I’ve got to admit I was really, really nervous about their visit. I have five cousins in Pakistan – three boys and two girls. My earliest memory of one of their visits is from 1998, when the girls hadn't been born. I was seven: they were nine, eight and six. They stayed for months, and it was amazing. I have nothing but good memories from that visit, like the time when one of the boys and I discussed why his mum was so fat (she was pregnant), playing in the snow, getting the four of us and my brother in his car seat in the back seat of the car and driving home on the look out for police cars. We were young, we didn’t have predujices, the customs of Pakistan and our religion didn’t keep us from having a great time.Then we grew up.
Since that visit each boy has come over once, and it hasn’t been as fun. Because we had grown up and I didn’t wear a headscarf. The combination of adolescence and the Pakistani rules of boys mixing with girls meant that those visits were nowhere near as fun or exciting as 1998. I love them all dearly, and so it was hard for me. But I wasn’t going to change, I wasn’t going to wear a headscarf to satisfy other people if it wasn’t right for me.
So this time I was nervous. The last time I saw this cousin – the one who’s closest to me in age and the one who I always got on with the best – we didn’t talk at all. I didn’t want it to be like that his time.Thankfully it wasn’t.
I think he realised that I wasn’t going to be the same as I was when I was younger, and I certainly wasn’t going to be the same as other girls in Pakistan. And since he stated university he’s met other girls and learned to interact in a way that fitted with his Islamic ideals. And when he came I may only have seen him for two days but there wasn’t any of the awkwardness from the last visit. It was nice. We chatted. About uni, our families, his last visit. And I saw sad to say goodbye because I know it’ll probably be another five years before I see him again. But I can look forward to the next visit with an open heart.