Spotlight – Loving You
Hamza Ali is ready to get married, fall in love and live happily ever after. The only problem is, he’s about to marry one woman but falls in love with another… So how will he find his happily ever after?
After watching his brother’s disastrous love marriage fall to pieces, Hamza decides that the only marriage for him is an arranged one. In Mahrukh, his family finds him the perfect bride. But while Mahrukh may be the perfect bride, it’s her divorced aunt Noorain who is the perfect woman for him.
Noorain Alam has never loved or been loved. Until the day her niece gets engaged to a man who is completely out of her reach and yet, he’s everything she never knew she wanted.
Blindsided by the strength of emotion they feel for each other, Noorain and Hamza find themselves in a battle for their happiness. But will love win? Or will family and duty stand in its way?
Read an Excerpt from Loving You
The last thing Hamza Ali wanted, was to be late. But given the traffic and his own state of mind, he knew that it was a foregone conclusion. He just had to grit his teeth and bear it, even as he tamped down on the anxiety spiralling inside.
His phone rang and he answered it on Bluetooth, knowing that Ammi was frantic with worry.
‘I know, I know…’ he said in a placating manner.
‘They’re already here!’ Ammi said in a loud whisper.
‘I’m on my way, Ammi. I’ll be there in another fifteen minutes,’ he said.
‘Fifteen minutes?’ Ammi yelped. ‘But…’
‘I’m driving. I’ll reach sooner if I’m not talking to you.’ Saying so, he disconnected the call and focused on reaching home.
Today, of all days he had a presentation that ran late. He’d tried to explain to his boss that he needed to be home early but of course that hadn’t been possible. Kannan didn’t like to listen to excuses or anything personal when work was involved and Hamza knew better than to tell him the real reason he needed to be home early today.
People were coming to see him.
Yes. A girl’s family actually. He had told Ammi that he was ready for marriage and it would be a good idea if she started looking for potential brides for him. Ammi had been only too pleased to comply.
His twin brother Hamdaan thought he was being an unnecessary martyr by opting for an arranged marriage.
‘What would you know?’ Hamza snapped at him, annoyed. Hamdaan had a love marriage and then, when that fell through, he had an arranged marriage where he fell deeply in love with his wife Ghazal.
This just convinced him that not everyone was cut out for a grand love affair and anyway, this was what his parents wanted. He wanted to give them that happiness. At the cost of your own, Hamdaan asked.
‘What guarantee is there that a love marriage will be better?’ Hamza asked him. Hamdaan nodded.
‘I know, but…’
‘And you did have an arranged marriage with Ghazal and you two seem to be just fine,’ he reminded him.
‘Well, that’s because I got incredibly lucky,’ Hamdaan commented, a smile on his face as he thought of his wife probably.
Hamza glanced at his face in the rear-view mirror at a traffic signal and sighed. There wasn’t going to be any time to even wash his face, let alone shower, if the girl’s family had already reached home. Ammi had been slightly put out when she heard that they wanted to vet him first, and if he was a good enough candidate, she and Ghazal Bhabhi could go and see the girl and take things forward.
‘That’s how everyone does it these days,’ the broker aunty informed Ammi. The broker aunty who brought the rishta was a fascinating specimen, with her smartphone full of biodatas and photos of potential brides and bridegrooms. Hamza had looked at her paraphernalia, eyes wide that day when she wanted to ‘see’ him before finding the right rishta.
‘First they see the boy and if he’s good, then you can see the girl. That way, the girl is not unnecessarily exposed, na?’ she asked, moving the paan she’d been chewing, around inside her mouth.
‘Fine, Arifa Apa. Whatever you say,’ Ammi said.
Now, he felt the slightest bit of apprehension inside when he wondered about this stranger who could possibly become a part of his life soon. But he had wanted this, right? In fact, he had gone on to convince Hamdaan to get married again so that it would clear the way for him to get married.
His phone rang again.
‘Ammi,’ he groaned out aloud but then saw that it wasn’t his mother but it was Ghazal.
‘Yes, Bhabhi,’ he answered as the car moved forward in the traffic finally. It felt odd, calling her Bhabhi since she was so much younger than him but it added to the decorum and formality in their relationship, which was something he liked.
‘How far away from home are you?’ she asked softly.
‘Around ten minutes, tops,’ he said.
‘Okay, so don’t park in front of the house. Park behind, and I’ll be waiting near the kitchen door. You can hop inside from there and freshen up in your room, Hamza Bhai,’ she said.
‘Oh. Oh thank god!’ he muttered, feeling slightly better.
‘Don’t thank me yet. Ammi is having kittens and puppies and she won’t rest easy until you’re here,’ Ghazal said.
‘You hold her off, Bhabhi!’ he said as he stepped down on the accelerator to reach home as soon as he could.
Twenty minutes later, he emerged from his room, his face still shiny with water droplets. He took the towel from Ghazal gratefully and scrubbed his face and she winced.
‘It’s your face. Not a dirty vessel and Scotch Brite,’ she admonished him as she took the towel from his hands.
Ammi didn’t know that he was back home yet and she looked at him surprised when she came out from the kitchen, just as he was tucking his shirt inside properly. He had barely had a chance to look at himself in the mirror and he was worried about making the wrong sort of impression but Ghazal assured him that he looked fine.
‘When did you…where were…’ she trailed off.
‘Ask Bhabhi,’ he said with a smile as he kissed his mother soundly on her cheek. She did some nazar utarofy thing for him and smiled at Ghazal, even as she put her hand on her chest.
‘Go now,’ she said. Nodding, he walked into the living room where Hamdaan and Abba were speaking to the men who had come to see him.
‘Sorry, I’m a bit late,’ Hamza said as he walked up and shook hands with the three men who stood up when they saw him.
The men looked from Hamdaan to him and one of them smiled. ‘Amazing how much you two look alike,’ he said.
Hamza nodded and then, his father indicated that he should sit down on the sofa. The men all sat down and they started talking.
The mad pounding in his chest finally eased down enough and he almost relaxed until he remembered why he was here.
The middle-aged man in the centre, wearing the white shirt with black stripes, left untucked was apparently the bride’s father. He wore a namaz topi on his head and he had a beard. Hamza smiled at him as he spoke, but he was instantly curious about the girl’s family and what sort of person she was.
He also didn’t know her name yet. A droplet of sweat trickled down his back in a straight line when he realised the enormity of what he was getting into. He didn’t even know the name of the girl he was willing to marry, let alone what she looked like. And somehow, he felt that if he asked her name, it would put him and his family on the back foot. He should have asked Ghazal, he realised.
‘Have some tea,’ one of the men offered to him and he nodded. He leaned forward and picked up a tea cup and his gaze met his brother’s, who lifted an eyebrow sardonically.
The two of them were connected intrinsically, as they were twins and there were times when they could have a complete non-verbal exchange between them and no one would be the wiser.
You asked for this.
Hamza nodded slightly and he looked up at his brother defiantly. Yeah. So what?
Just wondering if you know what you’re getting into.
Hamdaan hid his smile as he sipped his tea and mentally, Hamza flipped him off but responded to the questions being asked of him.
When the ordeal was finally over, the three men got up and shook hands with him once more. They shook hands with Hamdaan and the bride’s father even hugged Abba as they left.
‘Satisfied?’ Hamdaan turned to him as soon as the men departed.
‘Yes,’ Hamza said, rolling his eyes. Abba returned just then before the two of them could get into an argument.
‘They’ve asked us to come and see the girl tomorrow,’ Abba announced, a smile on his face. ‘Your Ammi and Ghazal will be going.’
Hamza’s heart pounded again. It was finally happening.
‘What’s her name?’ he asked and Hamdaan gave a short laugh.
‘Not one person back in college would have believed you to be capable of this,’ he said.
‘Of what? And you wouldn’t know since you didn’t study with me,’ Hamza retorted.
‘Her name is Mahrukh,’ Ghazal said softly as she came into the living room. Hamdaan beamed at her as she went and sat down beside him. One of the girls who worked in the house followed her and she collected the tea cups and deposited them on the tray.
‘Like Shahrukh?’ Hamza asked sceptically.
Ammi chuckled. ‘No. Mahrukh is a girl’s name. It means someone who looks like the moon.’
‘It’s a beautiful name,’ Ghazal assured him.
And what of the girl, he wondered. Was she beautiful too?
About the Author:
Andaleeb Wajid is the author of 27 published novels and she writes across different genres such as romance, YA and horror. Her horror novel It Waits was shortlisted at Mami Word to Screen 2017 and her Young Adult series, The Tamanna Trilogy has been optioned for screen by a reputed production house. Andaleeb’s novel When She Went Away was shortlisted for The Hindu Young World Prize in 2017. Andaleeb is a hybrid author who has self-published more than 10 novels in the past two years.