Tag Archives: Pakistan

me next

the valima was held the night after the shaadi. traditionally, this is an islamic ceremony celebrating the consummation of the marriage. these days nobody actually verifies anything of the sort, but the party goes on. afterward, farhan’s uncle arranged for a boat ride, which i thought was quite romantic. just look at these two! farhan’s parents can arrange a marriage for me any day…

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the big day

even though farhan and roohi were married and could actually look each other in the eye and talk face to face, their actual wedding, or shaadi, was two days later. i missed this too as my inexplicable karachi illness caused me to pass out and fun things like that. staying home was not so bad, as helena too was ill and together we were tasked with preparing the wedding room… or as we called it, the love nest. farhan’s sister gave us a bag of rose petals and instructed us on how to sprinkle the petals all around the wedding bed. i kid you not! we did our job well. it wouldn’t surprise me if i was asked back to karachi to prepare other wedding rooms in the near future… (ehem, urooj…)

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back to pakistan

after farhan’s nika ceremony, joost, helena, zoe and i escaped town and drove about an hour southwest (i think) to the shore. we spent some time in a fishing community with men working on beautiful boats. we even stayed for tea, which was delicious. this was probably one of the least touristy places near karachi one could find (not that there are lots of western tourists anyway) and i was loving it.

some of the men and women use henna in their hair to give it a red color. in this case, the fisherman was likely trying to emulate one of the prophets. at least that’s my guess. some men wear beards to be like certain prophets as well. if you’re following a prophet closely, you apparently follow his grooming habits as well.

unfortunately, this was the day i started getting pretty ill. i don’t know if it was the heat or the food or what… but i completely lost my appetite and ate nothing but tea and crackers for the next two days. sadly, i missed two of farhan and roohi’s ceremonies because of it. here is a pic of roohi at the mehendi (henna) party. talk about glowing! wish i had been there. instead i was at (farhan’s) home writing letters and listing to podcasts.

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farhan seals the deal

farhan’s nika was on a hot monday morning at this lovely mosque not too far from his house. the nika ceremony is when the bride and groom sign the marriage contract. farhan went into the mosque a single man, and walked out a married man.

the women and men are separated in the mosque. we all gathered in one room with roohi, who seemed pretty calm about the whole thing. she’s super cool. the ceremony began and her dad and an attorney and a religious leader walked in and read the marriage contract to roohi, which she agreed to. the men walked out, went to farhan and said a bunch of things in arabic that i couldn’t understand, and then farhan too agreed to the contract. presto-change-oh… the two are married! farhan was then brought into the room with all the women where he sat next to roohi and the two of them had to do a number of things. in this picture they’re both covered and then they look into a mirror to see each others reflection. this is supposed to be the first way they see one another, but of course that wasn’t really the case. anyway, it was a nice touch. what people couldn’t see was that the newly weds were actually playing footsie in the mosque… ah! like i said, roohi is super cool.

so while all of this is very exciting, i was having a little pity party for myself. i typically cry at weddings, and this was no different. but this time my tears were in part because it became very real to me that i was going to have to share farhan with someone else! i mean, i’m a sharing person… and technically i’ve been sharing farhan all along. but he’s like my brother. and you know how that familial bond is a little different. plus, this was the onset of my paki illness, though i didn’t realize it at the time. so yeah. while i’m smiling in this pic, there was a lot of pouting going on too. i’m just being honest. the bonus, of course, is that i get to chill with roohi now too… which makes it all worthwhile. not that this is about me…

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sunday market

it was tough to get out of the house and do any shopping since farhan’s family was clearly preoccupied with all the planning that goes along with two weddings. fortunately some family friends offered to take us around. i think farhan’s family was a little nervous because the city had shut down the previous day from riots and fires following the death and funeral of the shia priest that was bombed days before (a pizza hut and a petrol station were both burned down near some of the events we were attending), but joost, zoe and i felt plenty safe with our trusty driver asef (not to be confused with arzoo’s husband asef).

first we went to the sunday market near the arabian sea. before we could even stop the car children swarmed around begging to carry our things for us. one urdu phrase i used a lot was “nahiin chehia” for “i don’t want…” (i’m sure i spelled that wrong). the market was open air, but with fabric tarps tied together for shade. i did more people watching than anything, though i did manage to haggle with some men over a few items. buying food from steet vendors is always a no-no, but the roasted corn seemed safe enough. corn kernels were mixed with coarse sand which sped up the cooking i think. the sand was then sifted out and the corn was seasoned and hot and yummy. great afternoon treat.

after leaving the market, our driver overheard zoe, joost and i plotting on ways to escape the house to see more of the city. eager to please his foreign patrons, asef turned to ask if we had a camera handy. we asked where he was taking us, but he just put a finger to his lips indicating our destination was a secret. after an always adventurous ride (the traffic in karachi is worse than south america and (according to joost) africa), asef parked the car outside a mosque and signaled for us to follow. as we walked to the entrance we saw the mosque was actually much larger than it appeared from the road. we took off our shoes and entered karachi’s largest mosque, the white-marbled masjid-e-tooba. its single dome is simple, elegant, and supposedly the largest of its kind in the world. asef turned to us and asked, “you happy?” yes. very happy indeed.

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arzoo’s shaldi

after days of ceremonies and preparation, the time had come for arzoo’s nika and shaldi. the nika is when the marriage contract is actually signed. this occurs without the bride and groom even seeing each other. after the contract is signed, the bride is brought to the groom, sits beside him, looking down the entire night (acting bashful is key… i had to tease arzoo into looking up at me for this picture), and receiving guests until the time comes to leave with the groom, and only then do the two get to know each other. okay, asef and arzoo had been talking on the phone for 8 months, but still!

because this was such a special night, all farhan’s female friends wore saris. putting on a sari is no easy task… nor is walking around in one. baby steps are crucial. i loved it, though. i would definitely wear a sari to any formal event. they look so regal. if only i had a torch and a crown, i could have been a pakistani statue of liberty. note the henna and the bangles. the bangles are glass bracelets, and it’s common to break one (or 4) when putting them on or taking them off. you can also slice your hand if you’re not careful. i had to use lots of soap and farhan’s mom and sisters would fold my hands in ways i didn’t think possible.

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sad day

the day of the shaldi (the actual wedding ceremony) the family has a very special tradition. the parents dress up in their old wedding clothes, celebrating their own marriage. then their child to be wed sits on the mother’s lap to be given away. this can be a very sad and happy moment all at once, but i was mostly sad when farhan carried arzoo in and placed her on his mother’s lap. arzoo’s shaldi meant she was leaving the house to live with her husband’s family, and i felt like she was leaving me too. i was also just so scared because i knew so little about her husband asef who i had yet to meet. we did a lot of crying. farhan’s dad was all smiles and laughing the whole time, but farhan’s mom grieved the loss of her child. my heart was breaking for her and for the family.

after the ceremony we snapped a group shot of farhan’s foreign friends and family. joost (a dutch man living in london), naqi (farhan’s dad), me, rahana (farhan’s mom), zoe (a swiss and swedish chick who came from belgium), helena (a spanish chick living in london), urooj (farhan’s younger sister) and farhan. farhan’s dad told everyone we foreigners were his kids from his previous marriage 🙂

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fun with henna

after 2 days of non-stop wedding ceremony fun, we had a 2 day hiatus from the festivities. kinda. we still had parties to attend, but of a purely social nature. farhan’s high school buds helena, zoe and joost trickled in from their respective countries to join the wedding throng. we were fast friends. after their arrivals, we had a slight scare. a suicide bomber killed a shia priest about 10 minutes from our house. but really, no trip to pakistan would be complete with a little bomb scare, right? it barely made the news back home, but we let our loved ones know we were okay just in case. i was having clothes fitted that day and could barely get this top to fit over my head. or you could consider it a scare tactic.

meanwhile, as we endured what we gingerly termed “house arrest,” we took turns getting henna on our hands. before the wedding, the bride has a mehendi ceremony where the bridal party gets painted with henna. 3 ladies came to our house and spent hours painting different designs on us all. arzoo’s henna was of course the most elaborate work, trailing all the way up her arms and covering her feet and legs as well. the henna is like a brown paste that dries and cracks and rubs off the skin after 2-3 hours, leaving behind red tattoos that last for days/weeks. i still have faded evidence on the palms of my hands. note the peacock on the back of arzoo’s hands. cool, eh?

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mayun video clip

here is a video clip from farhan’s mayun (if it works!) i was supposed to put mehendi on a leaf in farhan’s hand, but chose to put it on his face instead 🙂 his aunt then returned the favor. apparently this signifies something will happen to me, but i couldn’t understand what exactly. i hope it’s something good!

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arzoo & farhan’s mayun

my second day in karachi was extremely busy as urooj (farhan’s youngest sister) gave instructions on how to prepare for the mayun ceremony to be celebrated at the house that night. this was a double party for arzoo (farhan’s older sister) and farhan as both were getting married.

during the day urooj and i made mehendi (henna) and put in in different small pots and containers. we hung thousands of marigolds (orange and yellow) as the backdrop to the platform where arzoo and farhan would sit. i’ve never seen so many brightly colored flowers in my whole life. it was super cool. flowers were part of every ceremony, usually worn by the bride and groom, but the guests as well. the women would all receive bracelets made of orange blossoms as they arrived. they smelled soooo good!

during the ceremonies, i would sit with the women as they sang prayers. when praying, the women keep their heads covered. the girl singing prayers for arzoo’s mayun had a beautiful voice and genuinely felt the words she sang. even though i couldn’t understand what she was singing, her sincerity was moving.

i don’t really understand the point of farhan’s mayun, but for arzoo it signaled the beginning of several days where she would stay home always wearing yellow. she even put yellow tumeric mixed with rose water on her skin. all of this was in preparation for her wedding, when she would go from yellow to red, as a bright flame. here are farhan’s dad (who i call baba), arzoo, farhan, his mom (who i call ami) and urooj in the back.

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