A Suitable Match
By Irum Sarfaraz
Chapter 26 – Last

“Who’s that?” Humna peered at the picture Ruby was showing her on her phone. The two were waiting for Saira.
“It’s one of Ahmed’s friends. I got his picture to show Saira.”
“Are you crazy?” Humna glared at her. “Here the poor girl is struggling over how to get over her first rishta-breakup and here you are match making already. Give her time.”
“I’m not crazy. I’m doing it to help the ‘poor girl’ get over her rishta-breakup faster,” Ruby informed her wisely. “It’ll help distract her.”
“The way I see it, it could go either way,” Humna said tartly. “She’ll either be very offended or very happy with your deep concern. Let me see that picture again.” She grabbed the phone from Ruby.
“Hmmm…not bad looking,” she said. Then, pretending to be hurt, she added, “Why did you show me Umair and not this guy when you were match making for me?”
“There’s still time,” Ruby answered seriously, playing along. “You aren’t married yet. Want to switch? You take this handsome guy and we’ll pass on Umair to Saira.”
“Shut up!” Humna laughed. “I wouldn’t exchange Umair for Brad Pitt even if he walked in the door right now!” They both laughed at their cheesy joke. Just then Saira walked in and took her seat next to Ruby.
The three talked for a little while over their hot samosas and chai. Ruby hadn’t forgotten the reason why she had invited Saira there. A few minutes later, she opened the photograph she had just shown Humna and put in front of Saira. Saira was in the middle of saying something to Humna.
At first, she didn’t realize what Ruby was showing her, taking only a fleeting look at the photograph in the phone in front of her. Then she suddenly stopped talking and picked up the phone slowly, her eyes riveted on the picture.
“Where’d you get this?” she slowly asked Ruby.
“I got it from Ahmed,” Ruby started to explain. Saira interrupted her impatiently.
“Ahmed? But where did he get it?” she demanded.
Saira’s tone and surprise was puzzling. Humna was convinced Saira was seriously offended at being shown a picture of a new guy when they both knew she was in the process of refusing the first one. She could be thinking they were mocking her.
“Ahmed has this picture because it’s his friend,” Ruby explained.
“This is Ahmed’s friend?” there was disbelief on Saira’s face. “You mean that ‘good’ friend you were planning to hook me up with?”
“Look, Ruby and I were just trying to be helpful,” Humna interjected hurriedly and uncomfortably, expecting a volley of furious talk from Saira. She was now positive that Saira was more upset about her situation than either of them had anticipated. And this little picture trick had only pushed her to the limit.
“Yes, Saira, I meant nothing by it,” Ruby took the cue. “If you don’t like the guy, that’s fine. We’ll find someone else.” Humna wanted to slap her. She was only making things worse. She gave her a swift kick under the table.
“Like the guy?” Saira exclaimed in a loud voice. “I know the guy…”
Both Humna and Ruby stared at her incredulously.
“You know this guy?” Ruby asked her in disbelief. Obvious Saira was more upset than they had realized. She was talking nonsense. “How could you know him? He lives in Pakistan…”
“You idiots, this is Meer’s picture,” Saira said.
Ruby and Humna exchanged looks.
“Not it isn’t,” Ruby said in a soothing voice. “This is Ahmed’s friend…”
“….Sameer Khan Afridi…,” Saira completed her sentence. “Am I right?”
Humna and Ruby stared at her with their mouths open. Saira had started to enjoy this thoroughly.
“Oh my God!” Ruby gasped. “Oh my God! You mean Meer is actually short for Sameer? You mean…Oh my God!” She was gaping like a goldfish, looking from Humna to Saira in amazement. Humna was still at a loss.
“Will you stop saying ‘Oh my God’ and let me understand,” she snapped at Ruby crossly. Then she turned to Saira, “So you’re saying that Meer and Sameer are the same person?” She asked her the same question comically. Saira nodded.
“Oh my God!!” Humna exclaimed.
“Oh my God indeed, my dear,” Saira laughed. “Oh my God….!!!”
The three friends roared with laughter.
“Meer is only called Sameer on paper and by his friends. At home and informally, everyone knows him as Meer Afridi.”
“Hey, you realize what this means?” Ruby sat up excitedly.
‘What does it mean??” Humna looked at one and then the other in confusion.
“Silly, don’t you see?” Ruby turned impatiently to Humna. “Salman Uncle has all the references in the world now. Umair, Ahmed, and Sameer have been friends since school. The families have known each other for ages! What other references could you want?!”
“There is one thing I don’t understand,” Saira said. “If Sameer, or Meer, is such a good friend of Umair and Ahmed, why didn’t he ever mention it to his friends that he was considering a girl from the US?”
“For the same reason that Umair hasn’t said anything to his friends either,” Humna said. “He didn’t like the idea of this thing leaking out before it was final. The only reason why Ahmed knew all about it was because he was the one choreographing the entire show.”
“But they are such good friends? Friends talk about such things? We do.” Saira still couldn’t get it.
“The boys from respectable families take the honor of girls very seriously. They don’t discuss their mothers, sisters, or other girls in the family even with their close friends. Let alone discussing a girl they haven’t even decided to marry yet. It’s just not done. Umair told me this himself.”
“I like that idea very much,” Ruby said and Saira agreed. “Such a refreshing change from what we see here.”
“So, when are you going to tell Ahmed?” Humna asked, rubbing her hands gleefully.
“I’ll tell him tonight,” Ruby replied. “But not before I pull his leg a little…”
*****

“Ahmed, I talked to my friend and showed her your friend Sameer’s picture,” Ruby called him that very night.
“Already?” Ahmed was surprised. “You didn’t waste time at all, did you?”
“She was actually very, very depressed about the last deal falling through. So, I figured it would be a good distraction.”
“What does she think?” he asked curiously.
“What do you think?” Ruby was making an effort to be really serious. “She really liked him and she wants you to start talking to him about her.”
“So soon,” Ahmed was surprised. This was going faster than he had imagined.
“Why? Is there a problem?” Ruby asked innocently.
“No, but I just sent Sameer’s picture on a whim. He’s actually from a Pathan background and I’d first have to find out if his family is even open to marrying someone who is not from a similar background.”
“So, you were just playing around for the fun of it?” Ruby pretended to be very irritated. “You shouldn’t have done that. That wasn’t fair to my friend. She’s already going through a tough time.”
“I wasn’t playing around,” Ahmed said hurriedly, feeling bad. “What I meant was, I would have to ask him about his little issue first. If there is no issue with the background, then we can continue.”
“Tell you what,” Ruby said, sounding like she was trying to reach some middle ground. “You can tell him that a very good friend of your wife saw his picture and was very interested in talking to him. Tell him her full name.” Ahmed wasn’t sure he liked the plan. But Ruby was insistent.
“Are you going to bug me like this about everything else later too?” he asked her jokingly.
“Only when it comes to playing matchmaker between my friends and yours!”
*****
“Why do you want to know if my family will or will not allow marrying outside the family?” Sameer was quite taken aback at Ahmed’s unexpected question. They were seated in a relatively isolated corner in the University cafeteria.
“Actually, my wife wants to know…” This sounded even worse. Sameer stared at him amazed.
“What I meant was,” Ahmed added hurriedly, “she has this friend who she thinks will be a good match for you.”
“Ah! I see” Sameer looked at him skeptically, a twinkle in his eye. He guessed right away what was going on. “My dear Ahmed already enjoying the bliss of married life even from across the seas!” He teased his friend.
“Just answer my question will you,” Ahmed grumbled. He swore in his heart he was never going to do this for Ruby again.
“My family doesn’t mind actually,” Sameer decided to tell him about Saira but not without pulling his leg a little too.
“Great, so should I give this girl your number?”
“Hey hold it! Who is she?”
“Well her name is Saira Zia…”
“Wait a minute,” Sameer sat up in his chair. “And she lives in Northern California?”
“Yes… she does…”
“And her father’s name is Salman Zia?” Sameer asked, interrupting him again.
“You know this girl already?” Ahmed stared at him in amazement. Had Ruby already talked to him about Saira? But how could she and why would she talk directly to his friend?
“Yes, I know the girl already,” Sameer smiled. “She’s a nice girl though. Didn’t know she was your wife’s friend.”
“I already told you she’s my wife’s friend,” Ahmed said, thoroughly irritated now. “Tell me how you know her?”
“Of course, I know her!”
“But how, you idiot?”
“Because my family and I have decided that this is a good match for me,” Sameer replied calmly as Ahmed’s mouth fell open. “I’m marrying Saira Zia!”
*****
“Isn’t that such a totally awesome coincidence Ruby!” Ahmed could barely wait to tell Ruby that the match she was planning to make was in fact, already made.
“Totally,” she replied. Ahmed was surprised. She sounded happy, but he was expecting her to be jubilant. She hadn’t reacted as he had thought she would. A thought suddenly crossed his head.
“Did you already know about this?” he asked suspiciously.
“Totally…!”
“Were you all pulling my leg…? And…don’t say totally…I’m very upset...”
“Funny,” she answered in mock concern. “You don’t sound upset. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, you actually sound quite…happy?”
“Totally….” He answered. They both laughed.
“Three friends in the US, married to three friends in Pakistan,” Ruby said elated. “Now that’s we call coincidence.”
“No, my dear wife, it’s what we call fate...”

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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