It was the first time I was visiting Karachi in my life as my family lives Ottawa. I had recently broken up with my girlfriend in Canada before coming to Pakistan, and when my cousins found out they insisted that I find a desi girl here since they are ‘sincere’ and ‘faithful.’
Despite my opposition and discomfort in ‘finding a girlfriend’ in an alien land, my cousin introduced me to a friend’s friend – Maheen*.
My first interaction with this girl was through the cell phone, or text messages to be more precise. After this introduction, we didn’t talk till one fine day in the middle of the night my phone rang. It was two in the morning and I could barely open my eyes, but out of courtesy I attended Maheen’s phone call.
“Hi, what’s up? I hope I haven’t disturbed you?”she said.
“No, it’s okay…” I murmured.
“I have set up a plan to meet you tomorrow, but don’t call or text me unless I do so, because if my bhai catches me he will kill you.” she advised me.
Totally perplexed, I listened to her plan quietly. I was astonished and scared that I was prone to be killed by someone’s brother without having ever met her.
“I can’t come alone. My friend, Zahra will come with me. Do you have a male friend who is single and ready to give her company?” she asked.
“Er… okay, I will manage.” I said, feeling simultaneously amused and confused.
“Fair enough. I will see you tomorrow then, and yes, do get me a Ufone card because I am running out of balance. I love you. Bye!”
I kept sitting silent for a long time, and then asked my cousin who I should take with me to give company to the girl’s chaperon/friend? He ‘arranged’ for another friend of his, Arif who was ‘very popular’ among the females in his college. The idea of being surrounded by so many strangers gave me butterflies in my stomach. I pleaded with my cousins to pull me out of this weird situation, but they told me to put up with it.
The next day, accompanied by this Arif guy, we went to pick Maheen and her friend up from college. As I approached the college gate, Maheen sent me a missed call. I was confused and called her back immediately. “You didn’t get me my balance loaded!” she blurted over the phone. Feeling embarrassed, I told her I would do so once we were off to lunch.
We waited for around 25 minutes outside her college, when two girls appeared from nowhere wearing burqas. I was once again bewildered to see them. They sat in our car and took their burqas off, and I was introduced to Maheen, and another lady. We then drove off looking for food. As we stepped out at a restaurant, Maheen’s phone rang and I saw her going pale as she talked on the phone.
“Are you alright?” I asked her.
“It was my mother, she told me that my bhai is off to pick me up from college!” she cried.
Arif had a bright idea:
“You can go and drop Maheen back to college, while Zahra and I can go for lunch if you guys don’t mind?”
Breathing a sigh of relief, I agreed at once.
Feeling angry yet sympathetic to the poor girl’s plight, I drove back to drop her to college. On the way, Maheen kept crying and pushed me to drive faster and faster. I got so worried to see her crying so bitterly, I ended up breaking a signal.
A traffic cop in appeared from nowhere and asked for my driving license. By this point I was infuriated. I gave some money to Maheen and she headed back to college in a rickshaw, and then I called my cousins to help me with the cops. That day I took an oath never to even think of going on a date in Pakistan again.
*names of individuals have been changed to protect their identities.