(A Father’s memoir on a daughter’s marriage.)
There are moments in life, when sadness and sorrow are mixed with joy and jubilation-when it becomes virtually impossible to eradicate and extricate sadness and only enjoy the gaiety and glamour of the occasion.
These are moments when the full impact of life’s most precious ‘possession’, about to leave, strikes one’s heavy heart with its devastating and shattering blow with force and ferocity. One such moment is a daughter’s marriage.
I vividly remember when my daughter got married and was about to leave Karachi, the entire spectrum of her eventful life flashed suddenly across my mind during her “rukh sati”.
Going down memory lane, how happy my wife and I were when my daughter was born, everyone was thrilled except my mother who did not conceal her dismay because the innocent child wasn’t a boy! I simply cannot forget the memorable and jubilant moment when the nurse called me at home to announce the birth of our baby. It was past midnight, when I dashed in my flashy car to the maternity clinic; and the peace and tranquility of the cool and crisp atmosphere matched perfectly with the peace and pleasantness within my joyful heart.
It was an ecstatic moment as I stared proudly at her tiny, pink face with eyes firmly closed. At that moment, who would have thought that these solidly shut eyes, perhaps not wanting to see the ugliness of the world around, would one day open wide with all their bending beauty and tears when she would depart for her husband’s home? Even at this sublime and sunny occasion of her birth, one ‘son-addict’ reminded me that a daughter after all is as we say in Gujarati, ” someone else’s wealth” and consoled me by saying that next time, Inshaallah, I will be blessed with a son!
As I rested in my bed gloomily during my daughter’s “rukh sati”, my thoughts travelled in retrospect a long distance, when my wife and I had to face the initial; teething troubles together-the sleepless nights, the constant changing of nappies and the regular interruption in the peaceful atmosphere caused by the cacophony of the baby’s yelling; which, nevertheless, was sweet and soothing music to us.
My nostalgic memories reminded me of the ear-splitting crying, yelling and protestations I had to patiently endure when dropping her at the nursery for the first few days! What a ‘painful nuisance’ it seemed to me then; but certainly not as painful and agonising as I was patiently enduring now, as I stared at her quietly sitting engrossed in her sorrowful thoughts. Why must she leave?
We had named her Zeenat, (luminous decoration) and she was truly our home’s Zeenat. Many a times, she would transform my dismal despondency into joy and jubilation with her mirthful extroversion. Many a times she used to say, ‘Daddy, when I am with you, why are you so sad?” I reluctantly told her once that she would not be with me always; and one day she would become a beautiful bride and leave me. In her childish innocence, she would reply: “No daddy, I will never leave you.”
One fine morning, a boy from London, after completing his studies, came to Karachi and put up opposite our flat. Little did I realise then that this ‘ saintly-looking stranger’ would eventually turn out to be the ‘rascal’ who would take away my daughter from me one day! He took a liking to my daughter and she reciprocated his sentiments. Soon, her formal engagement took place. On this occasion, I felt for the first time that my daughter now, metaphorically speaking, wasn’t mine any longer and was a temporary guest at my home, who would soon leave for her destined destination.
Then came the most important and auspicious occasion in my daughter’s life, and the saddest in mine…..her marriage. The dazzling multi-coloured lights outside my flat and in the lawn looked really colourful and beautiful; but the ‘light’ within me, which used to illuminate my life, was already extinguished with her departure.
I was completely oblivious, engrossed in my thoughts, to the fun and frolic going on in full swing in my flat. The ladies in their colourful saris and trendy shalwar-kameez wa and the gents ‘ dressed to kill’, all seemed blurred to my eyes full of tears. The sound of the bride’s friends singing during the ” mending” ceremony was cacophonic to my ears. The glamour and gaiety around me seemed to distract my eyes glued as they were to my daughter a lively girl looking so sad.
With Zeenat’s marriage, a painful final chapter in my entire book of life came to its traumatic epilogue. The entire panorama of her prideful life flashed suddenly across my mind during her “rukh sati”. How I cuddled her as a baby, played with her as a child and enjoyed her jovial and extrovert company as a teenager-now the times we shared together would soon pale away and become painful nostalgic memories.
The final moment of extreme agony and anguish had yet to come, when my family and I went to the Cantt. Station to bid her a tearful and tormenting farewell. She was sobbing uncontrollably and I had to make colossal efforts to stay calm and composed. We waved to each other as the train slowly whisked out of sight.
This was certainly the most touching, moving and sad occasion in my life-my darling daughter’s departure. But then, I remembered the great sage Buddha’s sublime saying;”The cause of human suffering is obsessive attachment to the concept of ‘MY’- ‘my health’; my comfort; my happiness; my son; my daughter. When they leave you one day, as they are bound to, suffering comes.
My inner most wish, prayer and hope, with respect to my daughter, is that she to”make me proud”. And finally she does that with her amicable disposition in her new home, she will have not only repaid in an abundant measure, all the lavishness of love showered by me upon her from childhood to adulthood, but amply fulfilled her duty which a daughter in our society is supposed to perform—-by sacrificing her comfort and happiness; and sometimes patiently and ungrudgingly enduring the trauma and torment, just to make her home an abode of peace and tranquility; thereby fulfilling her parents’ most cherished desire, Isn’t daughter in our society, symbolic of true Islamic womanhood; symbolic of all sublime values of our tradition and culture which we all cherish?
It was an extremely heartbreaking feeling as I sorrowfully returned home from the station and stared at the now empty bed and cried my heart out. Only the sublime verse of Khalil Gibran from his world famous Classic The Prophet gave me some consolation and solace:
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”