Twenty days after the proposal of marriage the solemn engagement ritual took place. Sharifa pulled herself together and put on a brave face. Her female relatives did their best to unsettle her. "How awful for you," they said. "How badly he has treated you. You must be suffering."
The wedding took place two months after the engagement, on the day of the Muslim New Year's Eve. This time Sharifa refused to attend.
"I can't," she told her husband.
The female family members backed her up. No one bought new dresses or applied the normal amount of makeup required at wedding ceremonies. They wore simple coiffures and stiff smilesin deference to the superannuated wife who would no longer share Sultan Khan's bed. It was now reserved for the young, terrified bridebut they would all be under the same roof, until death did them part.
Copyright © 2002 by Åsne Seierstad
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