Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. And I know for a fact that I am beautiful. I don't need make up. I don't need to show skin. I don't need accessories. I don't need a thing. It's not a handicap to me that my religion forbids all of those things that I just listed. Because unlike the other girls, I am not dependent on them for feeling and looking beautiful.
We are a very pious and religious family. Our religion and faith holds us together against all odds, and keeps us going. We're not out on the streets despite all the hardships. We're not starving, in spite of the low incomes and the large number of mouths to feed. We offer up all our prayers and gratitude to Allah for this, and for everything. And thank you, Allah, for my natural beauty. However, I would never tell anyone that I consider myself to be beautiful. I wouldn't say it to even Umma or the girls. I don't want to seem brash and boastful. I just enjoy it when everyone in the family praises me and I get to look modest. I happen to be one of the most desired and attractive girls in my class. The other popular girls are the kinds that like to expose their skins, wear sleeve-less tops and skinny jeans and show off their curves. They wear make-up and nail polish and flaunt their otherwise almost-non-existent features for attention. But I'm the desired one. Like the forbidden fruit. One would wonder what all I have hidden behind all my layers of clothing. The boys would gape at my natural long lashes and fair skin. My rosy cheeks, even teeth and full, red lips. And as a bonus, I'm a conservative Muslim. So everyone considers me to be unattainable. We Muslim girls are always the "good girls". This gives me a sense of freedom. This gives me a veil over the physical one that I am wearing. Nobody can see my smile hidden behind that veil, when I break the hearts of all those boys who lust after me. Because I am, after all, the forbidden fruit.
"But I'm the desired one. Like the forbidden fruit."
I know my religion and I know the rules. I am content with them and understand why I should never marry outside of my community. Not that I intend to, anyway. Why look outside for love, when you have it right in the fist of your palms? Also, I will never be in a relationship with someone, if not with the intention of marrying him. I will only love for marriage and marry for love. That is precisely why even thinking about Munaam gives me goose bumps. Munaam and Marya. Marya Munaam Moh'd. He is, as Umma says, the perfect match for me. Of course I don't admit to that in front of her. I obviously act appalled at the idea of marriage when Vappa and Umma tease me with Munaam. And what more can I ask for? I already have the consent of my parents to have a full-fledged love affair with the man I love.
Vappa has known Munaam from the time he was young. He always meets him at the Mosque during Friday Namas. One day, Vappa invited him over to our house after the Namas. To me, he looked like a Greek God. I have not, until this day, laid my eyes on a more handsome man. We all dined together and I got to see how nice he was to my siblings. To all of them. To all of us. Respectable, well-mannered Munaam. And what's more, he's going to pass out of his engineering college next year and has already lined up his Masters in Dubai. Dubai! My dream land. I will finally escape from this pathetic home. I will finally be able to buy all the things I want. I will finally be able to care for my sisters. Not a single Muslim in Dubai is poor. Let alone a highly qualified Muslim engineer. My highly qualified, handsome engineer! Oh, I just hope this works out! I can't wait to grow up! I can't wait for all those dreams to come true. With Munaam by my side, I will have it all.
I know for certain that Vappa and Umma want him for a son-in-law. I know because I have eavesdropped on their conversation. I have heard them ponder over a plan for Munaam to see how smart and beautiful I am. And like them, I too hope that he falls in love with me. Munaam is to start my home tutoring tomorrow. Vappa got him to agree to tutor me in Physics which, according to him, I am weak in. Except that I'm actually good in Physics. Honestly, some Chemistry tuition would be good, but whatever. Munaam will be coming over every Friday after the Mass, and on Saturdays. He himself suggested to come in on Saturdays because it wouldn't be possible to cover the entire week's topics in one day. Ha! Good for me!
Meanwhile in school, something out of the ordinary has happened. A senior, I repeat, a senior has fallen for me. And this has left many of the other girls going crazy with jealousy. He happens to be my senior by a year which means he will be leaving school in a few months. He also happens to be a Hindu. And ugly. I was, in fact, slightly disappointed with his looks. But like in most cases, I did respond to him, to see what this guy has to offer. When his friend came up to me to tell me that someone wants to meet me in private, I knew for certain that this someone was one of the many guys who have a crush on me. As usual, I politely obliged. But I have to say this, bad looks aside, he is a smooth talker. He speaks good English and he already treats me like a queen. He knows exactly what to say to make me smile. Also, a good command over the English language is absolutely necessary. There was once a guy who told me, to my face, "Marya, I loves you!". Idiot.
Anyway, I have begun to secretly meet this guy every single day of school. And I cannot lie but I actually look forward to these meetings. He talks like his entire world revolves around me. And one day, when I pretended to be mad at him for making me wait, he actually sang an apology for me! Vappa never takes us out for movies but I have read my share of romantic novels. Spending time with him makes me feel like I'm in my own novel. And everything does in fact revolve around me.
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You might also be interested in reading Part 1 of this collection.