A Broken Marriage, Courtesy Johda Akber And Whatsup

A Broken Marriage, Courtesy Johda Akber And Whatsup

A Broken Marriage, Courtesy Johda Akber And Whatsup 150 150 ComfortAid International
Alireza is in tears; his
wet face a contortion of grief and pain. Men crying always make me
uncomfortable; it punctures all offensive mechanisms in me, especially if the
person is one close to me. We are seated in Alireza’s parents ancient, second
floor tiny apartment in Dongri, a rather dingy community of Mumbai, India. The
apartment is crowded, with every conceivable household element cramped into the
one room home. The tiny kitchen on one end is crowded with pots and pans and
other kitchen amenities. There are clothes everywhere, on the single bed where Alireza
sleeps with his wife, cordoned off by a simple portable curtain for privacy;
the rest sleep on the floor a few feet away. There are loads of clothes under
the bed, piled high on top of two cupboards and lined out to dry in the four
corners of the room, jerking around at the whim of a gusty wind that blows in
from the wide open windows to one side of the room. Also blowing in with the
wind is the sound of humanity outside; shrill motorbikes toots and people
shouting. Also wafting in is Dongri’s steadfast stink of sewer and shit. It gives
me the creeps, every time I visit, how this family can live together is such
cramped area; Alireza has two other brothers and a sister.
I have known Alireza
since he was about ten. Son of a petty clerk with a dismal salary, I was
introduced to him almost fourteen years ago. Even at that tender age, he was a remarkable
child, smart and striking, with impeccable manners, though impressionable; I
was instantly drawn to him. So I kept in touch, following his progress through
high school and aiding his college tuition when affordability became an issue.
At age twenty-three, he
fell in love with a Khoja girl one year his senior and, against his parent’s
wishes, married her. When I was informed and invited to the wedding, I had
mixed feelings. I wished he had waited to complete his college education but
more importantly, I felt he was marrying into an unequal partner. The girl was
a high school dropout, lived with her parents in an equally cramped place and
was much too assertive for Alireza’s gentle, amiable temperament. Sarah, to me,
was and is very outspoken and brazen, a deadly combination for a woman in
India. Glib, she is, and forthright in her opinions, especially those that rubs
the established, old school Khoja ‘mentality’ the ‘wrong’ way. But I wished him well and
was genuinely happy for him.
So it is not too much of
a shock to learn Sarah has left her husband of fifteen months in a huff, taking
their newborn baby girl with her. Shaukat, Alireza’s father meets me at the
Khoja mosque in Dongri and pleads with me to do something, get them back
together. Why he thinks me, a divorced man with rocky prior relationships
qualifies for such a herculean task is baffling. Yet, Shaukat implores me to
talk to his son and advise him to take his wife back. Why, Shaukat has his izzat to consider; still has a maiden
daughter, how would she expect decent rishteys
in this situation?
And so here I am, listening
to Alireza’s many, many gripes about his wayward wife. Here is his tale:
I was madly in love with Sarah, still am; she still rules my
dreams. Everything was perfect except for the damned serials of Bollywood.
Serials like Johda Akber and Pavitra Rista and Kabool Hai. Before marriage, I
was the only thing important in her life. But as soon as we settled into a
routine life, Johda Akber and others suddenly became her priority. She spent
hours glued to the TV and followed the nonsense and filth on it. I tolerated
this because my Mum and sister were as addicted and all of them avidly dissected
the foolishness. I began to sleep alone, much before the idiocy ended after
midnight most nights; I have to catch the train for work by seven in the
morning. Johda Akber ended my sex life and a hot breakfast Sarah fed me before
the invasion. She also stopped praying Fajr, unable to wake up on time most
days.
When I complained to my in-laws, I was advised to put their
daughter to work. Work will keep her mind occupied, they counseled, she will
have no time for the accursed serials. But before she could start a job hunt,
Sarah became pregnant. In my happiness, I gifted her a fancy Samsung Galaxy and
our relationship promptly went from the frying pan to the fire; I simply invited
the shaitan into our lives. The culprit was Johda Akber before but then Whatsup
took over. Ya Allah!
Alireza covers his face
with his palms and shudders; painful sobs rock his body while I sit in wretchedness
and do nothing. My mind tells me to console him, hug him, but my body refuses
to move; I feel miserable, I hate myself. He quiets down after a while and
continues:
It is Whatsup the moment she opens her eyes to the last second
before she falls asleep, save only for Johda Akber and other episodes. Every
aspect of our lives and of her friends and relatives became public. When the
communal toilets at the end of the corridor got backed up, why, the entire Pala
Ghali Khoja community was talking about it. I wish they had come here and taken
in the stench as well. Sarah has a bunch of friends, all on this crazy device.
I think I have developed blood pressure between the Whatsup chime and Johda
Akber theme song; I can feel my heart palpitate every time they come on…
I burst out laughing,
finding that funny, but Alireza gawks at me in surprise, a hurt look on his teary
face. I shut up fast fast.
She let go of her Samsung only when the labor pains became
intolerable and the nurse at the hospital refused to let her take it to the
delivery room. We have a beautiful baby now, looks just like Sarah. I am
surprised my baby didn’t come out with a cellphone stuck to her ear…
Alireza affords himself
the tiniest of a smile at the quip, but sobers up instantly as other dark
thoughts take control.  
You know what broke the camel’s back in our relationship? Three
months after Zainab was born, she was giving her mother the cutest of smiles,
gurgling and cooing like all babies do, trying to communicate with her mother.
The baadbakth of my wife simply ignored her. I mean she was engrossed in
texting away on her Samsung, oblivious of her daughter wanting attention. I
snapped! I lost it! I grabbed the phone from Sarah and slammed it on the floor
and made mincemeat of it. Just for a brief moment, this gave me supreme
satisfaction, the first time I was happy to blow away Rs.40,000.
I detect a gleam of
satisfaction in Alireza’s eyes, which are lost into a faraway place, relishing
the moment perhaps?
Whatup is in the US, no Uncle?
It is my heart’s turn to
get palpitations. He just called me uncle; a highly derogatory title, for me, connoting
advanced age. I want to reprimand him but let it go; do not want to agitate him
more than he is already. So I nod agreement.
I will take the makers of Johda Akber and others to court here in
India for ruining my marriage. You take Whatsup to court in the US for me,
okay?

Note: Although I have used my imagination to make this episode
hopefully enjoyable, this sad incident is true; the case was referred to a
Khoja marriage reconciliation committee and now languishes there. I have
information it will be forwarded to a marja representative shortly. For obvious
reasons, all names are fictitious.

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