I watched her leave with tears in her eyes. I tried to read the look in her eyes and what I found surprised me: a strange mixture of sadness and brightness. With promise in her eyes, she took the first step away from me, and I felt her slip away between my fingers. Forever. I saw her leave with a ray of hope in her eyes; hope for a new start, a new life. I felt betrayed. I knew from the start this day would come but never had I seen it come so darn quick. I saw her search for me in the midst of people; of strangers mostly for her. I tried to avoid our final meeting as much as I could. I was not ready to let her go. I don’t think I ever wanted to let her go. And then she saw me in the crowd. Her lips shook and I saw new tears gather in her eyes. I approached her. And we both understood then: it was the end yet a new start. I hugged my daughter and gave her away to this new man in her life who would from now on, be her husband.”

This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of how any Pakistani father feels when he sees his daughter leave his house with her husband. Well, not only a Pakistani father but any father who shares a similar traditional culture. It takes a lot of courage, patience and generosity to leave your most valuable and precious “belonging” in the hands of a stranger, in the hope that he will be taking good care of her and do his best to keep her happy. I would not be wrong in saying that at that point in life, a father is actually giving away a major part of his life, of his heart to another man while hoping against hope that this new man in his daughter’s life will make her half as happy as he did. And that, my friends, is a lot of pressure and a big responsibility on the newlywed husband, I admit. The new husband has to prove to himself, to his family, to his new family, his wife that he is capable of proving himself, of being a just human being, while keeping everyone happy through well balanced relationships. But how such men have become rare…!

Today, in this article, which holds a close place to my heart, I will not be writing about typical desi husbands who, in majority, are just… well… puppets either in the hands of their mothers or wives. What I want to talk about today is how important it is to understand what a woman leaves behind when she comes to live with her husband and his family. I am not denying the difficult nature of some women, they can be controlling and manipulative just like any other men… but I will try to convey the message how useless it is when a woman becomes another woman’s worst enemy. Marriage is a beautiful relationship; it allows an individual to develop as a person and to bring another human being into the world. It is a relationship based on trust, mutual respect and love. But why has our society made it quite the opposite? Women are killed, tortured because of lack of dowry, even today. I am ashamed to be a part of such a society where a woman is respected according to how much money or fortune she gives to her husband or in laws. What kind of Islam are we following, I wonder… as far as my limited knowledge is concerned, I don’t remember dowry being a criteria for any marriage.

Why does a mother-in-law become the monster-in-law? You beautiful mothers out there, what goes on in your heads? I had the chance once to speak with a woman who had the monster-in-law nature. I frankly asked her why she puts her daughter-in-law through so much hell… and what she said surprised me: I do it because my own mother-in-law did this with me. I really wanted to shake some sense into her, to beat common sense into her system and try to make her understand that this is a vicious cycle which will never end if she doesn’t put a stop to it. Dear mothers out there, please accept someone else’s daughter as your own, make her feel at home, make her feel safe. And men out there, married or unmarried, you have a wife or you will have one. You do realize she will be with you until your death (speaking averagely); she will be here when your mother is gone, she is or will be the mother of your children. Why make her an opponent? Putting her down in front of others, showing that you don’t love her… what kind of behavior is that? Aren’t you supposed to love your own wife?! When does it become a battle? And why does it have to? Mothers out there, please raise good sons, our society lacks such gems.

And my dear women fellows, relationships are not easy. Look at how things are/were with your own parents. As a daughter, I don’t always get what I want and it makes perfect sense. I still argue with my parents on silly things, but we all know there’s a thin line that should never be crossed. On the contrary, it should be respected. But let’s try treating our in-laws just like the way we would treat our own parents. Sacrifices, compromises, call it whatever you want, but MAKE YOUR SHADI WORK, dammit! The easiest thing on earth is to get married; trust me! It takes what, 5 seconds?! But the real test starts when you are in a marriage… accept the changes, adapt yourselves to this new commitment and give it your best. Having said that, don’t remain in a relationship that gives you no respect, no love, no trust and no happiness either; you live, after all, only once. But let this be an educated decision rather than an emotional one. Breaking is easy. Mending takes forever…

The writer is a PhD French literature. She’s now a professor of French settled in Canada.