The SWOT column
A year ago, various incidents in and with motor vehicles inspired me to resurrect the SWOT column. The first incident was a feeling of déjà vu mixed with a sense of divination brought on when I heard a song on the radio while driving to work, a song that had inspired the very first SWOT column.The second was another sense of deja vu in a taxi, taking me back to another taxi ride a decade earlier in Dubai. And the third was when I discovered two flat tyres on my Santro Club outside my favorite restaurant. While the courteous, helpful and chivalrous restaurant staff went about trying to set the wheels in motion again, I waited and wondered why I needed a man in my life. Seizing a pen I documented the thoughts that became the first episode of SWOT Season Two.
Twelve months and a dozen columns later, I’ve solved that existential dilemma. I’ve figured out why I need a man in my life! Of course, cousin Nayyar – genius that he is – had it figured a year ago: “You need a man in your life in case your car breaks down somewhere besides Okra,” he texted to say seconds after he read the first column of Season Two. But my reasons are a little less deductive and logical. In fact, even if I may say so myself, they are mature and rational. And there are three of them, all equally compelling.
The first dawned on me a couple of months ago while chatting with a friend in Islamabad about her attempts to adopt a baby. My friend is a confirmed SWOT who gave up on marriage quite some time ago. But she hung on to her desire to be a mother. Initially she thought she could enter into a marriage of mutual understanding and convenience, and do it the traditional way – with a husband. After encountering all manner of lazy blokes looking for a life of leisure paid for by a career-oriented wife, and the odd cagey divorced type who wouldn’t come clean about not wanting children, she decided not to complicate her life and go it alone.
She began to investigate adoption but it didn’t take her long to discover that as a single woman she couldn’t legally adopt a child in Pakistan. Determined nevertheless, the forces of nature found a way to make it happen. Her family came to the rescue and her brother and sister-in-law obligingly decided to produce a baby for her. When her sister-in-law became pregnant, my friend began preparations to bring home the baby. A nursery was set up. Maids began to be interviewed. Legal matters such as what details to fill in the birth certificate were looked into. And miraculously enough, she even began to beam and glow like an expectant mother.
Hearing her talk about the impending arrival made me realize that I needed a man in my life to have a baby. Yes I know that science has advanced enough to obviate the need for a man in this process. But being old fashioned, poor, and a resident of the developing world, I’d rather stick with tradition. So, surprise, surprise, a baby is my reason numero uno for needing a man in my life.
The second compulsion is Hajj. Having performed three Umrahs, Hajj has become imperative and obligatory for me. And one day – although not right now – I know I will even be spiritually ready for it. When that day comes, I want not to have to bother with finding a mehram. I want to have one handy. Dad has already performed Hajj and I don’t want to put him through the physical strain at his advancing age which may be rather more advanced by the time I achieve spiritual readiness. My only other mehram – my beloved brother Sameer – is no more. Thus, the needing of a mehram…err… man in my life.
I guess this necessitates the composing of a situation vacant ad for the paper because I do not want to denigrate the holy state of matrimony by calling it a Matrimonial. Nor am I inclined to pass off as a nikah nama what would clearly be a services contract.
And that’s where I’m kinda stuck.
SWOT seeks single man with paternal inclinations and spiritual aspirations. Candidates with prior paternal experience need not apply. Familiarity with religious pilgrimages would be an asset. Please apply in confidence to …
Let’s get to reason number three, a rather somber one. Simply this: I don’t want to die alone. Of course, it is quite possible that while I am coughing and spluttering my last few breaths, or more likely typing the last few words of my 35,763rd SWOT column, the man I’ve chosen as companion for that very moment (of passing on) may be clutching a National Savings Certificate coupon and waiting his turn in the queue of retirees rather than holding my hand. But it’s still worth taking the chance that he might be around – and that I might beat him to the finish line – when the proverbial kicking of the bucket happens, as the expression goes. I wonder why both living (e.g. alive and kicking) and dying involve kicking. Me, I’d rather just kick butt.
So that, I guess, is my Bucket List top three – to marry for motherhood, to take the saat pheras in order to perform the tawaf-e-kaaba seven times during Hajj, and to walk down the aisle so that I need not walk the Green Mile alone.
Time I got down to writing that situation vacant ad, don’t you think?
(SWOT is an acronym for single woman over thirty)
The writer is a development communicator and occasional journalist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org