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Millennium Post

Booked for life

Booked for life
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Zeba was 20 years old when her recently retired abba decided that she must get married.
The day he found a suitor was a day when she came home from college, tired, stinking of sweat, her bag heavy on her shoulders, her new kohlapuris pinching her feet. All she wanted was to quickly bathe, shove some food down her throat into a hungry stomach, and then, lose herself in the Hari Kunzru she had borrowed from a friend. Her parents were sitting in the living room with a young man dressed in a kurta and a pair of denims.?“Zeba,” her father’s voice thundered down the hallway.

“Coming,” Zeba shouted back, but she didn’t like the tone of his voice. She hid behind the curtain separating the living from the rest of the house. Gathering herself, she walked gingerly towards her parents. “Assalaamuaalaikum,” she greeted the visitor, as her eyes traveled all over his young body.

He looked about 25, but the grey in his sideburns betrayed his youthful face. A boyish face, deep, black eyes, lips that looked like they were forever pouting, a slightly crooked nose, and a mop of curly, brown hair that sat atop his perfectly round head – the man looked good enough to be in the movies! His shoulders were broad, his skin taut. ?Zeba did not register a single word of the conversation that followed. She was lost in his dreamy eyes, his olive skin, and the cute mole on the left side of his chin.

A few weeks later, the mangni (engagement) between Shahbaaz and Zeba was decided upon. The wedding was to take place in November, at her aunt’s place. Her aunt, Farida Begum, was a widow whose husband had left behind a massive fortune,but no heir. Hers was a palatial bungalow in Panvel, complete with a pool, coconut trees, and acres of farmland. Zeba’s father, HussainBaqsh, worked with shoemakers Bata as an accountant. Her mother, Waheeda Begum, gave Urdu lessons to children in the MIG colony they’d been living in since before Zeba’s birth. Zeba was their only child.

She had been conceived about 15 years into their marriage. Knowing that he would be nearing the age of retirement by the time she graduates from university, her father was in a tearing hurry to marry her off. He wanted to see her well settled, and ensure a stable and secure future for her. With every thing settledand their respective families’ blessings, Shahbaaz and Zeba began to date.

The day of Zeba’s wedding was nothing like other November days. An overcast sky, coupled with a continuous drizzle, cast a gloomy look over the wedding preparations. But, it did nothing to dampen Zeba’s spirits. She knew she’d soon be married to the most handsome boy she’d ever seen, and before long would be off to the US, where Shahbaaz worked as a guest relations executive at a posh hotel in New York.

As Shahbaz’s family and friends danced their way to the palatial Panvel farmhouse, Zeba, eager and restless, kept running out to the balcony every time she heard baraat-music, much to the chagrin of her mother who worried that the make-up or outfit might get ruined! By the time the wedding party arrived, Zeba had wolfed down couple of smuggled keema samosas and, unbeknownst to her, managed to ruin the coral lipstick spread lavishly across her small mouth. Shahbaz’s family had turned up in great numbers. Mostly, though, they were on his mother’s side- rich, unlike his father’s family. Sweets, dates, kebabs, the likes, did the rounds. With each passing moment, Zeba felt more and more breathless in her elaborate sharara, and her designer dupatta. All she wished for was the event to get over, so she could get out of the wedding finery, gulp some chilled neembupaani down, and curl up in her bed.

The actual ceremony, thankfully, did not take too long. And, when she and Shahbaz finally met after the nikahnaama had been signed, the first thing he did was to wipe the smudged lip colour that had carelessly strayed outside her carefully lined mouth. Then he smiled. As did she. Shahbaaz-Zeba; husband-wife. It had a certain ring to it. Shahbaaz and Zeba.?This time tomorrow she would be on an airplane to London, flying miles above Earth, over vast oceans, across continents, amongst clouds, and dreams. Dreams of a new life where a book would not be her companion, but her husband bending over her, her companion for life.

The author is a snotty single child, mountain junkie, playback singer, Austen addict and dreams of singing alongside Buddy Guy
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