You may be thinking, why ‘my big Mirpuri wedding’. Well it is where both, Ahmed and I come from. Our families, our early years of childhood and the actual wedding all happened in Mirpur. But also because we both feel passionate about being a ‘Mirpuri’, although it isn’t a term that is seen or spoken about in positive light. Especially not in the UK. But actually, I am rather proud to be from Mirpur. Mirpur has given me my identity, a sense of belonging and it is a place that I call home.
All my blogs this year are going to be all about re-living, re-visiting and reminiscing back to the time that made me who I am today. I am going to (hopefully) take you back to 2015 when my life changed for the better, in more than one way. It was a life changing experience for me, spiritually as well as mentally.
I feel it is important for me to share this journey with you mainly because of what someone said to me recently. They commented on how I had ‘changed’.
Amongst thing that were said were comments like ‘[…] seems like you attention-seek a lot’, ‘in some of your posts or blogs, it’s like you’re pretending or being fake’.
As the newer generation puts it: shots were fired.
Yes, it did upset me. Yes, I was mortified. I took a moment to reassess my situation and reflect on what I was doing. Ahmed, on the other hand, didn’t even give a horses’ backside. The bubble this guy lives in: insane!
But you know what, they were right. I have changed a lot. And I feel I have changed for the better. Before 2015, there were times when I could be quite a negative person. Someone who was always complaining or moaning about one thing or another. Don’t get me wrong, I still go through those phases, like we all do; but there was something deeper and darker about the negativity that I carried with me before 2015. But since then I have been living a life that I could have only dreamt of… I have had experiences that I didn’t even know were possible to experience… I have sprouted confidence that I didn’t know I could gain.
This is not to say that my life before 2015 wasn’t amazing, because it was. I am blessed to have the world’s most amazing parents. Trust me, my friends and family will vouch for this. They are my best friends and my world. People always spoke about wedding and marriage in such a negative manner, that I always had very little expectations. This was the main reason why I wasn’t too sure of what was to come. I wasn’t aware of how much I would grow and develop in just three years.
In 2015, my life took a drastic turn *dark dark background music*. Although it was planned and I had been planning it since 2013 (which is when I got engaged to my better half), nothing could have prepared me for what was to follow.
Organising an event as grand (read ‘laborious’) as an Asian wedding spanning over two continents and three countries- now that was difficult but we pulled it off so it clearly wasn’t impossible.
I was in England, Ahmed was in Qatar, the wedding was taking place in Mirpur. You see where I am going with this, don’t you?
I was based in England and not only in one town. I was having to travel between Bradford and Newcastle on a weekly basis since I was undertaking my Masters programme in Social Work and keeping up with my part time jobs in the North East over the weekends. As you can imagine, the stress was real, for sure.
Ahmed at the time was living and working in Qatar. He had been there for around 3-4 years and that was where I was going to move to after my wedding. So there was that element to it too! The uncertainty, the known.
And then there was the logistical challenge of moving my possessions from the UK to Qatar. When/where/how do I move my belongings? Will they go to Qatar via Pakistan?Where will they be stored?
Trust me, it isn’t as simple as it sounds.
As I was visiting Pakistan for my friend’s wedding towards the end of 2014, we decided that it would be a good time to get together and spearhead the wedding shopping. Making full use of my better half’s ‘travel light’ theorem, I had covertly planned to hand over a suitcases full of clothes for him to take back to Qatar!
Well, truth be told: not ‘so’ covertly as I had to make sure he could definitely take it with him. But making it out to be a covert plan sounds a lot better, doesn’t it?
Ahhaa.. That worked perfectly. That was one hurdle completed with ease with all the necessary planning and communication.
Yep. Communication and planning was absolutely KEY to it all. They always are.
As they say, ‘If you fail to plan, plan to fail’.
I also exploited the opportunity in December 2014 to order my wedding dresses and jewellery. This would not have been possible without my mum’s friend who is well settled and established in Islamabad. With her help and support, we were able to arrange and order everything within a week!
It wasn’t just the planning and the organising that was difficult. It was all the emotions and the feelings that were being more and more intrenched within me. Being an only child to the most wonderful parents meant that I was would be leaving them. In our society and culture, daughters are seen as an ‘amaanat’, a gift to whoever she gets married to. Their life changes completely. In addition to these feelings, there was that pressure. The pressure of how brilliant this wedding ‘should’ be.
We come from a quite well respected and well known family, and the weddings tend to be a big and extravagant affair. This made me full of anxiety and fear.
It made me question who I was.
It made me think about my insecurities of being an only child and I constantly thought about not having any siblings and how if I had siblings it would have been different, if at all.
At times I wasn’t in a good place. I cried. I cried a lot. But I kept telling myself it was going to be okay. That I have cousins that are like siblings and I’m sure they will do what they can… all they can.
Play some loud, over the top bollywood tune and it kicked off. April 2015, the start of the big Mirpuri wedding.
Glimpse of the Dholki nights
A week before my wedding, lots of my cousins from all over Pakistan and UK started to arrive. The house all of a sudden started to become noisy, cheerful and full of laughter. I can remember being over joyed.
With people going crazy all around me, my uncle, may he rest in peace, pulled me to a side and told me in a ‘by-the-way’ tone that my cousins from Germany wouldn’t be able to make it to the wedding.
I clearly remember this as my first heartache during the wedding days.
‘How could they? Why wouldn’t they?’ I asked myself. The concoction of self pity, selfishness and betrayal that ran through my veins at that moment in time made me aloof to the binary fact that sometimes people have commitments and the world, as much as I wanted it to, did not after all revolve around me.
I was devastated.
Fast forward two days; I am sat outside in the veranda and turn around to see someone who looks quite identical to myself making an entrance – I see my two gorgeous cousins entering the veranda. The Germans had arrived! I re-live that moment every time I think about it. It fills me with joy and happiness and a goofy smile plays on my lips every time I reminisce this memory.
Fast forward another couple of days and I am stood at Islamabad ‘International’ airport to receive the only Caucasian person attending the wedding. Having defied all odds, despite all the stereotypical narrative relating to the security situation in Pakistan (though some of it is not far fetched), Becky decided to be there for me on my wedding. Blown away by the love and warmth from everyone, it all seemed perfect.
A little too good to be true perhaps? But it was!
And when I thought there couldn’t be anymore surprises, I was blown away by the kindness and love that was showered upon me.
My cousin, who I see as an older sister, organised and orchestrated a Dholki (a function where family and close friends get together to sing and dance the late in to the night). The togetherness and contentment at the heart of this little family gathering makes my eyes swell up with tears of joy and thankfulness.
Mayoun – lets call it a hen-do of sorts, and then a bit!
Once I had got all prepped and pampered for the event, I actually felt really good. The dress I wore was specially prepared for the event (like all the other dresses *no surprise there*) by my dearest late uncle and his family. I vividly remember my auntie wanting me to try the clothes on, how brilliantly they fitted me, and her gleaming and joyous face to see me in these clothes.
With my hair professionally styled, light make up and flat shoes (fit for dancing just the way I like it!), I did look pretty spectacular if I may say so myself! And I felt spectacular!
With a lingering thought of an unprecedented future, the looming feeling of having to move away (in a manner of speaking) from everything I knew and cherished; emotions ran high. I had to take a moment every now and then to wipe a deceitful tear that defied the boundaries of my eyes, running down my face when it all got a bit too much.
The skies above seemed to have had resonated with my inconsistent ‘leaky eyes’ and the heavens above opened up.
The thunderstorm that followed wrecked havoc – like, literally! The food was ruined, there was a power cut (as in bijli chali gai!), the stage that had been decorated with flowers and all sorts was in shambles… textbook devastation.
I found myself sat in the basement with Becky, dressed like a princess (Asian princess to be exact), with a few candles lit around me… thinking how much effort everyone had put in to making everything picture perfect for it to be ruined.
Little did I know my late uncle Saeed will have yet another trick up his sleeve. Conscious of the weather, he had organised and pre-booked a venue as a back up just in case!
I mean what a legend! If the elements had willed to ruin it all, my uncle had perceived and preempted to see the night through,
We all ended up going to this hall very last minute, and what followed is my most cherished and memorable time of my wedding. All my nearest and dearest family members were around me, exactly how I had wished and hoped.
From all my fathers’ siblings dancing around me to my cousin Mohsin singing for me, from the craziness that transpired through the night to the contentment that took a hold of my heart, my family and friends had gone above and beyond to make my dreams come true. They did what I cannot imagine many family members doing and then a bit more. At no point during my wedding did I feel like I was alone. For the first time in my life I felt that everyone that was there was an extension of me and who I am as a person.
All the anxieties are fears had vanished, and I was overcome by a warm feeling of self-assurance. I didn’t really care about how I looked or what if my dress didn’t fit, or what people would say. With a heart raging with excitement, I felt shrouded in a strange tranquillity.
Oh and by the way. All this time I hadn’t seen Ahmed since I last met him at the wedding shopping/preps.
In fact he wasn’t even in the country!
The groom to be arrived on 1st April and on 2nd April we had our Nikkah (the Islamic marriage ceremony).
It was a very emotional time I must add. I hadn’t had much sleep the night before. I laid awake with my close friend all night and even attempted to pray Fajr, but weren’t successful as there was no water in the house – actual third world problems you guys.
I was tired and agitated on the day. After having a sleepless night thinking that I was about to ‘sign my life away’ to be with a guy who I had met a handful of times in person, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it all. Everyone around me seemed upset and tearful, and I could feel that anxiety and nerves around me. I was my father’s only child, my parents only daughter, their world. And I was about to leave them to start my own new life in a foreign country, far away from them.
It was all a bit overwhelming.
The Nikah ceremony went ahead as planned. After asking and confirming Ahmed’s acceptance to marry me, the registrar and witnesses came over to where the females were sat to ask if I accepted the marriage. Terrified of what was to come, with lots of eyes glaring at me and tears rolling down my cheeks, I said ‘Kabool hay’ (I accept) three times (followed by some signatures).
That’s it: legally married!
My dad, well, being dad had said that I could not see Ahmed until we had our Ruksati (when the bride leaves with the groom- may or may not be on a separate day in Asian weddings- our case was the former). But my mum being my mum decided to sneak us both into the garden downstairs to get a couple of professional photos – not that they are very flattering. Nonetheless, at least we have some memories from the day!
The funniest memory from the Nikkah is Ahmed playing games on his phone after signing the Nikkah papers. Who even does that?
On the night of the Nikkah it was my Mehndi. I remember being sat at the salon on my own- the beauticians winding down for the day, turning the lights off and getting ready to leave for the day. In a panic thinking they (my family) had forgotten about me, I rang everyone but no one answered. Eventually, one of my cousins answered and said ‘hain, you’re still at the salon?’. As you can imagine with the desi weddings, sometimes it all gets a little too much and people clearly forgot about the main person (ME!).
Once my cousin realised I wasn’t even at the hall, he did come to collect me. Crazy!
My beautiful ‘cousin-sisters’ had decorated a street hawker’s cart to perfection. Surrounded by flowers and candles, I once again felt like a queen in her castle. The boys wheeled me in to the wedding hall singing and dancing all around me. I probably looked the worse on this day but I don’t mind because the memories were so perfect. Fromall the photos from my Mehndi, you can see that everyone wanted to be a part of it and to get involved. Not so sophisticated when it comes to wedding photography. Patha nahee how the cameraman managed to get at least some decent photos.
We all know how trendy it is to have ‘synchronised’ wedding dances in Pakistani wedding. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and the busy-ness of it all, we didn’t get the chance to choreograph many dances. Regardless, a cousin, who is ‘a serial wedding dancer’ (if there is such a categorisation), took only a couple of nights to teach my cousins and friends a few dances. I don’t think anyone could have guessed that they had prepared these dances in less than two days! They did such a fabulous job that I was smiling like a Cheshire cat throughout!
My philosophy on weddings is simple: what’s the point of getting married if you can’t even enjoy your own wedding. That having said (and to bring things in to perspective), my phupo (auntie) had to sit me down a couple of time as I kept joining the peeps on the dance floor!
I don’t have many ‘photo shoot’ photos from my Mehndi because of the utter chaos on the day. But hey, no regrets there! The few photos I have and the memories are enough to last me a life time!
The following evening was Ahmed’s mehndi; and if you want to know more about it, you’ll have to ask him yourself since I wasn’t there.
I was chilling at home, eating junk food.
Baraat & Rukhsati
The ‘actual’ wedding day- this day actually feels like such a blurr.
I genuinely don’t recollect much from this day. The one moment I will never forget is walking up the aisle with my dad, arms linked, walking over a path full of red rose petals and lanterns on the sides. The song that played in the background was Farhan Saeed’s ‘Tu thori dair aur thair ja’.
My mum looked absolutely stunning, held her shit together and didn’t crying. Embracing me with her warm and a comforting smile. I remember kissing her cheek, bursting with happiness.
I wont lie: I don’t remember Ahmed coming over with the Baraat. It felt suffocating with all my family surrounding us and harassing Ahmed and his family for money (desi-wedding problems). He eventually got to sit next to me and we exchanged rings. Some, ‘read’ lots of random people, came and sat next to us and got photos taken.
And that was that.
Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to my family.
There were tears. Floods of tears even though in the back of my mind I was paranoid about ruining my make up.
I will not put you through the misery of seeing the traumatic photos of the ruksati. The ruksati that took place around 12am. This was before the 10 pm deadline for concluding events was implemented in Mirpur.
Following the ruksati, we went to Ahmed’s paternal house to carry out the standard ‘rasams’. I still remember drinking some coke and realising that was the only thing that I had drank pretty much all day. In the midst of the wedding hulchul, I don’t think I had any food all day!!
Can’t say the same for my better half; let’s leave it at that!
Feeling tired, yet excited, we were told that we needed to go to the studio for our photo shoot. It must have been around 3am by the time we got to the studio. Imagine how knackered we must have been. Awkward poses and tired eyes, yet gleaming faces. WE DID IT! But it wasn’t over yet, lol!
Last but not the least day, Walima, or what I call the after wedding party.
Some thing I had never seen in Asian wear, well not in Mirpur anyway, was a white bridal dress for a walima ceremony, and I wanted something different. Which is why I ended up getting a gorgeous white dress that I had brought from England.
Ahmed wore a morning suit and a cravat, because again, that’s something I had never seen anyone wear at a walima. Walking up yet another aisle with my best friend by my side and Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking out loud’ playing in the background was everything I could have ever asked for.
Our wedding song still gives my a lump in the throat.
It was a more relaxed and chilled out day, although I am still mad that my family were oh so typically late for the function!! I got to see all of mine and Ahmed’s friends and family. Lots of smiles, hugs and (obviously) photographs were taken!
The only thing I would change about this day was the photographer Ahmed hired. He took some horrendous photographs, where half of the photos were completely out of focus and over exposed. But we won’t fret about that. It’s all about the memories, right?
On reflection, looking at these photos I think my wedding was pretty damn special. I had all my nearest and dearest with me. People had travelled from different continents to be there… to be a part of my big day… hang on, my big week! And that is something I will forever be grateful for.
The love and joy that all the people attending my wedding brought to me was incredible. This is something I will never ever forget till the rest of my days. And I can’t honestly say that my wedding wouldn’t have been the same even without one of them (they know who they are!)
So if any of you could actually be bothered to read my blogpost (far cry!), I love you. I love you more than you know and I will be forever in debt to everything you did for me.
The End, or was it just the beginning….
We didn’t stay around in Pakistan for too long as the day after we flew off to my ‘surprise’ honeymoon. To be honest, as much as I come across as an extrovert, the thought of dressing up and going for ‘dawats’ was too daunting. I couldn’t bare being the ‘newly weds’ and meeting lots of people for days on end. Not being nasty, but it is something that I find uncomfortable.
Back to the honeymoon/ holiday/ vacation what ever you want to call it.
I, hand on my heart had no idea where we were going. I was all packed to go to our ‘destination’ and then to my new life in Qatar: a place I had never heard of or been to before in my life. Completely oblivious to how my life was about to change…!
Be sure to come back for the tales from the honeymoon. I am sure you will like it!
This week’s guest post comes from Natasha, travel blogger behind Tasha’s Tales. She explains ‘I’m an only child to two most incredible parents and a wife to an extremely supportive husband. Say Alhamdulillah! I am also a Social Worker by profession and a wanderlust at heart. A dreamer with an endless bucket list of things I have done and things I wish to do. I have lived and moved around in three countries so far; Azad Kashmir, England and Qatar and have loved every second of all three experiences. I’m not quite sure what the blog will look like as it goes on, but what I do know is that it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. So here I am. As you can tell, I love travelling so the main focus of the blog will be travel. But I will also do lifestyle, food and random rants and observations of the world as I travel through it, slowly but surely!”
1. What is your name and where do you come from?
I answer to pretty much anything, including, Nat, Tash, Tasha, Natty, but the name that is on the Birth Certificate is Natasha! But yes, you can call me anything you like – within reason of course.
‘Where are you from?’
The most dreaded question! So, here it goes. I was born in England and at the tender age of 3 months I moved to Azad Kashmir with my parents (google it if you don’t know where that is- or even better, message me and I will tell you all about it)!
I then spent 13 wonderful years in Azad Kashmir, until my parents decided enough was enough and moved to the UK. Coming from a third world country meant that my options and independence was somewhat limited, so my parents decided to make some sacrifices in order for me to have as many opportunities as possible.
In my early 20’s, I crossed paths with my better half, my husband, Ahmed who was living in Qatar at the time. After getting married, I joined him in Qatar and spent 12 months of luxury and paradise!
2. What sort of traveller are you? Full time / part time / business / backpacker etc?
I am an annual leave/weekend traveller – if such a thing exists? I aim to plan my 21 days of annual leave according to my plans and I plan holidays around weekends.
As much as I would love to travel on a full-time basis, this is completely not possible as I love my luxuries too much and wouldn’t be able to do a backpacking holiday! Snob traveller is the term perhaps?
3. How do you fund your travelling?
I work, I save hard and I travel harder!
I have only recently – well for just over a year been working full time, so travel is a bit more affordable. Before I started working full time, travelling was impossible on my part-time wages! But right now, most of mine and my husband’s travels come from our wages and we tend to split the costs between us.
Although I once sold tonnes of items on eBay for my trip to Florida and managed to make £1000! woohoo!
4. Where is the best place you have ever been and why?
This question is SO hard! It’s like asking who your favourite child is, no? Maybe not. How would I know anyway, I am not even a mom, YET!
Okay, so my personal favourite country that I have ever been to has got to be Sri Lanka. Oh my, what a pleasant surprise Sri Lanka was. Sri Lanka is a country that I never had the desire to visit until my husband mentioned it one day in passing. After doing some research, I got myself majorly excited and asked my husband whether we could spend our first wedding anniversary there. After some contemplation and persuading, my husband decided to book Sri Lanka and off we went. Sri Lanka gave off the most relaxed and positive vibes, similar to Ubud, but even better! My husband laughs at me, but the train journey in Sri Lanka alone made the trip worth while. I had only ever imagined and dreamt of riding on a romantic/therapeutic/scenic train journey. Our train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella consisted of all things beautiful, including the landscapes and the authenticity of the country. I genuinely feel that Sri Lanka is under rated and has the potential to be so much greater than what it is! Oh, and the tea was the tastiest tea EVER!
5. Where is the worst place you have ever been and why?
Erm, dare I say Belgium?
I spent less than 24 hours in Belgium, where i manage to squeeze in some sleep, took a tour bus ride, devoured many waffles and even got the infamous picture with Mr Pis. But I dunno, I wasn’t captivated by Brussels charm. Within my brief visit, I even experienced a stranger groping my butt as well as being chatted up by a stranger who I tried to tell that I was already taken.
so yeah, not my fav, although I would like to return to visit some other cities.
6. Do you have a Bucket List? If so where are the 3 top places on it?
Oh yes, I do have a bucket list, a very long, never ending bucket list.
The top three places that I would like to visit – in a chronological order:
7. What 3 things (apart from the essentials – food/water etc) do you always travel with?
8. What makes you happy and why?
Man, I am so easily pleased that everything makes me happy. But food, food always makes me happy!
But more than anything, travelling, planning to travel, reading travel blogs and hearing about peoples travels makes me really, genuinely happy. It’s almost like watching a film. It transports you to another dimension. You know what I mean?
9. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
I have been blogging since… May 2017. I am still a newbie, trying to figure it all out.
So what led to the craze of blogging?
Prior to meeting my husband, I really had not travelled much at all. But since our marriage, we have both had the luxury to really make the most of our time (long-distance issues, but that’s a topic for another time).
so anyways, as we travelled around 10 countries together, we noticed that there was a re-emerging pattern. There were absolutely no other Muslim travellers that we came across during all our travels and adventure. It made me feel somewhat empty. A little raged and mostly confused.
So one thought led to another and I decided to start a blog, mostly to encourage other Muslims to travel more. Now you must be thinking, EXTREMIST! but no, it’s really quite the opposite. I want Muslims to travel more. To integrate more in order to diminish and end the negativity around the word ‘Muslim’. I want to be able to introduce myself to people as being a ‘Muslim’ without the fear of being judged. Y’know? I just want to spread positivity.
10. What makes your blog unique and why should people read it?
My blog is unique because I genuinely believe that I am the combination of east meets west and I feel that I am extremely lucky to have the best of both worlds. I have some interesting tales to share and some amazing photos to show off. I absolutely love interacting with other readers and bloggers so they will no doubt be able to approach me at any time.
This blog was first posted by ’Eat Sleep Love Travel’ dated 18 September 2017.