D's Dilemma VI
Something drastic needed to be done to save the situation. D’s father was not backing down. Now, in response to the phone call D’s father made to W, W’s father ordered her to drop the matter too. Both sets of parents were now pulling their children away from each other. Both sets of parents insisted
on it and now, drastic measures needed to be taken.
D had another week left in Islamabad. He was on compassionate leave from work. His employers insisted that he go back home for as long as he wanted to, to attend to the fallout of the October 8th earthquake. He had already spent two weeks here before the repercussions of his father’s September phone call to D blew up in his face. W called D up and was frantic. Her father insisted on extracting a promise from her that she would drop this matter. He objected to D only on the grounds that his family was obviously never going to accept her, and seen in this light, he had a perfectly legitimate point. After all, he said, I didn’t raise you to give you away to a family that will make your life miserable the moment you enter it.
For next few days, as his flight drew nearer, D moped and wondered what to do. I was all out of ideas at this stage and did my best to comfort him and keep his mind off things. A few days before he was due to leave, W asked to meet him so they can discuss their future. D borrowed an apartment from a friend of his so he and W can have the discussion in private, without interruptions. It was still Ramadhan, and they agreed to meet after iftari. D told me about the meeting and I was eagerly awaiting his phone call at night.
D called me a few hours after iftari. It was late and he asked me to come over (to the apartment he had borrowed). I noticed his low-key tone and drove over there right away. W had gone and D was alone in the apartment.
W had called the meeting for one purpose only, and that was to say good-bye and to get closure. She told him that she could never go against his father’s wishes and that she had to submit to his demands that she drop this matter entirely and sincerely. She said tearfully that it didn’t seem that things would ever work out between them and that if D’s parents ever did come around (and that too seemed unlikely) it was improbable that her father would ever forgive the phone call D’s father made to her.
D listened to this in tearful silence. He agreed with her that at the moment, things didn’t seem like they would ever work out. However, he affirmed that he would never give up on her and he would continue to work on his parents. ‘Eventually,’ he said, ‘they have to give in, I’m not letting this go.’ D explained that he was going to emotionally blackmail them into accepting her. He wasn’t going to fight with them, but just let them know that he was completely miserable because of them. That should bring them around eventually. W countered this by telling him that as far as she was concerned, it was all over. She came here to say goodbye and not to plot strategies for the future. She told him not to give her false hope and that he should also start to accept the inevitable. D said that he wasn’t ready to give up hope, but that he understood her position and respected it.
W said goodbye and left.
I sat with D was he narrated what happened. He had been crying before he called me up and looked completely defeated. He looked tired and broken.
“What are you going to do now?” I asked.
“What I said. I’m going to go back to London, I’m not going to call my parents. I’m not going to do anything to assure them that I’m happy with the way things turned out. I’m not going to call them up and start acting normally as if everything is just fine when its not. It won’t be a pretense, man. I’m fucking upset. I can’t deal with this and also act happy at the same time, especially towards my parents who caused this mess in the first place. Let them do what they want to do with that. I’m going to be myself. They made my life miserable because of their stubbornness. I’m not going to hide that from them. Let them live with it, like I’m living with it. I hope they eventually come around when they see how miserable I am. If they don’t, then they don’t.”
I spent a few more hours with D, trying my best to cheer him up. I returned home pretty late and later that night he called me again and we talked some more. His parents did notice a change come over him. He wasn’t hostile or rude towards them, but his relationship with W was now ended, from W herself no less. He was profoundly unhappy and his parents noticed. They didn’t say anything and a few days later he left for London.
It was D’s sister who eventually told D’s parents that W had broken off the matter once and for all, and that the two were no longer speaking to each other. D’s parents had finally gotten their own way. However, D was still holding out hope that his misery would somehow penetrate his parent’s prejudices and they would finally come around to see things his way. True to his word, he stopped calling home every week like he used to. The only information D’s parents had of him came from his sister who was working in Scotland and called D up regularly. D’s sister argued for him wholeheartedly, but eventually she tired of having regular fights with her parents over D’s fate. She got heartily sick of the entire fiasco herself and tried to avoid talking to her parents as much as possible because they would always bring the matter up whenever they talked.
D had given up trying to reason with his parents. He had written thousands of words in emails and spent endless hours on the phone patiently arguing his case. He finally just left the matter up to his parent’s sense of compassion. He was not actively doing anything further to change their minds, but he certainly wasn’t going to let them off the hook for what they had done. He was miserable and he wasn’t going to pretend otherwise. He was working 12-14 hours days at his job and was glad for the distraction.
His parents did not relent or show the slightest sign of softening on their position. His father would regularly write emails telling him that he was an unfaithful son and that he had very clearly been wrong about the whole W affair. D didn’t bother replying to these emails. He was bitter that even after it was all over and it was confirmed that W had broken things off, far from trying to reconcile matters between them and clear the air, his father was still trying to crush him into subservience. His father still wanted him to ask for forgiveness for all the wrong that D had committed.
D’s parents would call him on some minor pretext or the other every few weeks. The conversations would always be stilted and terse. No mention would ever be made about the real source of the problem and when the sterile banter was quickly exhausted, the phone call would end.
As the situation developed, a gradual change came over D’s attitude. He was no longer seeking to emotionally blackmail his parents with his misery. As the weeks rolled on without any sign of progress, and as the farewell meeting in the apartment receded further into the past, D began to lose all vestiges of hope. Even if his parent suddenly decided that they would accept W, it would never work now. Too much anger had gone into the process. The relationship between W and his parents would be poisoned and doomed to fail. There could be no way things would ever work out after all the hate and anger of the last seven months.
Today, on the 22nd of January, D called me up again and we talked for about an hour. I hadn’t talked to him for more than a month and I was hoping he would have some good news to report. He didn’t. He had given up totally. He had no hope left and wasn’t holding out any. He didn’t know how things with ever be the same with his parents now, but he was working 12-14 hours a day these days and that kept him from thinking too much about anything. He said all his friends from the Islamaabad clique in which he had first met W were gone. They left their jobs or finished their degrees. He was the only one there now.
“So how do you spend your time?” I asked him today.
“I don’t have much time to spend man,” he replied. “I wake up early, get to work by 9, come back at 6 or 7, clean up, iron my clothes for tomorrow, watch some TV then go to sleep to start all over again the next day. There’s nothing to look forward to.” He paused. “And I get really lonely.”