| Love of his life: With wife Sehba
Sept. 29: Pervez Musharraf fell in love with a Bengali girl in Karachi while in his teens but, alas, she had to go off to East Pakistan with her family and that was it.
“She is happily married now, and lives in Bangladesh,” Musharraf writes in his book, In the Line of Fire, but has been more discreet with the identity of his early love than with diplomatic affairs.
It was his second romance in less than a year, and Musharraf was smitten by the girl immediately after his parents shifted to a new home on Garden Road near the Karachi zoo.
“On Garden Road, I fell straight into my next romance. She was a beautiful Bengali girl from East Pakistan. This crush was somewhat less frivolous than my first,” Musharraf writes.
His “puppy love” was a girl who was his next-door neighbour in another locality in Karachi, Pakistan’s Mumbai.
Bollywood might just love the story of Musharraf’s Bengali love, changing her origin from east to west Bengal.
The affair continued till he became a second lieutenant in the Pakistan Army. He even opted for the 36th light anti-aircraft regiment as all its training courses were held in Karachi.
“Why my fixation on Karachi' The reason was not my family — it was that my Bengali girlfriend was there,” he says.
But the army being what it is — no respecter of budding love — shot arrows through two young hearts by deciding that no one could go directly to the anti-aircraft regiment without basic artillery training.
“Worse, my romance came to an abrupt end when the girl’s family returned to East Pakistan,” he writes.
Musharraf confesses that he had a hunch that his mother had all along suspected the relationship as he had begun to neglect his studies.
About his first romance, he says: “I had been an above average student, usually among the first four in my class. That year (when he was 15), my grades dropped dramatically. The cause: my first romance.”
The President started out in romance quite early for those days but then he admits that his first love would have remained unspoken had the girl not been braver than he was. She was “perhaps a year older”, he writes.
“Truth to tell, she made the first move. I was too shy to initiate a romance, let alone woo a girl.”
After that it was pure infatuation, he admits. “I could think of nothing else except her.” A friend of his younger brother acted as the courier of letters for the young lovers who had difficulty communicating because the girl didn’t know English and Musharraf “was not brilliant in Urdu”.
Even at that age, Musharraf was quite a strategist, using his grandmother, whom he refers to as “Nani Amma”, without her knowledge to carry his letters to the girl.
“She (his maternal grandmother) was a lovely woman who used to wear a burqa…. I would tell Nani Amma that she must visit the neighbours, and then direct her to the girl’s house. Before she went, I would hide a letter in a pocket of her burqa and pass a message to the girl explaining where to find it.”
That love was cruelly broken when Musharraf had to move with his parents to the house on Garden Road where he discovered the Bengali girl. He appeared to have moved from one romance to the next quite fast. “This crush was somewhat less frivolous than my first.”
Once these affairs ended for reasons beyond his control, Musharraf met Sehba by arrangement. “On the day I was supposed to go to Sehba’s house and meet her family, I arrived in a shirt and trousers wearing open-toed sandals.
“Sehba was appalled that a fashion disaster had come for her hand.… Yet for some reason, she didn’t reject me.… Sehba was extremely beautiful, and I fell for her immediately.”
His dress sense has since improved dramatically, thanks possibly to Sehba.
Written with a PTI report