Afzal’s daughters have started to become quite bossy with him. Very bossy.
Naseem just climbs over him like he is a tree and perches on his shoulders, then tries to sit on his head. ‘Come and make a puzzle with me.’ She has absolute power over him. ‘MY Papa,’ she asserts.
Sahar scolds him, tells him off, explains things to him very slowly. Sometimes she interrupts our absent minded conversations to explain to Afzal what I really mean. Or want.
Aliza. I used to call Afzal and Aliza twins, when she was a baby. Afzal would stick his face next to her chubby face and ask, ‘Don’t we look like twins? Tell, tell.’
Many years ago, we were sitting in the front seats of a state transport bus on our return from Dharamsala to Pathankot. The seats ahead of the front door. Real private, except for the bus driver on the right who was too busy honking all the way down the mountains. I had my dupatta liberally over my head and face to protect from the heat and dust. And to soften the light on my face, I’m sure, so I looked pretty to him.
‘Why do you want to marry me?’ he asked me.
We had been having a rough time. On and off, on and off. Very happy when we were together, but sad in our silences.
‘I think you will make a good father to my children,’ I said.
He was quiet for a while. Then he told me that apparently in Islam, the No. 1 criteria for marriageability is how good a person will be as a parent.
That may have been the first of many future occasions when he would say (with amazement) that I am a better, more sorted out Muslim than all the ‘real’ ones he knows, himself included.
But to come to the point, how prescient of me, even in those troubled times. To know the reason why I wanted to marry my reluctant lover.
The man who never wanted to have any children.
Aliza: 6 yrs
Naseem: 3 yrs