By Meherunnisa Jobaida:
Fate kept on floating me from one place to another. Sometimes it rested me as sediment at the bottom of a river until it brought a big tide to relocate me to a new place. Every time I moved to a new place I was washed a new.
It was the year 1996 when I completed tenth grade and moved to the capital city of Bangladesh. I lived with my sisters and completed 12th grade and was admitted to a college. I was living with my eldest sister, a housewife and a mother of three and a wife of a very honest civil servant with a very high rank but limited salary. In a three bedrooms apartment I did feel an extra person. Don’t make a mistake here. The couple’s love for me was so much that it would often get their children, I mean my nephews and niece jealous. I wanted to move to a dorm. My father, a caring man to whom I never grew old enough, didn’t agree. He thought the kids who lived in dorms would have bad influence upon me and would destroy my academic life. I got upset, and was already preparing to revolt.
There was a man who we loved as much as we’d love our brothers or brother-in-laws. He returned from a trip to New York and let my sister’s husband, I mean my brother-in-law know that he liked someone who could be a good husband for me.
There was a day when for the first time I appeared on a television show that used to be recorded on school campuses. It was taped; everyone praised my opinion and it was to be aired the following day. I was a bit shy but excited. It happened in the evening when the show was to be aired. Poor me, I couldn’t watch. My sister said a guest came and I had to take tea and refreshments for him. I could feel that this had to be the man they talked about earlier. There was a fairness cream called Fair & Lovely sold in Bangladesh. I put it on my face. Put on a lipstick too. When I was preparing to meet him, I felt discomfort about the cream and the lipstick. I went to a bathroom, washed my face with soap and wiped it before going see him for the first time.
I saw two men there- one was the family friend who we would consider a great brotherly guardian, and the other was a man who came from the USA. While I was talking to the brotherly guardian, our soon-to-be-match maker, the man from the USA was talking to my brother-in-law. He spoke nonstop and didn’t breathe enough. At least that was my observation about him. My father somehow got to know about it and went very mad. His goal was to get me educated. Besides, two of my older sisters still didn’t marry and it was not welcoming in Bangladesh to arrange marriages skipping older sisters.
When the men left, my sister and my brother-in-law started to plot ideas to refuse the proposal. Once I overheard that they planned to inform the match maker that the “girl” didn’t like the man. I felt offended. I was in my nineteen and I did feel they needed to consult me before putting the blame upon me. I opened the door and entered their room and let them know that I liked the man who came to see me and decided to marry him. Neither my sister nor my brother-in-law ever expected anything like that from me. That was the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life.
My husband was from a different geographic area in Bangladesh. People of his district didn’t encourage cross cultural marriages. They opposed his idea of marrying a female from another district so far from his own. They arranged a couple more dates with prospective brides, but none of them worked. He wanted to postpone his marriage until next time and return to New York. However, the ones who already had tough time getting him like any female in New York asked my father-in-law to marry him with whoever he wanted instead of letting him return unmarried.
My eldest sister was still struggling. My mom wrote me a letter requesting me not to marry so young. My immediate older sisters requested me too. Nothing worked. I wanted to be free, and I found marriage to be the only gate to my freedom. I have no pictures from my engagement ceremony. We were not allowed to take pictures since my family still thought the arrangement wouldn’t make it to wedding. They thought they would be able to stop it.
I don’t remember the exact day when we saw each other. I also don’t remember the engagement date. The families were putting too much pressure on me to think of the importance of the date seriously.
But I do remember the date of my wedding. It was April, 2nd, 2000. Finally the families agreed and arranged a wedding and a reception. Our wedding ceremony was attended by two former presidents of Bangladesh and many political figures of all Bangladeshi political parties. Right before our wedding, husband telephoned me one day and asked me if I had any questions for him to answer. I asked him two questions- 1. How is his behavior with his families, and 2. If he had any anger issue.
Since then, today marks 19th year of living with him as a blessed couple. We did have ups and down, sometimes all year around, but he has proved his answers to the two questions and we have been together.
He is my husband but has been always a shadow guardian. He pushed me to go to college, forced me to write to NYU and Columbia for admissions. He made sure that I completed graduation that was my father’s worst fear which was the reason why he opposed my marriage at first.
So, here comes the goal- have I attained freedom? The answer is, “yes”. He is not rich. He did not give me an expensive life, but he has brought me freedom in my life. If you think you are happy to have me as a friend, sister, aunt, coworker in this country, please remember his contributions.
Mary Jobaida and her husband