A salt-and-pepper bearded man appeared. He wore a knitted topee that covered his full head. Once the topee was white but now turned into grey and its edge looked greasy. He must be the Kazi, Shelley thought. The Kazi was preparing betel. He finely folded the betel leaf, opened his mouth wide and stashed it into there. He pointed Shelley to the chair to sit. Once he took over the betel in his mouth he spoke. ‘‘Want to wed?’’ The voice sounded thin and nasal.

Shelley nodded, looking at his thick body that produced the thin voice. The Kazi pulled the only chair of his side, sat down and ran his fingers through his salt-and-pepper beard. Sufia was standing behind Shelley, with her burqa on. Shelley winked her. They both sat down. The Kazi gave a long look at Sufia. His piercing look seemed enough to pierce her veil.

The marriage registrar office, a small tin-roofed structure, had this large verandah at the front. It turned out that the Kazi lived inside and used the verandah as his office, which was basically a decrepit old table, accompanied by five shabby chairs. The Kazi began asking questions. That was more than an interview. Shelley realized this would go unending. So he told the Kazi that he loved Sufia. But their marriage was opposed on religious grounds. He’d now convert to Islam to marry her. But what he didn’t tell was she ran away from home last evening to evade the forced marriage that her father had arranged for her. The nuptial was supposed to take place in two days, with the suitor who lived and worked in Karachi.......

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