By: Abdool Aziz
“OH if we did know!” was the lament of the bereaved parents, as they beat their chests and wept uncontrollably, following the cortege; their children in coffins held high; their love affair condemned and rejected. They ended their lives in a suicide pact. Too late shall be the cry, mom and dad. You placed family value first and your children last. Now they’re gone forever.
Arifa was the only daughter of Imtiaz Khan, a store owner in a small rustic community on the East Bank of Essequibo. He was a devout Muslim and he brought up his daughter in strict Islamic culture. At age 17, Mr. Khan had arranged for his daughter’s marriage and she was obeying his match. But Rohan, a new kid on the block stepped into her life.
He was a tall, handsome mechanic. It was love at first sight. Arifa begged her dad to call off the wedding. The old man got upset, he was placing her in a good Muslim home. When he found out she was in love with Rohan, he got mad. He barred her from the business so that Rohan could not communicate with her. But through her good neighbour, notes used to pass.
When Rohan’s parents found out about the secret communication, they grounded the teenager. They were not happy to have him marry a Muslim girl, and likewise Mr. Khan did not appreciate a Hindu for a son-in-law. The two families feuded over family values. Khan decided to send his daughter to a relative in Berbice. Rohan was destined for the U.S.A.
The separation was cruel. The couple could not bear to leave each other. And they decided on a sure way to be together. Their notes went to and from until a final note was left beside their corpses. While her father was away in the city, Arifa and Rohan wended their way to the sea wall and in loving embrace, they took their lives drinking poison.
The note read: “You rejected our love, but God didn’t. We return to live together forever in heaven, still your children. Love, Rifa & Ro.”
I sat in my wheelchair as those coffins went past. I tried to stand to salute this couple who died so young. Two lives were shattered because of religion and parental power. The couple had one belief – their loyal love. They left this world with their hearts welded forever. Their honeymoon was assured in the heavens, because love conquers all.
Give love a chance. Couples have the right to choose and marry persons of their choice. Submit to their joy. A disobedient child is still better than a dead one. Do not drive them to suicide. They were interred together. On the headboard read: ‘Rifa & Ro – Sleepeth in Love’. The loss of their beloved children brought the grieving parents to be more tolerant of religious differences. God is Love! Be encouraging and supportive. It’s better to love and fall – than fail to love.