Hina stared at the group of girls she had joined to get money from Ray for the doodh pilai. “Of course, I’m on your side,” she said. “Ask him for however much you want.”
Ray shook his head at her. “Here you go,” he said, pressing money into Gohar’s sister’s hand. “Is that enough?”
“Yes,” she said.
“More, more,” some of the girls said.
Gohar’s sister shook her head. “This is enough,” she said, closing her fingers over the money.
Hina barely had time for the barat dinner before it was time for the giving away of the bride.
Gohar, unsurprisingly, had tears streaming down her face all the way from the stage to the car. Gohar’s mother and sister were crying too.
Hina looked at the faces of other relatives; some were watching attentively, others were watching their phones.
Gohar’s mother caused a blockage at the exit of the hall as she held onto Gohar and sobbed. Relatives managed to separate mother and daughter and Hina managed to get a hold on Gohar to steer her towards the car. She helped Gohar get in and tucked her dress around her. When she made to step away, Gohar’s fingers dug into her hand with a steel-like grip. “Don’t leave me,” Gohar said.
Hina got into the car, sat next to Gohar and held her hand. Gohar squeezed Hina’s hand so hard Hina thought her fingers would turn to mush.
Attempting to fix Gohar’s makeup before sending her into the newlyweds’ room took three packs of pocket tissue, one and a half makeup sponges and the careful application of Hina’s own fingertips.
Finally, Hina left Gohar and gave her a thumbs up. “You look dazzling,” Hina said.
“What about me?” Ray asked as soon as Hina came out of the room.
“You’re good enough, I guess,” Hina said, pushing Ray in the direction of his room.
“It’s the girls who get all the support,” Ray said, shaking his head.
The next day, Hina thought that the walima would be easy compared to the first two events. “You just have to show up for dinner,” she said to Amani after both of them had dropped Gohar off at the bridal makeup section of the parlour.
“Hina, it’s the event from the groom’s side,” Amani said. “Take some interest in it.”
“All I’m interested in is that today is the last day I have to go through this beauty parlour procedure,” Hina said, settling into the beautician’s chair. “Then I will be free!”
The walima was a rush of photos and attending to Gohar as she went from her photo session to the bridal room, then to the stage itself.
Hina looked at the gathering of people she had been seeing for the past few days now. Today was going to tie it all together.
“More photos! Girls’ photos!” Amani struck a pose between Hina and Gohar as the photographer focused on them.
“Family photo,” Ray said.
Gohar took his arm and pulled him towards the group. Hina’s eyebrows shot up. Amani elbowed her in the ribs. “Fix your face,” Amani said.
Later, Hina thought how she used to be the only one to push and pull Ray around. Seeing Gohar pull Ray up for the photo was something that would take a little getting used to.
At home, Hina kicked off her shoes and began to take off her makeup. “No more heavy parlour makeup to take off,” she told herself when she was done.
She took her bangles off. “No more heavy jewellery to wear,” she said as she took her necklace off.
She changed into regular clothes and looked at the fancy ones she had just discarded onto the bed. “No more heavy clothes,” she said.
“It’s like it never even happened, except it did,” Amani said when Hina called her up.
“It’s like it never happened, except now Gohar is in my house,” Hina added.
Amani laughed. “Does it still look odd?” she asked.
“I’m not used to it,” Hina said.
“It will take some time,” Amani said. “Then you’ll be the one going away to become a new addition to someone else’s house. You and Gohar living together is only temporary.”
“Don’t remind me,” Hina said. “I’m not going anywhere any time soon.”
“Mark my words,” Amani said, “you’ll get married before I do.”
“That doesn’t mean anything because you’re just into the super long engagement period thing,” Hina said. “Anyone would lose next to your record.”
“You just don’t have the same security as I have in how I lead my life,” Amani said. “I’m not sitting around waiting for my parents to declare when I’ll get married. I decided myself.”
“Honestly, I wish you were the one who had gotten married first,” Hina said, “then I wouldn’t have had to deal with you right now. I’m going to call someone else.” She cut the call.
It was too early to call Sameer. She waited until a better time before making the call.
“Hey! How are you? How was the wedding?” Sameer asked.
“It was good,” Hina said. “I wish I could see you again. It’s been ages. I’ve almost forgotten what you look like.”
“I’d like that too, actually,” Sameer said. “We should invite the new couple over to our place. Then we could see each other.”
“I want to meet without having several families involved at the same time,” Hina said. “I want to get to know you better, and I need a better chance to do that.”
“Wow, you’re really direct today,” Sameer said. “It’s a good thing, but I wasn’t expecing it.”
“What’s the use of being engaged if we never get the chance to truly assess each other,” Hina said.
“I agree, but...” Sameer’s voice trailed off.
“Sameer? Are you still there?” Hina asked.
“Yes, I’m still here; I’m just thinking,” Sameer said. “It will be difficult.
“We can still figure a way out, though,” Hina said.
“I need some of that determination you have,” Sameer said.
“Find out a way to make it happen,” Hina said.
“Give me some time,” Sameer said.
To be continued...
Due to technical glitches, we were unable to hold Iqra Asad’s live interview. We will soon apprise you of the new date.