Abez sez Assalamualaikum!

We’re fresh out of electricity more often than not these days, and that makes typing a blog hard. I’ve started two only to have the electriity go out and my documents get destroyed. Aaaargh! Here, have an article I wrote instead. It would’ve featured in the Sunday Times this February, but my view on love and Valentine’s day didn’t fit in well with their Valentine’s special. (Damn liberals) Oh well. Till I can write a real blog, read it anyway. -Abez

How I Own 1/7th of Riaz’s heart.

by Sensei

I don’t want to know the history of St. Valentine’s Day so much as I would like to know who started it in Pakistan. I do, after all, need someone to blame for the fact that I own exactly 1/7th of Riaz’s heart. It’s not a clerical error. He pledged it to me last year, the whole 1/7th, and I am still waiting for someone to stand accountable for such an absurdity.

Riaz didn’t exactly tell me he was only giving me 1/7th, he just showed up in front of my car, February 14th last year, where he’d been waiting for me. After an inarticulate speech about love and the destiny of our souls, he gave me a card and a rose and then mumbled something and rushed away as quickly as he appeared. Inside the card were the usual declarations of undying love and affection, and he pledged me his heart, the generous man.

The next day in college (you know how girls are) I did some asking around and it turned out that not only had Riaz pledged his heart to me, but to six other girls too. Three I already knew, three I got to know on a very friendly basis afterwards. There’s nothing that will bind people together quite like common ground, and in our case, we discovered we were all co-owners of Riaz’s heart. Since none of us wanted to bear the burden of ownership entirely, we decided to share, and that’s how I came to own exactly 1/7th.

I may be old fashioned, but where I come from, love has very little to do with cards and roses and a lot to do with dedication. Love isn’t a cheap show once a year, love isn’t about beautiful women and sighing in spring. It was a very wise man (whose name I don’t know) who said, “You don’t love a woman because she is beautiful, but a woman is beautiful because you love her.” That wise man, he was right. I think of that quote every time I think of my Nani and Nana. Even when they were both well into their seventies, sometimes when Nana thought there was no one looking, I would catch him giving Nani the soft kind of look that would melt a woman’s defenses in seconds. Anyone else who looked at Nani probably only saw a wrinkled old lady with and a crooked smile, but when Nana looked at her, he saw the gorgeous Houri he married fifty years ago. That’s love.

Speaking of years, that reminds me of another thing about love. It has nothing to do with one-day holidays. Love means dedication that lasts, five ten, fifty years later. What good was Riaz’s mumbled ‘I love you’ (and I think it was ‘I love you’ because he shouldn’t have said ‘I need glue‘ just then) when it lasts only as long as roses are on sale for Valentine’s day? If his love had lasted any longer, I probably would have run him over, but the point is, real love is long-term. Infatuation and obsession are temporary, but real love is a solidly grounded, conscious effort that people actively maintain for others. It’s not some sort of passing whim, or an effortless passion, it’s a willfully upheld emotion built on a foundation of trust, understanding, and mutual sacrifice.

Riaz can’t fool me. I know what dedicated love is about. I saw it once when my aunt became seriously ill one night. Her husband got up with her and guided her to the sink, and held her hair back when she was vomiting and supported her when she could no longer stand. Then he carried her gently to the car and drove her to the hospital. My cousins told me that he held her hand the whole time she was there, and he helped her go to the bathroom. That may sound disgusting, but it takes real love to get over your own fears and dislikes to help someone you care about.

I’ll tell you what else love is about; it’s about laughing at jokes that weren’t too terribly funny because someone else needs cheering up. It’s about saying sorry even when you know you were right, because you know that the person you argued with is far more important than what you argued about. Its about covering someone else up when you’re cold, it’s about giving someone else tea when you’re tired, it’s about giving up that part of you that screams ‘Me! Me! Me!’ and becoming the other half of another person. It’s about taking the brunt of something because you’d rather see yourself die than see the one you love being shamed. This kind of love may be hard to spot because it isn’t flashy and loud and covered in red glitter and white lace, but it’s out there. It’s quiet but powerful, it’s everyday but magical, it’s real, but apparently Riaz has no idea it exists.

I suppose you’re reading this and thinking that it’s the woman who’s doing all this, she’s practically worshipping her husband and the chauvinistic pig doesn’t even care. Well, in some cases that’s true, because women are more sentimental. I think it’s safe to say that some woman love their husbands more than their husbands love them, but I was speaking in terms of ideals, and ideally, they both love and sacrifice equally.

So there it is, Riaz darling. A pox on the kind of “love” that Valentine’s day promotes (btw, what the heck are we Muslims doing celebrating the holiday of a Christian saint?). I don’t need a sappy card and a wilted rose from a guy who has no real respect for me, who has no concept of my honor, who doesn’t even know what love is.

Guys like Riaz are using Valentine’s day as an excuse to act on their foolish impulses, and I don’t care what you call them – puppy love, lust, attraction, obsession, licentiousness, whatever. There’s no love involved there, just a shameless attempt to weasel me out of affections that I’m reserving for someone who deserves them. Someone who will love as one should, with dedication, with sacrifice, with a whole heart, as compared to 1/7th. Attention Riaz: If I see you again I may actually take up the offer of having your heart. And I may just carve my portion out with a spoon.

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