He looked from one covered face to the next, trying to understand how this is all happening to him, why he is expected to choose his future wife in such a bizarre way. His mother stood still eyeing the girls and clicking her tongue in disapproval whenever one of them looks up. It was so sudden for Hamza, he expected to at least unpack his bags before setting off to his uncle’s house. But no, his parents were waiting for him in the car and were determined to marry him by the end of the week.
Hamza just finished his engineering degree in Frankfurt and was having a great time when his parents called and asked him to come back home. So soon? he asked. You got your degree, there’s no excuse to stay. He knew that being the perfect Muslim son meant following your parent’s wishes and so reluctantly packed his bags to go home.
But home wasn’t the same. He didn’t know of his parent’s plan nor did he wish to indulge them into imagining that he would marry based on nothing. He stared into the faces and thought that they were all the same. Some of the girls were shorter, others were chubbier, yet their eyes remained set down. He tried to think what would make a difference in a marriage and his mind took him to his cycling days on the main river where he saw old couples holding hands and walking. He would like that, he thought to himself. He would very much like to grow old with someone he understands and who understands him. The problem is how can he make sure that behind burka number #1 is the right person or maybe behind burka #4 is a better fit.
His father was standing outside with his uncle chatting and laughing, not realizing that Hamza was being sent to a slaughterhouse. His mother was tired of waiting and came over to whisper,
“my boy, choose any of the girls, they are all good Muslims.”
“but mom, how would I know if I will be happy with her?”
“you won’t know, my son. Just choose and let us get this over with. Your uncle thinks you should marry one of his daughters and keep the money within the family which is true. Why marry someone poor when you can get richer as a bargain.”
Richer as a bargain, he scoffed and looked at the girls one more time. They didn’t seem to release any hints, none looked him in the eye, and none twitched. He sighed, here goes nothing.
He chooses quickly without understanding what his choice means, without caring that this gamble of a marriage is as successful as any. He doesn’t care what goes on in his life after this, his society may have enforced the face covers on his cousins but his heart is forced to be covered too. It doesn’t matter who he marries, as long as the money stays within the family.