Nagpur: Ever since I saw her name on facebook the strangeness of it intrigued me. Priya Sadhwani Hussain? I could tell it was a match between a Sindhi girl and a Muslim guy, an unusual combination to say the least!
Remember the tragic days of partition of 1947? It was the Sindhis living in erstwhile ‘Sindh’ province of India which went to Pakistan who were mostly displaced and had to flee to India as migrants.
Priya Sadhwani’s nana had been one of them. He had come from Pakistan and then settled in Nagpur where like most Sindhis here, he was in the ‘Textile trade’. His children had been brought up listening to horror stories of that time and Priya’s parents, specially her mother had just one iron clad rule for teenaged Priya, “marry anyone but a Muslim! We will not be able to accept that.”
“As fate has it, what is most forbidden, comes to pass and life tests you to the limit” says Priya today.
“How did they happen to meet – Priya and her hubby Fida, also known as Amique?” I ask.
“It was a wrong number! An honest mistake, a wrong number dialled by Amique, that gave the happiest turn to my life!” Says Priya.
Fida, who is 9 years Priya’s senior, was already in business when Priya was in college. (He is into the glass business – etched glass, decorative glass, stained glass etc.) Some business associate owned him a big chunk of money and had begun avoiding him. He was given a cell number where he might find this guy, in the communication some digits must have interchanged and he ‘saved’ a wrong number that turned out to be Priya’s!
Fida made the call in an angry mood and was flummoxed when a female voice replied. Initially he was sure ‘ the woman’ was answering the cell on the businessman’s behalf and he could coax/ bully/ threaten her into getting the guy on the line.
But it was Priya who lost her cool and threatened to report him if he called her again! But Cupid had already struck. Fida, became fida over her voice and was very keen to meet the ‘voice in person’. So he coaxed her very patiently that if she just met met him once he would know she was genuinely not pretending to be someone else, that she was completely unconnected to the defaulting businessman.
Priya could guess the ruse but agreed for a meeting because she was also curious. She had told Fida that she was already married and had a son too. So for the meeting she took along her younger brother, who was a cute little kid of 7 – 8 then. She herself was 17!!
They met at Jagat Plaza- very briefly. Of course Fida had his doubts…
” you look too young to be this kid’s mother!” he commented.
“You want to know about my authenticity or my ‘son’s?'” She shot back.
For Fida it was love at first sight, but he never confessed it. She also liked the person he seemed to be so their conversations continued. They told each other very candidly and truthfully about themselves.
Then for some reason there was a break; not a break-up, just a long gap in communications, more from Priya’s side. He coaxed her gently to tell him what was wrong, but did not voice his feelings, even then. It was Priya, who started questioning herself ” why am I missing talking with him so much? I have so many other friends, both boys and girls, what is so special about him?”
It was then she discovered it was more than friendship – it ran deeper than that! She was so excited by her discovery, she called him and blurted out her emotions – almost ‘proposing’ to him… there was stunned silence from his side. Then he asked her one question-
“Will you be prepared to marry me ?- because I am not interested in a fling! Think over how serious and committed you are , then I will tell you my feelings!”
Though very attached to her parents, Priya was even then a very independent minded person. Coming from an affluent background – her family owned Bhambani textiles and ‘Fashion Point’ at Shradhanandpeth – she yet strived to be financially independent too. She coached younger kids and did other odd jobs in her holidays. She mulled over Fida’a question, knowing its gravity, and said Yes, I will marry you some day.
It was then that an extremely thrilled Fida told her how he had loved her from the first day; in fact from the time he heard her voice!
Of course, that was not the end of the story. The hurdles began; as expected Priya’s parents said a firm NO. She was 19 years old then and being a pretty, vivacious girl had many ‘marriage offers’ coming to her from the Sindhi community.
One offer from a family in Hyderabad had her parents overjoyed. It was a very big Business family, one of the top ten in their community and an alliance they wouldn’t have hoped for normally. Priya’s dad persuaded her to meet the guy.
In respect for her parents, Priya agreed for a meeting. In fact one part of her had begun despairing about ever making a success of her love story. She confided her doubts to her beau who was expectedly very hurt. Yet, Priya went ahead and met the guy, who said Yes to the alliance.
But Priya’s heart did not relent. It was then she addressed the biggest dilemma of her young life – parents and family, or love?
“Who ever I chose to marry, I knew it would be for keeps. A relationship for life. So did I want to spend my life with a stranger I did not know or even like to keep my parents happy? If I married him, as per Sindhi customs I would be ‘allowed’ to spend one month in 2 years or so at my ‘maika’. The rest of the time I would be spending with this man, I did not love. Would it be fair to him, to me and in the long run, even our families? What is the basis one should choose a life partner on?”
She chose love and Amique then, and this decision was irrevocable. Final. She would not budge. Her parents continued to dissent so she had to leave home. Amique’s family welcomed her with open arms, because they had full confidence in their son’s choice.
For ‘technical’ reasons then Priya decided to accept Islam, because she did not want any questions later on the legality of their marriage if they underwent a “Nikah’.
“There was no pressure on me to ‘convert’ I took my own decision” she says firmly.
Her parents kept meeting her almost every day, but they did not attend the ‘Nikah’.
“They had hoped till the last minute that I would come to realize my ‘mistake’ and come back.”
“When I did not, and went ahead and got married, they accepted that also instantly and blessed us the very next day. I am so happy there was no drama and no severing of relations; it would have made both of us unhappy!”
“Today”,says Priya proudly, “I am a true Believer, a Muslim by choice. I had never been interested in Religion before, had been almost an atheist. But when I observed their customs, how they lived, their philosophies, I fell in love with this religion!”
Indians should not go by the propaganda and hate filled diatribe. At its core, Islam is a peace loving, almost modern religion which gives a lot of respect to women says Priya.
“But whatever Religion one adopts and follows one needs to work on it. You should not take it for granted.”
“If people of all religions, learn to understand and accept each other’s faith, India would be the most beautiful country to live in!”
And yet – she did not change her name to an Islamic one, and continues to mantain Priya Sadhwani Hussain as her legal and formal name.
“That was a foregone decision of my life. Who ever I married, I would always retain ‘Sadhwani’ – even if my parents had severed relations I would have had that name!”
When, in the second year of her marriage, her daughter was born, her father in law wanted to name her Zeenat. Other family members loved the name too, including Priya’s father, but her mother liked ‘Alisha’ and so Alisha she was named!
“That is how relations are between the two families, cordial and warm.
My mother, who was so opposed to my marriage now loves my husband more than she loves me! He also respects her a lot.”
All of Priya’s maiden family were thoroughly convinced that their Priya had made absolutely the right choice, when Priya became grievously ill when her daughter was 4 years old. Even her nana is very fond of him!
What seemed like a very bad headache turned out to be life threatening ‘Thrombosis’. She was admitted to the Meditrina hospital’s ICU for 10 days. It was touch and go.
“No one is allowed inside the ICU or encouraged to stay on at the hospital at nights, so they all went home. Fida, slept all those nights in his car parked right opposite the hospital, from where he could see the lights of the ICU! No amount of persuasion budged him to leave that spot!”
After she was released, very reluctantly he allowed her parents to take her to Mumbai with them for her recovery and rest.
” Unfortunately, two days before I was to return my father in law passed away. Life is so uncertain some times!” says Priya ruefully.
Today Priya and Fida together run their Glass and Interior Designing business. Priya has gone back to college to learn I.D. formally. Her life revolves round her family, her little daughter who is 7 now and her business.
What advise would she give to a person in love facing opposition. like she did?
“No religion, or caste, or state is right or wrong. Do not base your decision on that fact. Just look at the person! He/ She has to be Right. Not just right, but a Good person. Nothing else matters then…”