“To who, then?” Zuhura asked.
“I take it your mother hasn’t told you anything about it,” said Uncle Hassan.
“Mama knows about it?” she asked.
“I talked to her about it yesterday,” Uncle Hassan pointed out. “Your uncle called me first and asked me to speak to your mother about it.”
“Wallahi Uncle Jaffar is impossible!”
“That’s what your mother said,” Hassan sighed. “To say the truth I can barely stand him too.”
“At least he finally accepted I cannot get married to Abdallah,” Zuhura laughed. “Sasa who else does he have in mind?”
“A friend of his has a son who wants to get married, so Jaffar in his ever commodious disposition told him that he had a niece who was good for the young man.”
“You know what surprises me about Uncle Jaffar is that he speaks about me like he knows me really well,” Said Zuhura. “And he barely knows me. Just because he knew me when I was in my pre-teens doesn’t mean he knows me as well now.”
“You know this marriage debate will continue until you finally say you want to get married, or you concede to your uncle’s demands.”
“Yenyewe I’ll be very honest with you, uncle,” she explained. “It’s not that I don’t want to get married. I do. At some point I will, but that point is not now.”
“And you think your uncle will understand that?”
“Of course he won’t,” Zuhura sighed. “And I don’t care whether he gets pissed off at me. I have my life too, you know.”
“So you already have someone in mind you want to get married to?” Hassan asked.
“Yes I do!”
“Yes,” she laughed. “And the thing that I’m certain of is that it’s neither Abdallah nor that other guy uncle Jaffar is proposing.”
“Seriously. You have someone?” Uncle Hassan asked with a more serious tone.
“Oh, come on now, uncle,” she waved her hand. “There is no one. How can I manage to have a boyfriend and studies at the same time? Besides, I want to wait until am ready for marriage so I can meet my future husband!”
“Sawa. I have to leave now” he said. “Just be very wary of these campus boys. I’ve heard very disappointing, alarming news about them.”
“Don’t worry, I’m a big girl, right?” she said. “Out of curiosity, what’s the name of the young man uncle Jaffar intends to give me away to?”
“He’s Muadh, if I remember correctly.”
“Nice name,” she said. “And he is in Dar too?”
“From what your uncle implied, Muadh is in Nairobi.”
“He is?” Zuhura asked, her heart skipping a beat.
“Ah, never mind about this Muadh or your uncle,” Uncle Hassan said, getting up. “I’ll just tell them off. I know Jaffar won’t take it well but he has to take it nonetheless.”
“Shukran wallahi, I appreciate your support uncle,” she said.
“Mafi mushkil,” he said, adjusting his trouser at the waist. “I have to get back before Mumu fills your aunt’s ears with evil ideas.”
Minutes after Uncle Hassan left, Zuhura just lay on the couch staring into the ceiling. Her mind was a cacophony of thoughts, both happy and sad. She was angry at her Uncle Jaffar and his insistence on getting her married. It was as if, according to him, a crime for a Swahili girl in her early twenties to be single and in university far away from home. Every time someone mentioned about educating their daughters up to university, he always shook his head vehemently, arguing that a girl is better off married than educated. Why, he always asked, does a girl need a degree for? Cooking and taking care of the children has never required a degree, he always added.
While she respected Uncle Jaffar out of family courtesy, she disliked his attitude regarding women. In his eyes, a woman could never amount to anything other than a wife and care giver. She had never met any of his two wives and he wondered how they put up with all that high headedness and chest beating. But she would not be surprised if both of his wives were typical Swahili women content with just staying in the house applying henna, cooking for him, harassing house-helps and attending weddings at night.
And Zuhura knew she was better than that. Not that she looked down on those women who were content with doing such things. Hardly. She had too much riding on her education. Even if she wanted to just sit back and let the man do everything, she had her mother and younger siblings to think about.
She wondered whether Swaleh would allow her to work if ever they got married. Superficially he cast the image of a solid husband, a man who can do anything to keep his woman happy. But did that solidity and happiness extend to allowing her to work so she could help her family out?
Then there was Muadh who so happened to be in Nairobi too. She was curious to see him, wondering why Uncle Jaffar had chosen him. There must have been something special about him to be considered because Uncle jaffar was not in the habit of dishing out the girls in the family to any interested suitor.
She knew there was something.
Her phone rang. It was Swaleh.
“As-salaam alykum.” He greeted.
“Wa alykum salaam,” she answered.
“Vipi, how have you been?”
“Good, Alhamdulillah.” She said. “You?”
“Great,” he said. “Am back from Mombasa. Just jetted back an hour ago.”
“MashAllah,” she said. “Lete habari za Pwani basi!”
“Greetings from Mama,” he said.
“Mine or yours?” she laughed.
“Yours,” he said. “I met her yesterday. Can I see you tomorrow?”