“I want to go!” I wailed as my mum stood with her arms crossed, her face red with anger, shaking it vigorously indicating a big ‘no’.
I had to attend an international conference that would probably boost my career, but I could not because my cousin had decided to marry on the same day as the conference. I had pleaded, begged, cried and shouted, in short tried in every way to convince my mum to let me go, but she remained adamant.
“Beta, it is a family occasion and you must attend it! How hurt will your cousin feel,” was her reply every time when I tried to convince her.
It was due to this reason that my face was sullen in my cousin’s dholki function. While my family members danced, sung and had fun, I sat in a corner trying to console myself about missing my conference. While all my female cousins lined to get their hands decorated with henna, a plan slowly started to take form in my mind.
“What if I take tomorrow’s flight to Norway? I could reach there in time. Yes! I could,” I talked myself into finding a way to go.
There can be hope in the bleakest of situations, I thought to myself as a small smile played on my lips regarding the plan. According to my plan, I would escape my house in the early hours of the morning while all my family members would be in deep slumber, tired after a night full of celebration. I phoned my friend to tell him to book a ticket for me, I already had my visa so I didn’t have to worry about that. I started to think what clothes I would take with me to Oslo, Norway.
Everything went as planned and after hardly 12 hours in Oslo, I stood on a hotel balcony overlooking a busy street while my cousin was getting married in Pakistan. I decided to sleep early so that I could wake up fresh and alert for the conference. The stress of escaping had seriously drained my energy. The next morning, I got up just in time and got ready to face the big day. I did not eat breakfast as I was so nervous that I felt like throwing up. I went to the venue with the help of the city map I had found in the hotel room.
After reaching the venue, I tried to phone my family, but they did not pick up. Disappointed, I made my way into the conference room, which was packed with young professionals like me, hoping to kick-start their career. When my turn to deliver my presentation came, I was lost in thoughts regarding my parents’ reaction to my escape and I failed to deliver my part effectively. I was disappointed with myself and close to tears, but no one came to comfort me and for the rest of the conference I sat alone, totally ignored by the strangers I had chosen to be with.
As I looked around the conference room, I realised that the place was filled with people I did not know, and while my loved ones back at home would probably not talk to me for days for betraying them like this.
When I returned home, I wished I had not gone to Norway to attend the conference. I regretted my decision as everyone in the family talked with great excitement about the wedding. But this was not my full punishment. The worst punishment was that my mother wasn’t talking to me, as I had betrayed her. Her trust in me was simply gone as I went without telling her and against her wish.
The fact that I achieved nothing at the conference made me a total loser and I, to this day, regret my foolish decision.
Now as time has passed and whenever I look back upon this moment, I realise that the main reason for my failure at the conference was that I had displeased my family which not only reduced my efficiency, but it also added to my anxiety and nervousness. Now, whenever I go somewhere, I make sure that I have my parents’ permission and, most importantly, their blessings.
Published in Dawn, Young World, December 8th, 2018