The next day, we were at my grandfather’s house for the wedding. As my mother adjusted my gown, I pulled back. I told her I wanted to run away. "Don’t be silly," she said. "All the guests are here." Someone put the marriage licence in front of me, I was told to sign it, and I did. Later we held a celebration at a high-end restaurant in the city. Strings of lights and red ribbons decorated the room, and 200 of our parents’ friends came. There were piles of food, and everybody laughed and sang and danced long into the night. I wore a long red lehenga sari. I was told to sit there quietly and look down at my hands, playing the demure bride.
We saw each other a few times, but never for long and usually with others around. One evening, we went to Pizza Hut with his older brother and his brother’s wife. It was my first date, and I was so shy I barely spoke. We talked regularly online, over MSN Messenger, and occasionally on the phone. Slowly, I grew more comfortable with the marriage. Nothing about him struck me as special. He wasn’t smart or funny or warm, but he was a normal enough guy. He told me how pleased he was that his wife was so smart. He suggested university programs I should consider in Canada. He agreed to wait to have kids until I finished school. He said all the right things.
When my immigration papers came through in August 2000, we both flew to Abu Dhabi for our second, smaller celebration. After it was over, we slept together for the first time. I was petrified. I knew nothing about sex or birth control, and neither did he. My aunt had told me about ovulation, explaining that I couldn’t get pregnant if I had sex on certain days of the month. I thought our wedding night was one of those days. I’d never even seen a condom before.
Later that week, we flew to Canada and I moved into his two-bedroom condo in Mississauga. I missed my parents, my friends, my school. I was so unhappy that I stopped eating, and I spent most of my days watching TV while my husband was at work. I stopped getting my period right away. At first, I thought it was because of the move, the abrupt change in environment. But a month passed, then another. I was getting sick every morning. My nausea was so severe that I was afraid to go outside in case I fainted. Finally I told my husband that I needed to see a doctor. I sat in the doctor’s office, listening to him ask me if I understood what being pregnant meant. All I knew was that it meant I couldn’t go to school. This can’t be happening, I thought. This isn’t happening. I was only 17.
During the first few months of my pregnancy, my husband was kind and thoughtful. He took late-night trips to the grocery store to satisfy my cravings. He’d call a couple of times a day from work to ask how I was feeling, and every night we cooked dinner together. I discovered an adult learning centre near our condo and enrolled in an ESL course. I thought our marriage was going well. Then, two months before our daughter was born, he told me his parents would be moving to Canada and staying with us. He had planned for them to live with us all along, but this was the first I’d heard of it. We moved out of the master bedroom into the smaller one so his parents would be more comfortable.
Everything changed when they arrived. My husband and I stopped spending time alone together. His mother got upset when he paid attention to me, so he didn’t show me any affection. When I would ask if I could call my parents in Ruwais, he or his mother would tell me we couldn’t afford international calls.
When she was a few months old, we bought a four-bedroom house in Streetsville with his parents. I was rarely allowed to leave. I never had a penny to my name. My mother-in-law gave me her cast-off clothing to wear. I didn’t have a cellphone. I wasn’t allowed to go to the grocery store on my own. If I didn’t iron my husband’s shirts or make his lunch or finish my chores, he and my in-laws told me that I was a bad wife who couldn’t keep my family happy. I walked on eggshells all the time. If I asked my husband something, he would reply, "Bitch, get out of here."
I was having suicidal thoughts all the time. I was convinced my life was over. One time, I took a razor blade into the shower and thought about cutting myself, stopping only when I heard my baby cry. I believed my unhappiness was my fault—that the secret to perfect wifehood was eluding me.
If I’d just done the dishes better, been quieter, anticipated that he wanted a cup of coffee or a glass of water, then none of this would have happened.
To be continued.....