A WOMAN WHO DARED
A green and yellow parrot in a cage hung beside the opened window from which broad daylight rode in. The zephyr with it brought the message of the advent of spring. Standing in front of the picture wall, her face looked radiant as ever in the sunlight. Looking at the pictures from her wedding, a picture revealed, behind a glass wall, a younger Noor all dolled up in a maroon shalwar kameez, adorned with Gota and Tilla work. Standing there, looking into the past through the pictures, she reminisced about the time while waiting for her daughter to get ready
Her daughter’s “I’m ready amma, let’s go” broke her trance.
“Do you have the list”, she said, making an effort to jump back into the present, to break away from the memories that still send shivers down her spine, the memories that instilled fear in her for her own daughter.
They left for the bazaar with her daughter’s excitement and eyes filled with dreams and Noor’s glittering, tearful eyes with fear, pride, excitement, happiness and emotions that were beyond her contemplation. She wiped her eyes with a corner of her black embroidered Chadar. She clenched Mehak, her daughter’s hand in her own, kissed her forehead and held az2the list from her hand. While reading the list, she decided which shop to visit first.
After hours of roaming in the chaos, hustle and bustle of the bazaar, they came back with hands full of shopping bags and faces full of contentment and cheerfulness. While opening the padlock on the door, Rashida and Fehmida came along and probed the mother-daughter duo about their shopping spree and their gaiety in a snobbish manner. Mehak in her freshness showed them her most priced, most adored jewel that was now in her possession, her mountaineering shoes. The eyes of the two women met each other, they raised their eyebrows and uttered in unison with a demeaning hand gesture:
“Haw Haye! What is this Noor?! Is this what she is gonna wear on her Shadi?! If you kept wasting money on these useless things, how are you gonna collect her dowry?! Who will marry her without dowry?! Be sensible Noor. Put some wedding shoes on her feet instead and make her summit her marriage not the peaks, Behen.”
Noor pushed Mehak aside and came in front of her like a lioness protecting her cub. With rage in her eyes, and fear that once made her shudder turned into her strength and she roared:
“Mehak will do whatever her heart desires. She will be defined by achievements, not by her dowry. I will make her capable enough that she will choose whom to marry and be chosen herself, not for her dowry or beauty or her ‘ghardaari’. My daughter will have all that I lacked, all that society snatched from me.”
Noor gestured Mehak to go inside and after asserting ‘Khuda hafiz’, she nodded her head exultantly, went inside and left the two to ponder. The women bewildered at the conduct of Noor eyed each other and contemplated what just happened. They stopped their feet, cursed the mother and daughter, predicted their future that will be doomed and left. They were most surprised at the outbreak of Noor, a woman that always had her head low, listened to everyone, respected everyone, and whose manners everyone was fond of.
But Noor could not hold her tongue this time. NO! It was her daughter at stake. It was her dreams that her sweet big eyes had seen and cherished since childhood. It was her daughter’s happiness at stake. And that she could not just let go. She could fight the world if she had to. She was not able to fight for her dreams, the dreams that society took away and left her to yearn for. Tied in the chains of marriage, she was made to give up her dreams. Because to be a good wife is the ultimate goal and achievement of a woman. But NO! Not for her daughter. Enough. This mould of society had to break. She had leapt a leap, had swum upstream, all for her daughter and her dreams that she could not live.
The smell of the night was settling in as the hues of the sky changed, blending pinks, purples and oranges, silky, smooth collusion of sky burst reds and yellows into the calm of night. The sunset, a symphony of colours, sighed of a late summer day and the dawn of a restful winter evening. Noor and Mehak sipped the tea and gossipped, chirped and discussed the future course of events, the departure of Mehak for her mountaineering school and her dreams.
Afterwards, in the mellow flickering light of the lamp, she packed for Mehak and went into the abyss of thought and contemplation. Packing the last item, she zipped the bag and sighed a sigh of hope, of fear, of happiness, of desire, of all the things she could be, of all the things her daughter would be.
Areeba Zulfiqar Ali, LSU Volunteer