Well, in the midst of this heady sea of dismaying worries and disquiet, it intruded upon my awareness the fact that if the matter was going to be difficult enough to do even with Dina’s co-operation, it was impossible to do without it. Not only had her level-headedness gained her my parents’ infinite trust, but also Dina’s discernment and sagacious brain were all assets I crucially needed to sustain me through the tight impasse. I had seemingly mislaid such as of these qualities that my young age had developed, only for being all too swept over by the overwhelming power of passion and love.
Despite being a notorious hardliner in the world of inherited regimentations, Dina, my lifelong true-blue buddy, and my compassionately loving and caring auntie, was all heart, as transparent as an open book, and so full of loving interest for my welfare and felicity as to prompt the justifiably protective attitude that she had exhibited impulsively upon her first learning of the story of my romance with Martin. My concerns, therefore, while they made me once shudder with presentiment, went shortly afterwards as disregarded as the dripping of a tap. And my afresh prediction on Dina being my stepping-stone on the way towards extracting my parents’ consent for marrying Martin soon proved right on the button.
I hadn’t been so sanguine, nonetheless, as to imagine that my path would be all rosy, or expect things to be a pat on the shoulder. The barometer of reality had already given unmistakably clear indications that Dina’s awaited support wasn’t going to be easily gained. Indulging myself in wishful thinking would only have made of me an arrant ostrich. And even though I perceived Dina, shortly after we broke our obnoxious boycott, somehow shifting ground, and entering what seemed to be a new phase of reconsideration, or perhaps seeing the matter in a different light, her initial disapproval of my romance with Martin seemed to presage that she would require intricate handling. Although this conclusion didn’t prove to be entirely true, as it later transpired, any other presumption back then would have seemed blinding idiocy. Anticipating Dina’s endorsement to come challenge-free for such an atypical marriage, not to speak of a forbidden romance, would have been groundlessly optimistic. With every look around, my good sense screamed blue murder at what I was contemplating, warning of the uphill struggle that lay ahead, which demanded painstaking persuasion, if not some gentle arm-twisting, too. Even when excluding all else, close kinship sufficed to grant Dina an influential say in the matter of my marriage. Hence, disarming my wonderful mate, Dina, and signing her up as my “advocate”, was an urgency pressing hard, particularly when considering the crucial battle with my parents that loomed inevitably before me.
But then, was it not Dina herself who provoked my grievous concerns, or rather her strictly kept straight-and-narrow ways of life? On looking back, I surely know it was not the former but the latter. For Dina wasn’t, as one might erroneously think, some sort of a dispassionately hardened, cold-eyed person who would have fought tooth and nail to abort or, at best, impede my project of love and marriage. True, Dina all her life had been the epitome of restraint and self-discipline, but equally she was a genuine wellspring of benignity, brimming all over with gracious emotions, which fought their way out, however hard her inherently reserved nature tried to repress them. And having grown up together, I wasn’t unfamiliar with the golden heart that dwelt in her innermost being, and which was always diffusing warmth and compassion. Her transparent face and voice, so easily read, projected wildly her uncoloured emotions. Dina appeared on the surface pretty much like ice—cold—yet she was as intense as fire. The merest hint of touch with warmth and heat would melt away her hardness into oceans of emotional tears. But then again, Dina was deeply religious, a strict observer of the laws of culture and tradition, never allowing her abiding commitment to faith and religion to dim, or the scrupulous esteem she harboured conscientiously in heart and mind for the honour of the family’s men to ever wane. These constituted her sanctum sanctorum, a rigorously guarded zone where neither impetuosity nor irresponsible frivolity was tolerated. Her “judicial decisions” were pronounced either in black or white; intermediate grey, while not even mentionable, stood for fatal passivity and unforgivable leniency. Such uncompromising resolution, I suppose, was behind the conflict that was underway between her Puritanism and sentimentality, eventuating ultimately in the stifling of the latter, in favour of the former.
However regrettable this may sound, sublime feelings of love and affection, similar to the ones I was experiencing with Martin, all happened to fall within Dina’s callous girdle of proscriptions.
While suitors such as Martin, divorced and alien, were by and large received with tepidity by my culture, Dina’s attitude stripped them of their rights to have their other “credentials” in any way considered, or even briefly looked at. She eyeballed with contemptuous suspicions any suitor slipping through avenues other than that governing conventional marriage. Martin, “to my good luck”, combined all these disadvantages. “Sleazy, immoral and depraved characters, lacking in moral scruples” were Dina’s mildest depictions of lovers, who were also “womanisers, who vanish like dissolving salt once they ensnare innocent girls as their prey”. Loud public laughter, for which I often got rebuked, and which she deemed vulgar, unseemly and casual behaviour, sufficed to send Dina’s ire through the roof. Stories of audacious conduct, redefined by her as “sinister crimes” and “appalling transgressions”, exasperated Dina to such an extent as to set her upon a wild onrush of stigmatization against “those deplorable, dissipated and degraded opportunists who ought to be hung in public to make for an exemplary lesson”. Heedless females, of course, wouldn’t have received a lesser share of Dina’s long diatribe. “Girls with easy virtue” was her characterization of “the insolent and shamelessly brazen-faced girls, who, having the temerity to flout the honour of the men of their family, wouldn’t care less if their reputation were defiled and disgraced”. Dina hardly allowed an opportunity to pass without remarking upon falling in love as “recklessness, irresponsibility, foolhardiness and impetuosity”, whereof honour and reputation were the first victims “of the insane tampering with the regimentations of culture and tradition”. Such an unbending perspective, though, wasn’t the result of her being stoic or phlegmatic. For I was her younger version, and her romanticism, albeit pragmatically disposed, stood on a par with mine. But Dina’s emotions, which seemed reluctant to try new skies out, must have had long holed up, not on account of some inherently feminine coldness, but only for not lucking out by encountering the dexterously awakening manly touch, similar to the splendid one that created my emotions anew in this arena of love. The plausibility of her giving in one day to the power of love and romance was not so conceivable in view of the fact that her pertinacious restraints took care repelling off the admirers, who, despite being all too willing, particularly since she claimed all the aspects of a real beauty, would think twice before approaching her with a marriage proposal. Cocksure Hanni, though, paid heftily, for the miscalculation of his open-mindedness, or perhaps for overlooking that confidence could be borrowed, but never owned.
Hanni was a customer of the branch of the bank where Dina worked, and he fell for her head over heals upon seeing her one-day. Young, handsome and affluent enough to be ranked highly among the bank’s most valued customers, he, following several deliberately devised visits, approached Dina with a marriage proposal. Eminently confident of his suitability, Hanni must have predicted that Dina’s reply to a proposal coming from such a Mr. Perfect would be anything, but “nah”. Given the honourable intentions of this genteel guy, not to mention his being obviously a respected public figure, his entering through the window as a “burglar”, and not coming through the door reserved for conventional marriage, was somehow tolerated by Dina, and, to a certain extent, excused, had it not been for one fatal act, which ricochetted like a boomerang; he asked if he could see her somewhere outside work, once or twice, a step that he thought necessary for increasing his familiarity with her, not least for it to serve as a prelude for the subsequent process of his asking for her hand through the ordinary channels of conventional marriage. Well, few moments into the proposal, and Mr. “Perfect” left the bank glowing red, seemingly with a lost sense of direction that he had perhaps misplaced somewhere around the bank to keep his plucked self-importance good company. That day was reportedly his last sighting in the branch. The story was that he arranged for the transfer of his bank account to another branch. What’s more, Dina was still seething with indignation when she recounted to me the corrective discipline she lashed out to the poor guy. She castigated him thus: “Would you allow my brother to take your sister out for achieving your so-called “familiarity”? What about my reputation if an acquaintance or relative of mine sighted me with you? And what if after several of your proposed outings your “highness” found me unsuitable”? She concluded, plucking the last feather off the peacock’s tail, “If you don’t give a damn about your sister’s reputation, which I wouldn’t find at all surprising, I assure you that I treasure my brother’s honour a good deal more as to consider it degraded by association with someone like you who doesn’t have the merest hint or smell of morals”. I reckon poor Hanni must have carried this experience at the back of his mind for a long time, thinking, perhaps twice, nay, thrice, before approaching any other female for marriage. Chances of Dina lucking out with a husband were, hence, to rest within the course of conventional marriage. And so it happened eventually.
Confiding in Dina, nevertheless, didn’t turn out to be all bad; every cloud has a silver lining after all.
To be Continued.......