I was told could be The One – I began to read the email. Her name sounded slightly familiar as I continued to read. University education. Check. Bengali. Check. Muslim. Check. Four years younger than me. Check. Beautiful? Oh. My. God.
“This is…this is-,” I struggled to find the words to explain my perplexity. I KNEW this girl! With an incredulous tone, I told my mother who she was.
“She was a member of our student group. She has been going out with this guy since, like, forever!”
“Hmm.” With a disappointed note of “back-to-square-one-we-go-again” in her voice, my mother hit Delete. “I wonder if her own parents know!”
You see, it wasn’t supposed to be so difficult. I was a very logical person and my whole life was planned. I was brought up in the Middle East (United Arab Emirates, to be precise). I studied hard in school to ace my O- and A- Levels. I knew that the day I turned eighteen, I was expected to have gained admission into a prestigious university in the West. Which I did. With scholarship. And yes, I did party and enjoy my university life, but it was all halal fun (well, mostly; if you count saying bismillah over a Big Mac before wolfing it down as halal).
I never went after girls. The equation was simple. Time is money, and money is also money, therefore time and money spent on a girl equals money wasted. Save that money for your big dhamaka marriage because, drum roll, my parents would find me someone right after I graduate. After all, they themselves hadn’t known each other before their marriage, and arranged marriages were how all of my cousins were getting married back in Bangladesh.
Well, about that. It turned out that we now had a problem. There were no good girls in Canada. And I don’t mean no girl is good for my mother because she sees me as Imam Mahdi. No, good as in – well – good. I am not even counting the girl who said she wanted to work for the CIA or the girl with bad oral hygiene (who, ironically, was studying to be a dentist). Those were superficial issues. When I (rather, my parents) started looking for a girl for me, this was the general problem with Bengali girls in Canada.
They were too old. Let’s face it, I didn’t want a wife immediately after I graduated from college. I wanted to take it easy, go on road trips with the guys, chill and enjoy life a little. I was 24 or 25 when I started to think about marriage. And the girls, it turned out, had the same mentality. So here was a 25-year-old guy looking at a 25-year-old girl’s biodata. Seriously, how many guys in an arranged marriage scenario marry a girl of the same age? An arranged marriage is where a guy gets a girl he would never have a shot with in real life. And, for most guys, that means someone younger than themselves. If you are a girl and you want to get married to a 25-year-old guy, start looking when you are 21.
Second, many of them had been in previous relationships , which they had broadcast on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. If I can manage to keep myself chaste (and let’s face it, it wasn’t that there weren’t temptations, or opportunities – when you live on campus, there are always opportunities), is it too much to ask that my wife-to-be has also saved herself for marriage?
Third, they were trying to have it all. Everyone has bought into the myth of a perfect Bollywood marriage. For many girls, it wasn’t just about finding a guy (one who has a house and does not live with his pesky mother and has a BMW), but there should be lifelong romance, beautiful children, lots of money, and year-long summer (in Canada). All the while, the wife will be fully involved in the childrens’ lives, without compromising their work or that promotion, or time with their spouses, or for themselves. That’s not how real life works.
I wanted a wife whose priority was to find a good husband and raise a proper, Islamic family. If that meant taking a little bit of time off from work during the early childhood years, and thus not keeping up with one’s professional peers, so be it. For that, I was told I was a chauvinist.
“Why don’t you go back to Bangladesh?” my cousin asked me. “The problem is, there are only a limited number of Bengali girls in Canada. Come to Bangladesh.”
For a while, I gave that idea serious consideration. In all truth though, as a guy from Canada I really wanted a girl from Canada. We guys really WANT to give you Canadian girls a chance. However, we have the option to go back ‘home’. For many social, cultural or chauvinistic reasons, girls don’t have that option.
And the world has changed, not everyone wants to immigrate to cold, foreign Canada when there are so many opportunities now in Asia. And we guys don’t want a doormat, we just want someone who respects us, will love us, and let’s face it – is hot and good looking and young and knows how to wear a sari (I added that last part). If I wasn’t meeting that someone in Canada, I have that option to search for her in Bangladesh.
Yet, for some reason, I was hesitant about it. What if she simply married me for immigration? There were enough horror stories in the community to go around. What if she could never adjust to Canada? What if she was a FOB?
A year later, I was almost ready to stop believing. I was ready to stop believing that I had done the right thing in not entering into a relationship. That leaving this decision to my parents was the right thing to do. That sticking to your religious morals was the wise choice, no matter how tough it got. That there was someone, somewhere, who was perfect for me, and that I would find her. Love at first sight, I was now ready to believe, was a myth.
“You can’t find someone here in Canada, and you don’t want someone from there in Bangladesh.” my uncle told me. “I think I may have someone just right for you.”
And that is how I met The One.
She was brought up in the Middle East, so she shared my upbringing. She had been to Canada and was now living in Dubai, so it wouldn’t be a huge culture shock. She shared my religious morals, but she was modern and educated. She did not like seafood, but she didn’t mind cooking it. She was into Bollywood. She loved music, and yet was mindful of her prayers. She was young, just graduated, and yes, she looked lovely in a sari. I met her only once before I said yes. We got married ten days after we first met.
Sometimes, you just know. And you have to throw logic out of the window. Was I scared, the night before our nikah, wondering what I was doing? Yes, for sure.
But now, after six beautiful years, and a son about to turn two, she still manages to light up the room when she walks in.
Eds. Note: Check out the broad spectrum of perspectives from Muslim women and men on related topics, below.
Direct responses to Mezba’s post
Aisha Saeed: My problem with traditional desi marriage
Farah Khan: Reflections of a “good” girl
Anjabeen Ashraf on choosing to live a more authentic life in spite of pressure to marry early
Aisha Saeed: Why we have to talk about what hurts
M. Zakir Khan on male privilege in Towards a more perfect Ummah
Mezba Mahtab replies with When searching for right becomes wrong
Sarah Farrukh has Five ways we can reform the “traditional desi marriage” process (AltMuslimah)
Perspectives on related topics
Wajahat Ali on marrying a woman who had been married “823 times before” – in front of a giant cat avatar
Yusef Ramelize in Who I need to be – for you
Mezbauddin Mahtab is an IT professional, photographer, blogger, devoted husband and father currently based in Toronto, Canada. He is the author of a book “Teaching Kids the Holy Quran – Surah 18: The Cave“, which uses LEGO blocks to recreate the stories of Surah Kahf. Mezba maintains a personal blog on A Bengali in TO, and is currently working on a second book on Surah Qasas (The Story).