“When I was a kid, my only goal was to get a good education. I dreamed of attending Harvard or Stanford, and planned to become a doctor one day. I was the eldest of four daughters in a Pakistani Muslim family. We lived in Ruwais, a small town in the United Arab Emirates, where my father worked in an oil plant and my mother was a teacher. At school, I always stood out among the girls in my class—I was brash, clever, outspoken. I took pride in acing every test. When I brought home top marks, my father would celebrate by handing out sweets.
One day, when I was in Grade 10, I was in my bedroom doing math homework. My mother walked in. She told me I’d received a marriage proposal. I laughed. “Mom, what are you talking about?” I asked. She didn’t crack a smile, and I realized she was serious. “I’m only 16,” I said. “I’m not ready for marriage.” She told me that I was lucky. The offer came from a nice man who lived in Canada. He was 28 years old and worked in IT. His sister was a friend of hers. The woman thought I’d make a perfect match for her brother—I was very tall, and he was six foot two. “They’re going to look so great together in pictures,” she had said to my mother.”