Saturday, May 21

Aisha and Suhabe

The following is the transcript of a speech I gave at the wedding.

Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen, wassalaatu wassalaam alaa rasoolillahi wa alaa aalehee wa sahbihee ajmaeen.

I've been given the distinguished honour of saying a few words, although I fully realise Aisha only asked me for my accent. That doesn't come free so I'll keep this short.

My name is Shakil, or Shak for short, and I'm Aisha's hot single cousin from across the pond. All enquiries to my mum please.

Of course I'll start by thanking Mohammad Chacha for having us and once again keeping us here in this wonderful town of Edmonton. A big thank you to all who have travelled here to attend - it's looking to be a great event.

Aisha and our fathers are brothers, and for a long time visiting Pakistan meant visiting Chacha, who quickly became, and still is, the closest of the 5 chachus I had the pleasure of meeting while growing up.

As such I've known Aisha pretty much since she was born. Of course I only saw her a few times every decade, but that hasn't stopped us becoming close despite the distances involved. I don't think it's unfair to say if we hadn't been divided by continents and oceans both Aisha and her sister Rabiya would have quickly become the sisters I've never had. Whether or not that's mutual, I can't say - I'm sure they already had their hands full with their siblings.

And as the slightly darker sheep of the Atal clan, the marriage search has been a bit of a shared journey for Aisha and me. We've swapped notes, given and received advice, and even been on speed dating together (I think the embargo on that has been lifted by now). Aisha and her family have dragged us across Europe and we once even shared a terribly unromantic family trip to Paris. The great city of love, wasted on losers like us.

Which I guess is a decent segue to the reason why we're all here today. Love. Now I know this is a terribly awkward topic, but I'm British and foreign so should be able to get away with it. If it makes things less awkward just remember - love comes in many forms from familial to friendship as well as the more romantic in nature.

So during my "research" there have been two important things I've learned about love. I'll cover them in reverse.

The second most important thing I've learned is that love is hard. It's challenging, complicated, awkward and hurts. And for many of us, it's like learning how to walk over and over again - and that's even when the people involved don't change. It's an ongoing, transient thing that will, and frankly should, always surprise us.

But the most important thing that I've learned is that love is easy. It's a choice. It's a choice to trust, to care, to be open and to communicate. When it's there, it's chilled and comfortable and healing. The challenges are still there for sure - but so are the solutions and answers. Success often comes to those who realise just how accessible those solutions are.

And Aisha is someone who finds it easy to make that choice, to love. She gives it freely to her family and friends, and I have no doubt it will be the same during this next chapter in her life. But just as its hard, and easy for her to give, its also hard, and easy to receive, and I pray that God makes it easy here.

Now I've been handed the gauntlet to make at least one person cry today, but to be honest it's not going to be much of a challenge. As her new life begins, so does Aisha leave her city of almost 25 years and her family of even longer. As someone who - proudly - has always lived with family I can somewhat relate to what that means for her, as well as those she's leaving behind. I won't name and shame - I'm not that cruel *cough* Rabiya. These are the hard, and easy choices we make to love and although there's no doubt that we all support Aisha, there's also no doubt that she will be missed by those she leaves behind.

I've only briefly met Suhabe today but it's clear that all of the good things Aisha told me about him are true. He won't need much advice from a guy like me. But to him the message is simple. Act first. Reconcile first, be first to speak during silence, first to take action when you're both bored, the first to appreciate when you both forget. Take that role and own it. It'll only come to pay dividends.

So I'm done and all that's left is to wish the happy couple all the love and peace in the world, and nothing but good times during their journey ahead.

Thank you.