They met at a function. He was there alone. Hiya was in New Delhi visiting her family. The woman whom had captivated him the moment he walked into the room and saw her was with a tall African man. Farhan watched her as she laughed and chatted with several people. She looked exquisite in the bright colors of the head wrap and halter dress which flattered her figure. Her companion didn’t say much.
Farhan wondered if it was her husband. He hoped not. When Louisa, the hostess joined him, he immediately asked her about the woman. “Oh, that’s Elida. She’s from Lusaka, Zambia.”
“Is that her husband?”
“No. She isn’t married. Would you like to meet her?”
“Yes.” He pushed all thoughts of Hiya from his mind as he followed Louisa.
Elida turned as they approached and she smiled. Louisa introduced them. They shook hands. “It’s nice to meet you,” she said. Then, turning to her date, she said, “This is Paca.”
He shook Paca’s hand, thinking what a lucky man he was and wishing that he wasn’t there. As if she read his mind, Louisa drew Paca away. He was alone with Elida now. Without wasting any time, he asked, “Is Paca your boyfriend?”
She shook her head. “No, he’s my date for tonight.”
“Just for tonight?”
“Yes. Are you here with anyone?”
“No. While Louisa is keeping Paca busy over there, why don’t you and I go for a walk? It’s such a lovely evening.”
She considered it for a moment and then she nodded. “All right.”
They left the reception hall and went outside into the gardens. The sun was still high in the sky. It wouldn’t set for another two hours or so. “So, have you been living in London for a long time?” he asked.
“I came here right after I graduated from University of Lusaka. I was fortunate to find get a job with Louisa. What about you?”
“My parents came from New Delhi to London when my mother was pregnant with me so I was born here.”
“Have you ever visited New Delhi?”
“Yes. I have visited several times. I still have lots of family there. What about you. Have you visited Lusaka since you left?”
“Yes. I go there for Christmas every year.”
“I’ve been to Africa but never to Zambia.”
“Where in Africa have you been?”
“Lagos, Cape Town and Freetown.”
“I’ve never been to India but I think there’s a Women’s Empowerment Summit in Mumbai next year. I will be attending it.”
“I’ve visited Mumbai once. I treated myself to the vada pav, a bun stuffed with a steaming potato patty. You should try it when you go next year. There are no selfies zones because of the numerous deaths of people taking selfies.”
“Yes, I read about that the man who drowned trying to rescue the three selfie-taking women who fell off some rocks on the coast of the Arabian Sea. Such a tragedy. No photo is worth risking your life for.”
They walked and talked about other things and then it was time to return to the party. He gave her a business card after writing his personal number on the back of it. “Call me at either number when you’re free to have lunch with me,” he said.
She took it and put it in her handbag. “I will,” she promised.
A week after, she called him and they had lunch at an Italian bistro not far from where she worked. They were happy to see each other and made plans to see each other again. They fully embraced each other’s culture.
He took her to a concert featuring a top Indian artist while she took him to a Zambian Independence Celebratory lunch. The proceeds from the ticket sales to the venue went towards the Mumba’s Children Project, a worthy cause. She wore a sari when they went to an Indian restaurant for dinner and he wore a white Ankara men’s shirt when she invited him to her place for a home cooked traditional Zambian dinner.
It wasn’t long before Farhan realized that he was falling in love with Elida and yet, he still hadn’t told her about Hiya. And Hiya, of course, didn’t know about her. It was crazy juggling two women at the same time. It couldn’t continue. He had to stop seeing one of them but which one? Elida was the woman he was in love with but Hiya was the woman his parents expected him to marry.
He met Hiya at his cousin Aarav’s wedding. They immediately hit it off and his mother invited her and her parents for dinner. He and Hiya began dating and their families assumed that they would one day tie the knot. He too had been considering the idea until he met Elida. His life had become a sweet chaos because of her.
Elida. He closed his eyes now as he lay in his bed, staring up at the ceiling. She was so beautiful and so refreshing. He loved being with her. He couldn’t imagine his life without her. He couldn’t imagine not seeing her sweet smile or hearing her soft voice again or her melodious laugh.
The following morning, he called Hiya and arranged to meet her that evening in Hyde Park. Best to break up in a public place where there was not possibility of an unpleasant scene, he thought.
Elida was looking out the window when the doorbell rang. It was Farhan. He had called her that afternoon to tell her that he had something important to tell her. He sounded urgent and it scared her. After she had hung up the phone, she prayed, “Dear God, please don’t let him be engaged or married.”
She let him in and after locking the door, she turned to face him, her heart pounding. “You said you had something important you needed to tell me.”
“Yes. I haven’t been honest with you, Elida. When we met, I was in a relationship. Hiya was in New Delhi at the time visiting her family. That’s why I was alone.”
She swallowed hard. “Is-is Hiya your fiancee or your wife?” she asked, fearing the answer.
He shook his head. “No, she’s–was my girlfriend. Our parents wanted us to get married and they might have had their wish if I hadn’t met you, Elida.”
“You said she was your girlfriend, does that mean that she isn’t anymore?”
“Yes. I broke up with her this morning.”
“Why?” she asked although she was relieved to hear that he was neither engaged nor married.
“I don’t love her, Elida. I love you. I want to be with you–that is, if you still want to be with me.”
Elida reached out and touched his cheek. “Of course, I still want to be with you, Farhan,” she said huskily.
His heart began to beat faster and he covered the hand which was touching his face. “You mean you aren’t upset with me for not telling you about Hiya?”
“I don’t like that you didn’t tell me about her when we first met or even when we met for lunch but I think I understand why.”
He turned his head and kissed her hand before he pulled her against him. “It was wrong of me to keep my relationship with her from you and my relationship with you from her. I was scared of losing you, Elida and I didn’t want to hurt Hiya. I wrestled with myself for a long time before I made my decision to end my relationship with her. Of course, it was devastating for her and I hope that she will be able to forgive me someday.”
“I hope so too,” Elida said.
“I love you.”
She smiled. “I love you too.”
A year later, they got married. Only his cousin, Aarav and his wife, Saarya, Louisa, Paca, other friends, co-workers and Elida’s family were present.
Source: Roads & Kingdoms;