‘Is that your cousin’s daughter or younger sister?’ I asked my friend Jamila, the moment she returned to the room after seeing off the visitors I met on my way into her house.
‘She’s her eldest daughter, Farida.’ Jamila replied before offering me the choice of a few home made juices.
‘I’ll take the sharbar muluk because it brings back sweet memories. You know there was a time when Tahir wouldn’t take any meal without it. We called it our royal drink because it was originally a drink that only royalty could afford. In the olden days, when ordinary folks took drinks made of ordinary grains, royalty drank the one made of pure white rice. In fact that was how it got it’s name. Sharbar muluk literally means “a drink for kings”. But today people corrupted the pronunciation to sharba milik, making it lose it’s royal essence.’ I explained, smiling nostalgically.
‘Wow, what a historical trip down memory lane.’ Jamila responded, smiling back. ‘Let me get you your sharbar muluk Bint.’ she added, walking towards the kitchen.
‘You know, initially, I thought Farida was your cousin’s daughter but she had such a serious look on her face that made her seem older, so I concluded that your cousin couldn’t have a daughter that old.’ I remarked, when Jamila returned with a juice jug and glass on a tray.
‘Oh, it must be the divorce that’s making her look so serious all the time. Still, she’s not that young either, she’s in her early thirties.’ Jamila answered.
‘The divorce? You mean there is a man who can divorce someone so beautiful and graceful?’ I asked in shock.
‘It’s not just her physical beauty, this young lady is beautiful inside out. I’m not saying this because she’s my niece, I’m saying this because it’s the truth. You know the Hadith in which Rasulillah SAW said that a woman may be chosen for marriage due to any of four reasons, beauty, wealth, pedigree and religious nature. Then he advised that men should choose the religious one and prosper. I assure you that Farida has all of these qualities, except that the wealth isn’t hers, it’s her parent’s.
So when she brought us a handsome young man, well educated and from a good family, we all applauded her choice and believe she deserved nothing less. They looked perfect together, in fact I still have their wedding photo in which they looked like a match in heaven.’ Jamila narrated.
‘So what went wrong in this match of apparent soul mates?’ I asked, thoroughly curious.
‘Apparently the honeymoon didn’t last too long. They married while she was doing her NYSC. The moment she finished he said ‘no work’, that he would be able to provide for them and she said okay. After their first child, she got tired of begging for every little thing, so she said to him she wanted to start some little business from home, something that will enable her to be empowered and still remain the house wife he wanted. He agreed and she went to her father and asked for some venture capital. That was how she started an interior decoration business. She started with selling beddings and because she had good business sense she soon graduated to bridal decorations and even furniture. One day her husband complained that her business was making the house crowded and he valued his peace and quiet. So she asked his permission to move out and rent a shop, to which he agreed. She got a shop and a few sales girls and her business prospered. Then the other side of him began to manifest. He began to let her pick the bills for household expenses, hospital charges and eventually school fees. Almost as if he wanted to punish her for being successful, he began to find every excuse to make her pay for something and then never pay back. This went on for years because they’ve been married ten years now but she never told anyone, and never stopped paying those bills. She convinced herself that it was probably the reason Almighty God blessed her business so the least she should do was to keep her sorrow to herself…
‘Can it be that she neglected the house completely and it’s his way of punishing her because he never wanted her to work at all?’ I asked, interrupting Jamila.
‘No she told us that she never stayed at the shop beyond 3pm because he closes from work at 4pm and arrives home about 4.30. So she was always at home when he leaves in the morning, after eating his breakfast and she was always there when he returns. I told you she was a very religious young woman and she took her marital duties seriously.’ Jamila said, defensively.
‘So did she get tired of picking the bills and that led to the divorce?’ I inquired.
‘No, amazingly she never complained even to him about his neglect of his responsibilities. She said she kept quiet and continued to pray that he will change. Then to her amazement things only got worse. He began to criticize everything she said and found every excuse to hurl insults at her. Farida said she often went to bed crying due to something hurtful he said. It was when the insults persisted that she told her mother and they invited his uncle and hers to mediate. When the two uncles met them, her husband had the audacity to say that she was lying. Farida said that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She couldn’t believe that after all she tolerated, for the better part of a decade, the man could still look at her and call her a liar. At that moment, she defended herself, she said she wasn’t lying. But she also made a secret resolve. The moment the uncles left, she started packing. By the following morning all her suits cases and those of her two children were ready to leave the house. She left after dropping them at school. And that’s almost three months ago.’ Jamila concluded.
‘But how do you know that all she said was the truth, I mean why would anyone maltreat such a virtuous, tolerant and beautiful wife?’ I asked.
‘We know she’s telling the truth because after she left him, he began to send his uncles and his friends to beg my cousin and her husband to send his wife back. In fact all of them said he vowed to change if only she’ll give him a second chance.’
To be continued.