Hi. I’m a 29-year-old Pakistani girl who grew up in Karachi. I am gori with brown eyes, moderately tall and not too fat. What taints these idyllic criteria for a rishta, however, is that I’m a divorcee. And horror of all horrors, I was the one who initiated it.
You probably just rolled your eyes at the first two sentences, thinking: ‘Dear Lord. Here goes yet another post vilifying a man, and how feminism is the new wave of liberation. Yada yada yada.’
However, there is nothing sensational about why I left my ex-husband. Disappointingly boring spoiler alert — there was simply no emotional or mental compatibility. Gasp.
Yes, there was no other woman, no torrid affair, no horrible saas and no, he was definitely not gay. No sordid details. I was a hard core corporate working woman, whereas his idea of marital bliss was to devour the wife’s home-cooked food all day.
Also read: Till divorce do us part: Separate lives
I was married for two and a half years to my first cousin. We had rarely ever interacted before that since he lived in the US and didn't visit often. In a Bollywood-like twist of fate, we ended up getting to know each other when he came to Karachi for a family wedding.
With love and nuptials in the air, it was of no surprise that we started considering each other as a potential spouse. He was (still is) a tall, good looking man with hazel eyes and an impish smile. And for some insane reason, he found me ‘delightfully enchanting’.
In an awkward conversation, we professed how much we liked each other and our interest of getting married. Both sets of parents realised that love was in the air, and they were overjoyed at the prospect of cementing their rishtedari.
The charm and romance evaporated not long after we got married and moved to the US. Minor disagreements over household chores escalated to full-fledged shouting matches over our lack of mutuality.
I was alone and miserable in a foreign country with no friends or family, smack in the middle of a desi mohalla of haw-haying aunties. Not only that, we were emotionally moving further apart at an alarming rate. Sometimes, weeks would pass without either of us speaking to each other.
More fights, and a miscarriage later, I found myself agitatedly praying. I was fumbling in the dark, looking for a divine sign for what to do with my life. After a very ugly and devastating argument, an odd sense of calm replaced the turmoil in my heart. It was time. Now or never. And if I did not walk away then, I would have never been able to muster all that courage.
Finally, we parted amicably. Amicable being relative here since there were no kids, and no distribution of property or finances to be dealt with in the aftermath.
I came back to Karachi in 2014, bearing the vilayati gifts of incredible insomnia, extreme pallor and a rib cage that hurt when people hugged me. I quickly took stock of what I had — I was young, had no kids, no financial responsibilities and hadn’t spent long being married. Surely I would be able to turn my life round? But boy, I could not have been more wrong.
My family did not support me, in particular my father. As a single parent, he has seen a myriad of hardships over the years. While he did not adhere to the antiquated notion of me being a disgrace to the family name, he did take it as a personal failure. Both his and mine.
I was reminded extensively — and still am to this day — that I should thank my lucky stars that I was ‘accepted’ back in the house, how my life was ruined, and I should now be ready to ‘compromise’ in my second marriage.
Initially, I rolled my eyes and blocked the barrage of insults. But sooner or later, it cracked my armour and I found my insomniac nights punctuated by sobbing and relentless crying.
Socio-economic privilege enabled me to find a good job. Alhamdulillah I was able to bridge the two-year work gap by impressing my new employers and admit with smug satisfaction that I currently earn more than my peers in the industry. If I didn’t even have that, or a Platinum Credit Card with my name emblazoned on it, I would have lost myself for sure.
A girl I know faced something much worse. Financial and physical abuse, emotional trauma, the works. She was sensible enough to go to university abroad, and in a wondrously Cinderella-esque way, found the man of her dreams.
I follow her Instagram pictures and updates with a curious and achingly jealous heart, celebrating the win for feminism and desi divorced girls the world over. But a hissing, serpentine voice in my head keeps on muttering, "It’s not fair. Of all the people, I deserved that to have happened to me."
The biggest fallacy that I made was to assume that my life’s biggest hurdle had been jumped over. But guess what? In spite of my class privilege, I had a few unpleasant experiences where guys assumed that I would be ready for casual hookups. Because hey, I had already popped my cherry. What else was there to lose?
I’m also quite ashamed to admit what finally unraveled me — a friend who showed interest in marrying me pleaded that I give him time until he dealt with some financial responsibilities. I was slapped rudely by reality when his mom, a twice divorced woman with a divorced daughter of her own, deemed her son to be 'too good' to marry a fallen woman like me. The mummy daddy that he was, he ghosted me in the blink of an eye.
With nothing in my life except for my career, I crumbled fast. General anxiety spilled into work anxiety. I started feeling extremely lonely, and felt guilty about reaching out to my friends. Many also told me that ‘no one has sympathies for a victim, just suck it up and move on.’ But I couldn’t. I was stuck in a rut, one that took forever to climb out of.
So guess what, this divorced girl is not riding off into the sunset. I am fighting my own demons day in, day out. What is helping me apart from faith is, frankly speaking, my own money. It keeps my parents from calling me a financial burden, helps me save for education, and pays the therapist’s exorbitant fees. Not to mention the anxiety medication that have to be taken daily, maybe for life.
I shudder when I think about the many other girls who do not have the financial or intellectual resources to fend for themselves.
So, folks. In order to navigate turbulent desi waters, a divorced girl needs only one thing. A golden ticket. Or rather, a Platinum credit card.
Are you a divorcee or single parent who wants to share how your past relationship has affected you? Tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org