There is no denying the dynamics definitely change when elders or heads of the family pass away. It’s only once that happens that I suppose you can see the true realities or faces of your family and you realise your elders were the ones that kept everyone together united with one another.
With all of that in mind before leaving London I had had several conversations with my mum about the chance of staying over at my Daadi’s, in the end I had decided that I wouldn’t as it would just complicate things. I felt I could go and visit the house, the house that we had spent several summer holidays in and also pay my respects at her grave. However whilst staying in Jhelum for both weddings I decided I would continue to stay with my nani and cousins in her village. It was the weirdest and I would say the most testing time for me, as my nani and most of her side of the family live in England. I had never really visited that village or spent time with that side of the family.
After a couple of days I settled in, dodging random aunties and their imposing questions, carrying out general bridesmaid’s duties. Some of which included trying to wave off clingy aunties wanting to witness ALL behind the scenes bridal moments! Before long the wedding was under way and at last my Khala, Mamu and cousins came from Islamabad and joined us. The wedding went smoothly we ate, sang, giggled, laughed, screamed, cried and fan girled over the popular wedding videographer team that had been hired and in a blink of an eye it was all over! An hour after my cousin’s walimah ended, my bags and dresses were all packed and I was ready for the second and final wedding of the trip. Now you may question why I had packed when earlier I had decided not to stay in my Daadi’s village, well the story follows.
In the second week of my trip we had made a visit to my Daadi’s village to visit her grave and see the house again. The location of my Daadi’s house is really unique and I would say special. My Dada (grandfather) had 4 brothers in total, growing up they all lived on one large plot of land, just outside the main village. But as each brother got married they sectioned off a piece of land for each brother and they all brought up their families side by side. Most of the brother’s children moved to England, dad being the only one to move to London. So although we live in different parts of England, it’s this legacy that our granddad’s left that keeps us together. So the grandchildren of these granddads are beginning to get married and start their own families, they’re my second cousins. And I had stayed in Jhelum to attend one of my second cousins wedding.
Desi aunties although prone to bouts of wailing or crying for various reasons are not very sentimental. So when the groom’s mother suggested that all 5 houses have their doors unlocked and opened after many years of them being deserted was truly a beautiful gesture and it really touched me. The groom’s mother invited me to stay with them during the duration of the wedding but then my 2 aunties, my dad’s sisters offered to stay with me at my Daadis house instead. My first visit to my Daadi’s home was spent with me walking into each room and crying endlessly. Remembering little moments like my cousins and I sitting around laughing during my chachu’s wedding several years before and where my Daadi would sit in her usual spot laughing at us and our ‘Englishness’. Seeing the bedroom door where on another summer holiday whilst being chased, my brother ran straight into the strong wooden door and ended up with several painful stitches to the head.
There were many events and dramas that accompanied the wedding. I was spending more time with my second cousins and going around to their houses before the ceremonial events began and the guests started to arrive. On one particular morning, the morning of the last event the Walima something took place which I will never forget. As usual I had put my dress on and had gone around to the groom’s house. All the girls were upstairs, last minute pinning of dupattas and sticking fake eyelashes on. Going back to the story most of the girls were all dressed and left the room to go find some of the others. I was taking my time and was left alone with one of the aunt’s from England.
We were both in different corners of the room and I started telling her how some of my dad’s relatives were bugging me and thought they could match me with one of the groomsmen. I continued to tell her the story until I realised she was very quiet, I turned around and she just looked at me with these sad eyes. She opened her mouth and uttered the words “My husband wants to divorce me” I’ve probably never been so shocked in my life, it left me speechless. I immediately crossed over to her and we sat down. I felt her emotions seeping out of her, she must have felt so alone and helpless to have just blurted it out to me like that. I did my best to try and comfort her and told her she had to stay strong for her daughters who had only just left the room a couple of minutes before. We only had one more event to get through and then the wedding would officially be over. This aunty honestly had so much patience and strength to brave through all those difficult moments.
As with every wedding there was a lot of drama, as well as other people’s family troubles. I personally had to deal with and put up with a lot of unnecessary drama which I may not have had if my mum had been with me. I strongly believe everything happens for a reason, having so much to deal with brought me closer to my second cousins and their parents, especially the aunties. Back in England I barely spend any time with these people and only meet them at rare special occasions. But living in such close proximity we all blended together, we were in and out of each other’s houses, spending hot sticky afternoons lazing on manjis under the spinning fans. All these people were there for me and I found comfort and solace in them. I honestly believe there is a special kind of magic that exists within those green lands of Pakistan; I could feel the presence of our grandfathers and the small marks they had left on the land we call our home. I found we were all bound by that legacy that they had left behind and that was really special and something I had never experienced before.