Love that's lasting, lucky and arranged

Love that's lasting, lucky and arranged
(Gwenda Kaczor, For the Los Angeles Times)

I married my wife after spending a total of one hour with her. The first time I kissed her was on our wedding night. Sound crazy? Here's what is crazier still. We will celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary this month.

After college, I had firmly established myself in a good career, but I felt something was missing. While I did date occasionally, it seemed impossible to find a woman with the same religious and cultural background, so I reached out to my parents in Pakistan.


Please help find me a wife.

On a subsequent visit, I was introduced to several families and met their daughters, but it was emotionally draining. I didn't connect with anyone. I returned home, very unsure of the whole "arranged marriage" concept.

Of course, hope springs eternal, so a few months later I returned, traveling to Karachi, where a family well known to my uncle invited me over for tea. During this first encounter, I met many relatives, but the eligible young woman was nowhere to be found. We agreed that I would meet Ayesha at her parents' home. I was to be accompanied by my older brother and a college friend who had moved back to Pakistan.

The next day, we sat in the living area with all of the family — except for Ayesha.

She entered the room about 10 minutes later. I was struck by her smile and her gracious mannerisms. She appeared confident as she sat across from me, but all we could do is engage in some polite conversation. Her sisters and friends and my entourage of two eagerly listened to every word.

Soon enough, however, our attendants seemed to fade into the background. Ayesha and I quietly connected. She was beautiful, with dark hair and green eyes and an almost luminescent glow to her.

Mostly I loved that smile.

I wanted to ask for her hand in marriage, but I couldn't pop the question right there. It would have offended her parents — and mine. So I flew to my hometown, Islamabad, that evening and asked my father to call her father. That was the proper way to do things.

The answer was yes. We married, and I brought my new wife to my home in Dallas.

We had reached the six-month mark when my company transferred me from Texas to Southern California. As we drove to Anaheim on our first day in the area, we were greeted by the fireworks of Disneyland. We couldn't immediately identify the source, but driving beneath a pyrotechnic display on a warm summer night felt like a good omen. We believed that we had arrived in a magical place.

And that's how it panned out. Orange County was beautiful; the weather, unlike anything we had ever experienced. We found a small home with willow and oak trees in Anaheim Hills. Sitting on our deck in the summer evenings, talking and drinking tea, we felt like we had arrived.

We liked to go to the beach on weekends — Newport, Dana Point. On our first anniversary, I surprised her with a trip to Catalina. We stayed at the Zane Grey Hotel, and because it was December, it felt as though we had the whole island to ourselves. We saw a dozen people — maybe. Our room had a glass wall, and lying in bed we could see across the ocean to Los Angeles. The mountains were covered with snow. It was an amazing experience. One of many.

Love can be tricky. Sometimes it starts with passion and vigor and then, over a period of time, it dissipates and is gone. For me, it has been a gradual process. I'm way more in love with my wife now than when we got married.

We still work at it. Ayesha makes me feel that she is lucky to be married to me. I set the breakfast table for her and leave her notes and flowers. (Now she has a crate full of such memorabilia.) Each day I consciously pause to take a break from the rush of life and hold her close and tell her that I love her, that I'm thankful she is my wife.

Sometimes when I'm in the shower or am lying in bed, I think about how my life has unfolded. Generally, people date, fall in love and then marry. But sometimes people marry and then fall in love.

There is no one way. There is no one order of events. Sometimes love builds.

Sy Hussaini is chief executive and founder of an information technology company in Anaheim.

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