My Husband Was a Virtual Stranger on Our Wedding Night. It Was All Rather Awkward, but I Was Sure Things Would Get Better; FEMAIL MODERN TIMES

Daily Mail (London), August 14, 1997 | Go to article overview

My Husband Was a Virtual Stranger on Our Wedding Night. It Was All Rather Awkward, but I Was Sure Things Would Get Better; FEMAIL MODERN TIMES


Byline: DIL NAVAZ

LOOKING for Mr Right can be a painful process, and sometimes it's easy to think: 'I wish someone could find a husband for me.' That's exactly what happens to many British Asian women whose families still believe in arranged marriages.

Taniya Hasan, a 28-year-old youth worker, was born in Pakistan but came to this country with her father Hasan, a BBC world service journalist, and mother Hamda, a housewife, when she was one. The family settled in Tooting, South London. Taniya asked her parents to find her a Moslem husband brought up in Britain. In many ways the formality, innocent courtship and absolute insistence on chastity, are an echo of Britain from a bygone age.

MY PARENTS started nagging me to get married when I was 16. They hoped, rather than anticipated, that I would follow in the Moslem tradition and have an arranged wedding but they left the decision to me. Although many Britons might find this surprising, I chose to trust in 'their way' after considering all the options.

The idea of meeting someone by chance the Western approach - did not appeal to me.

The risks of incompatibility, in education, class and wealth, were too great, despite the allure of the freedom of choice.

Also, I was concerned by the number of broken marriages in the West. I believed my parents, who know me so well, were best-qualified to find me a partner for life.

Eventually they did, but only after I had broken off one engagement, been rejected by a handful of potential suitors, all arranged, and suffered many moments of loneliness and self-doubt.

It will sound strange to a Westerner, but arranged marriages were traditionally a strict contract between two families who would use professional

'matchmakers' to find partners for their children.

Great importance was attached to the backgrounds of the individuals and reports would be exchanged long before the boy and girl could be introduced.

Often the couple wouldn't see each other at all until the wedding day.

This is still common in Pakistan.

It would be easy to sneer at such apparently alien customs, but remember this - in our culture we are brought up to have unquestioning belief in our parents' authority. We are taught to see marriage as a lifelong commitment, whatever early struggles might befall us. These are Western values, too - or they were.

Perhaps we have a less romanticised view of being married, but I think many couples in this country give up too

easily because their partnership does not live up to some Hollywood ideal.

My search for a husband began in 1991 when I was in my final year at Coventry Polytechnic studying social work.

Before then, I hadn't been ready to make the commitment.

I had never had a boyfriend, although I was aware that men liked me and I had platonic friendships. Strictly speaking, the faith prevents a woman from having anything else until she is married and I was happy to save myself for a husband.

My mother was pleased. She had an arranged marriage when she was 19 and felt it was high time I found myself a partner. She mentioned various distant cousins but they didn't interest me.

At that stage, I did not have a matchmaker and tried to find someone myself. Within a year, I was engaged - but it proved a total disaster.

I'd wanted a husband so much that one day, when my parents were on holiday in America, I went through a list put together by my brother of all his friends.

A man called Rafik caught my eye. He was handsome, 23, worked as a journalist and lived in Kensington.

One of my brother's friends spoke to him - our faith would never allow me to approach a man myself - and he said he was interested in marrying me.

When my parents returned from holiday I told them about him.

They investigated his background and gave their blessing to the engagement. …

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