Saturday, March 20, 2010

Love in the time of jihad…

Like all married couples my husband and I have our differences, but in Pakistan we almost always behave like the perfect pair made in heaven or in Bollywood – because the only time we missed the mark there was chaos in town.

Over a year ago, I was getting homesick and one day I shot off an email to my husband (that’s how I have always communicated about issues that matter even though in Pakistan I know that ‘Bhais’ are reading) suggesting that I move back to India.

My husband, who didn’t like the idea of being alone in Pakistan, read the mail and then decided to step out. He left home at about 9 pm asking me to shut the door, leaving me wondering if he’d seen the mail at all.

When he didn’t return till 11 pm, I decided to give him a call. I tried several times till about midnight but couldn’t get through. In India, I would have just gone off to sleep, but this was Pakistan – arguably “the most dangerous country in the world”. The more I thought about it, the more I panicked.

My head was inundated with the worst possible scenarios. I even stared at my phone wondering if I'd get a ransom call. And then I was crying.

I decided to make a distress call to a senior Indian diplomat. His first question to me was: “Did you have a fight?” I said, “No”, sounding quite composed. I even spared a thought for the guys who would have been listening to our conversation.

The diplomat asked me to check if my husband’s mobile phone was at home. I made a quick tour of the house, but he hadn’t left the phone behind. He made me read out my husband’s last official email, asked about his favourite hangouts and then announced that he was coming over with the mission’s security officer.

Within a span of 10 minutes I was flooded with phone calls – from officers, their wives, to friends – all trying to console (some “condole”); some offering me shelter for the night; some insisting that I relocate because “they” would come for me now; and someone even reminding me of Daniel Pearl, “another Daniel Pearl?” – but all genuinely concerned for my husband’s safety.

Just then my phone beeped. It was a text message from my husband: “Why is everyone trying to call me?” I heaved a sigh of relief and called the diplomat, who was on our way home, that my husband was “fine” and that he needn’t come.

But for him, the text message was not good enough. “How do you know it’s him? It could be someone else…,” he told me. I agreed.

By now the diplomat was home. “Ask him a secret question,” he said. I decided to ask my husband when our marriage anniversary was, but he dismissed the question with: “That’s public knowledge.” So I asked him my niece’s name.

A few minutes later my husband was home too – with all of us checking him out to see if he’d been kidnapped, beaten, drugged…

It turned out that my husband had gone to meet a journalist friend whose office is in a basement, hence I couldn’t reach him. Having read my email he was, of course, mad at me and was in no mood to rush home or call to say that he would be late.

That evening I realized that in the time of jihad it helps to play the perfect couple. I also realised the worth of our friends who went out of their way to help me, especially the senior diplomat who came home and kept his super seniors in the loop too. When I sent him a thank you message, he was very gracious reminding me that he was my senior from university. He even saved us any embarrassment by saying that he’d expect my husband to help his wife if he decided to go missing!


  1. Wow... that's something... but very very sweet.. Hang in together guys.

  2. Awesome..way to communicate between couples. When we write letters, there is no interruption of "train of thoughts" and we can correct any "irritant triggers" and fine tune the language to desired effect after self proof-reading. I think if minor quakes is being experienced a weekly dossiers/reports to each other will nip "root causes" in the bud.Lots of things mostly simple ones in a relationship cannot be said face to face coz saying them itself sounds stupid themselves and hurt our ego.But in a letter it wont sound so bad. For example,a simple jealous feeling coz of some triggers if immediately expresses feels like a complaint-box, nit-picker or needy.If a weekly to & fro dossier is scheduled,hitherto unexpressed feelings & seemingly irrelevant issues will fill in the blanks subconsciously. In "7 habits of highly effective people" one such seemingly irrelevant unexplored "pressure-cooker brand" issue is narrated beautifully arguing the need for robust communication in relationship.

    Anyways..keep the posts coming..

  3. How do u feel now, rather how do u cope now are u ? rather how do u handle fear stress ?. We'll you have a good online following now so keep up the good work and expect our support in ur thick and thin

  4. Very touching post. God bless you guys.

  5. I can imagine how scary it was for you! God bless you both! Take care.

  6. Seriously , i dont know how you live there, even the thought sends shudders thru my spine.... rather go to the remotest area of Africa rather than Pakistan.... and guys i am not tryong to stereotype pakistan but this what i really feel... my best to you guys :), i guess it will worth it once you get the book deal lol

  7. Tulika, hanging in...:)

    Kannan, yes, emails work well.

    Ashu, it was just a phase I went through because my dad was not keeping they say 'Aal iz well' now.

    Rupa, we can do with those blessings :)

    Sandhya, it was. I am just glad that I can look back and laugh at whatever happened then.

    Premal, I am not sure about Africa :) but I can surely do with a book deal!

  8. Writing(now emails) is also my favourite way of communicating. Nothing beats its efficacy.

    Having said that, your situation is definitely not cordial to the preferred ways but should assume logical reasoning. Its good to know you both are well.

  9. Geetly, absolutely. Its nice to have you reading our posts. Thank you.

  10. At first i thought you're post a little 'aren't they a bit too paranoid' then i thought that if it was a Pakistani in India, she would probably feel the same way and the same insecurity - I remember always being aware of the fact that i was a Pakistani in a country that is always hostile towards us, and having that at the back of my mind when i visited India.

    I suppose you being Indian with so few of you in Pakistan, have to be extra careful.


    If you are ever fortunate enought to visit our country you may change you're mind. In the mean time enjoy Africa!

  11. Touché...god bless you both!!!

  12. @ anonymous... It will cold day in hell when i wanna come to pakistan...and if you have ever visited africa you would know its pretty rocking

  13. My GOD..that was horrifying ! Thank that Indian diplomat from my side as well :)I am ultra happy with that fellow.
    And u..never make yourself feel homesick again :( n just for fun u both decide over a common secret question n Be happy you guys ....may the almighty always be with you !!

  14. One of your very first followers, but have never commented! Love the way this blog is shaping up-- I've missed out on the last few posts, need to catch up.

    P.S. Mine used to disappear on me allll the time too. Annoying, yes? Panic inducing? OH YES.

  15. Anonymous, I am sure a Pakistani wife in India would also have got all worked up...but then India is not a especially dangerous country :)

    AM, thanks :)

    Kasturi, will work on a secret question :)

    Absolutely Normal Chaos, with an ID like that it is difficult not to notice you. Keep reading and thank you. :)

  16. LOL! finally, chocolate time,eh! :p