If you’re reading this, then you’re probably old enough to understand... Our mothers tell us that a good girl should be seen and not heard; that a good girl should never ask questions; that a good girl should be pleased and content because men are hard to come by. Our mothers have lived by these rules all their lives and the rules have worked for them (or not!). But in our time, we have learnt differently, education has exposed us to opinions, knowledge has taught us equality, fairness and justice, and our experiences have been distinctively embossed in the sands of time. It is true that the players and the pitch may change but the game remains the same. Love is a game they say; “I’ll love you forever” that’s how love songs rhyme, but in time, i realised that this feeling only exists at the beginning of every love story and the story was no song of romance. I’d witnessed the same game between my parents and then between aunts and uncles, cousins and spouses, and other relatives like chains of cycles. Yet, each time I had asked if this was what love was all about, their answers were always the same - “you won’t understand” - and then I kept wondering if the time for understanding will ever come. Growing up for me was like a bed of roses; I had everything or almost everything I wanted, attended the best of schools and had the best of clothes and toys, picnics and shopping at weekends, extra mural lessons after school hours and summer camps during holidays. And when I got older, it was visitations fortnightly at the boarding school and journeys to exotic places during the holidays... such was the bliss of my young life. It had never occurred to me that my mother was the one who had shielded the flaws of my family from me; the sadness, pain, hurt, arguments, betrayal and of course the scars they had left on her heart. She was probably the epitome of what our society would describe as a strong woman but in my heart, I never understood why she had to make all those sacrifices. I first witnessed the reality of my family in my late teens when I fatefully stumbled upon one of my parents’ bitter arguments that had turned out really ugly. I wept profusely that day because I was sure that when the sun left that evening, so would my mother but I woke up the next morning and many more afterwards to find her go about her duties like that day had never happened and she never let me ask why. That day marked the shattering of my illusion of a fairy tale life, but it was yet the beginning of my introduction to reality. It was only then that I realized what all those visits from relatives and their spouses and neighbours and their spouses really meant; my parents had become experts at settling marital discords and domestic disputes in other homes not minding that theirs wasn’t a perfect match. All because my mother would never stand against her husband’s wishes (right or wrong), she’d become the societal perfect wife. I’d seen the agony, sorrow, and anguish in the eyes of both parents and children when they made their visits to our home and it was like we were sworn to secrecy never to discuss the events, it was like a taboo to even acknowledge that you were aware of their disputes. While I was observing their lives and marriages however, I had begun to form opinions in my head about what was acceptable to me as a person and what I couldn’t or wouldn’t accept from any man; I was learning their lessons and mine as well (not to make their mistakes). I realised then that when you couldn’t speak back or ask questions, it was like selling a very vital part of you, trading your personality at a cost without a value. As my mother would always say to them, it was a wife’s place to be controlled and the husband to be in control and that the wives’ reward was awaiting them in al-Jannah. For long afterwards, that statement made wonder whatever happened to “Rabbana atina fi duniya hasanata wa fil akhira ti hasanata wa qina adhaba naar”. When I got married, it was one of those moments when everything changed, I got swept off by the initial bliss of it all, the romance, euphoria, even so the nostalgia of homesickness couldn’t overwhelm me, it was like the ever after happiness in fairy tales and I got myself thinking that perhaps, mine was to be different. I had discarded my notion to fight and be heard and had forgotten all those ugly pictures of failed marriages in my head but it all came coming back soon enough as the cycle began to revolve again, only this time around in the pitch, I was the player.