So I am guilty of helping my 22-year-old Pushtu cook date her fiance!
When: Holy month of Ramzan, 2009
Where: Super Market, Islamabad
Why: She wanted to give him an Eid gift
Nargis wanted to gift the gray-colour shalwar suit that she'd picked up on her weekly trip to the Jumma Bazaar at Peshawar More to her fiance Sagheer. She didn't know how because good Pathan girls don't date, not even soon-to-be Mehrams. She, of course, didn't agree with most Pathan pearls of wisdom, having lived most of her life in good old Isloo.
On her day three with us, she sweet-talked us into buying her a phone (to be fair it was her money), but without her family's consent. Soon our six cats were witness to endless phone conversations held in our kitchen, in our living room, on the terrace, in the backyard, well everywhere except perhaps the cats' cage -- as at 5.7 feet she couldn't quite fit in.
One Ramzan afternoon, she showed up at the door with an urgent request: "Can you come with me to Super?"
I had entertained such requests in the past, but that day I turned it down because I was fasting and was, therefore, (psychologically) low on energy.
She persisted. And I gave in. We took a cab, with me holding a bouquet which I had passed on to her earlier in the day, and she the gift.
I noticed Nargis, who usually wore a chador before stepping out, was covered from head to toe in a figure-hugging black burqa, the veil neatly held up on both sides with two safety pins.
Her one hand stuck to her ear taking instructions from her half-Mehram on the mobile, we got off at Super and then started walking towards a jewellery stall. She stopped, muttered something in Pushtu, and handed over the bouquet and the gift to the man at the stall. The guy refused to accept the goodies, saying he had no instructions to receive bouquets/gifts!!
It was obvious that we had stopped at the wrong stall. We strolled around some more, eyeing all jewellery-wallahs, and by now, all jewellery-wallahs, potato chip-wallahs, pirated CD-wallahs eyeing us and showering us (actually me more as I was the non-burqa, jean-clad, unholy type) with the horrified "buri aurats that too in Ramzan look".
With my companion all covered up, and her hand still glued to her ear, she was blissfully unaware of the goings-on.
It was time to act. I told her I was leaving and that she could continue with her wild goose chase. The threat worked and within minutes the fiance decided to show up at one of the stalls. He slid into a corner because good Pathan boys and girls not only don't date but also don't make eye contact before marriage.
We dropped the gift like a bomb and vanished -- with me swearing never to visit Super again without a shuttlecock burqa.