A Real Wedding

Grinning, I enter the living room with Mama, Daddy and Ahmad and Subhaan trailing behind me. Flowers and balloons decorate the living room.

The smell of biryani, samosas, dhai poolkhi and charcoal waft up as I greet aunts, uncles and my grandparents.

I look around for the bride-to-be. “Where’s Aqsa?”

“She’s upstairs, beta,” my aunt responds, taking the bouquet of flowers from Mama’s hands. “Go on up.”

I run up the stairs, two at a time, forgetting that that I am wearing one of my fancier shalwar kameez. I nearly run into Faisal at the top of the stairs.

“Whoa, take it easy,” he says.

I grin. “Sorry. Aren’t you excited to see your sister get married?”

Faisal shrugs. “It’s over the phone. Plus she’s not leaving for a few years while all the Visa stuff gets sorted out.”

I shrug and head to Aqsa’s room. Even if it’s a phone marriage, I’ll still treat it like a real wedding.

I knock on the door. “Come in,” comes Aqsa’s timid voice.

My cousins lounge on the bed and chairs inside, giggling and chatting. Aqsa sits in the centre of her bed, wearing a green shalwar kameez. Intricate designs weave across hands in the maroon coloured and fragrant mehndi.

“Aqsa!” I shake her as I hug her. “Aren’t you excited? Scared? Nervous?”

She laughs, hugging me back. “Not really nervous or excited. Just hoping everything turns out okay with the Nikkah.”

“Well, I’m so excited.” I plop next to her on the bed. “This is the first wedding in our family!”

Aqsa fixes her bangles and smiles.

“It’s your turn next!” shouts Sabila from the background. I groan while they titter.

The door opens as Mama and the aunties enter. They come and fix Aqsa’s red dupatta and her jewellery.

“Remember to say yes loudly and clearly, so they can hear you over the phone,” says Sabila’s mom, smoothing over the bedspread.

“And don’t stress too much, we’re all here.” Mama puts a hand on Aqsa’s shoulder and fixes her dupatta.

The aunties fix Aqsa’s dupatta and jewellery one last time and then leave.

As we wait inside her bedroom to be called down, Alaina turns to Aqsa and says, “But I mean you must be nervous. You’ve never even met him.”

We all turn to look at her.

“I have talked to him on the phone,” Aqsa says, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“But you’ve never met him,” I repeat, my eyes widening. “Pictures don’t always tell everything. Do you even like him?”

Aqsa smiles nervously. “My parents picked him after consulting everyone there. My uncle knows them and he says they’re a good family. I trust my parents to do the best for me.”

We all nod solemnly.

The aunties enter again and arrange us in a line, with Sabila and me in front, Alaina and Ayesha behind us and Aqsa last.

Slowly, we walk down the stairs, grinning as cameras go off, blinding us with their flashes.

Aqsa sits in the living room. The adults, aunts, uncles, and my grandparents arrange themselves on the sofas. My cousins and I hover in the entrance of the small living room or perch on sofa arms.

“Okay, shh! Be quiet now!” my aunt says to us. They all lean forward to watch Aqsa’s dad take out the phone number he’ll be calling today.

We nod. Hassan leans back to take a picture and almost knocks over a vase. He grabs it before it falls. Aunts glare at all of us in turn.

“Chup! Stop being so noisy,” my naani says, waving her tiny arms.

Aqsa’s dad puts on his glasses and squints as he punches in the numbers. He puts it on speakerphone.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

I adjust my bangles and take a few pictures while we wait.

Aqsa’s head bows and her red dupatta falls over it. I can’t see her expression. Faisal, who sits beside her, slouches in his seat.

The phone cackles as it connects us to the same ceremony being led more than eleven thousand kilometres away in Lahore, Pakistan. It sits in the centre of the table and we all stare it.

The Imam leads the ceremony on the other end and calls forward the witnesses. In the middle of this, Ahmad’s stomach grumbles loudly. We cough to hide our laughter.

The aunties and uncles shush us again while Ahmad whispers, “What? I want some barbecue.”

I nudge him and we crane our necks to listen as the groom declares his acceptance of the marriage. I wonder what he looks like.

My uncle turns to Aqsa.

“Do you consent to this nikkah?”

The crackling of the phone fills the room as we all turn to look at the bride, her face hidden under the shimmering, red dupatta.

The fabric sways as she nods her head. “Kabool Hai,” she says. I consent.

“Do you consent to this nikkah?”

“Kabool Hai.”

“Do you consent to this nikkah?”

“Kabool Hai.”


  1. Tania khan says:

    wounder full story …….i remember all wedding day but i read Ur story i relay enjoy again…….but this lines so natural .((.Chup! Stop being so noisy,” my naani says, waving her tiny arms.) ,,,,,,,,,well done , ikhlas,

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