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5 Urdu Stories That Explore The Plight Of Women In Marriages

Urdu literature has seen a drastic shift in its story-writing in the course of the last one century. This progression, we owe to the few authors who suffered a great deal of ostracization, fatwas, social angst and isolation in order to bring this to happen.

Here are five groundbreaking, unconventional and ‘bebaak’ (bold) stories, as they would call it – that are responsible for this shift in our books and our minds as well. The list explores stories that depict the plight of women within the institution of marriage in different forms. Starting from Rashid Jahan, to Qurratul Ain Hyder, all these authors have played a huge part in the development of Urdu short story the way it is today.

1. Parde Ke Peeche by Rashid Jahan

Published in 1931, Parde Ke Peeche (Behind the Veil) was one of the two short stories contributed in, ‘Angaare’ (Embers), a controversial collection of short stories by authors Sajjad Zaheer, Sahibzada Mahmuduzaffar, Ahmed Ali and Rashid Jahan. While the book in an entirety was received as a shock by the society for its open treatment of sexuality, Jahan’s stories were received even more badly, since she was the only woman author amongst four other male writers.

The story revolves around a woman, namely Mohommadi Begum, who has been giving birth to children since she got married at 18. She is 32 now but looks double her age due to bearing her husband’s voracious ‘needs’ from his wife, wherein he rapes her repeatedly. “Doesn’t matter if it is night or day, he wants his wife. And not only his wife. He goes the rounds to other women (sex workers) too.” Begum, through conversation with another woman tells us that she has to regularly get herself ‘tightened’ so he’d have the same pleasure as from a new wife, but now her husband wants to remarry a young girl because he’s no more ‘satisfied’ with her.

Through this story, Begum showcases the plight of Muslim women who are forced to become slaves to their husband’s desires in the name of marriage, hence having unwanted children and ultimately losing their health and free will. It brings to light the social issues of second marriages, marital rape and child marriage. The story, Parde Ke Peeche showcases what happens behind the curtains, by lifting them for a while.

2. Do Haath by Ismat Chughtai

With Angaare as a role model, Ismat wrote various stories exploring the female sexuality without a hint of shame. From Fasadi (the first play she wrote) to the Lihaaf controversy, the list of stories is long. She openly wrote about topics that were shushed during that time. These themes were enough to make people uncomfortable. With her desire to bring to the public eye the hidden desires and reality of a hypocrite society, she wrote her (lesser known) stories, ‘Do Haath’ and ‘Gharwali’.

Do Haath (‘A Pair Of Hands’) deals with the life of an Indian housewife, Goribi who is married to Ram Avtar. Initially in her marriage, she tries to resist Ram Avtar who is supposed to leave the house for his job but, “then, gradually, the length of her veil begins to diminish.” After Ram Avtar has left, Goribi is started to be seen as an ‘indecent’ woman by the society and even by her mother-in-law, who even though is forced by the society, refuses to send her back because she has (literally) bought her for Rs. 200 and needs her to survive old age. In the story, her mother in law describes her as, “she not only warms my son’s bed, but also works the capacity of four people.”

Throwing light on the perception that single women living without male companionship are bound to be deemed ‘indecent’, it also showcases the misery of the Indian housewives who are in most cases exploited to do as much work as possible, almost becoming slaves to the in laws in the name of matrimony, the amount of unpaid and undervalued work of households, how women are treated as objects of sexual pleasure for their husbands, and as workers to serve the in-laws.

3. Gharwali by Ismat Chughtai

Gharwali (meaning house maid or house-maker) revolves around a housemaid, Lajjo, who has an affair with her employer. Lajjo is an orphaned girl, and she openly uses her body to make money. After an intense affair with her employer Mirza, he proposes to marry her.

They both get married but soon Mirza loses interest in her. Now Lajjo is a girl who doesn’t know how to repress her sexual desire, so she ends up having extramarital relationships with various men. Ultimately, Mirza finds out about it and is taken by shock. He beats her blue and black and drives her out of the house, showcasing his ‘power’ over his wife’s body and physically abusing her. The story ends as they both realize that the arrangement that they previously had, outside the bounds of marriage, was the best.

Lajjo is a bold girl who’s in touch with her sexuality and is never afraid or ashamed to use it the way she wants. Ismat Chughtai has succeeded in bringing many women in contact with their sexuality with her bold stories. This story, through the plight of Lajjo, makes us realize that the institution of marriage often becomes a tool to control female sexuality and desires. The story also points to the prevalent domestic violence which has been normalized to a great extent.

4. Sita Haran by Qurratul Ain Hyder

Hyder was a contemporary to Chughtai, lovingly referred to as ‘Ainee aapa’. In the words of Amitav Ghosh, “Hers is one of the most important Indian voices of the twentieth century.”

In Sita Haran (‘Abduction of Sita’), as the name suggests, Hyder has portrayed the condition of her central character very similarly in jeopardy like the Indian mythical character, ‘Sita’. The tragedy that women suffered post the partition is brilliantly showcased through the character of Dr. Sita, a modern day Sita, who has lost her battles and fallen into the hands of the modern day Ravana(s). Not just one, several of them in the form of men who only want to devour her.

In midst of all this, she is also fighting for her son’s custody desperately to have something from her past. Dr. Sita is trying to find an ideal partner for her who would provide her with the necessary protection and safeguard her against the vulnerability of the society. She goes from one man to another in search of love. This depicts the condition of women, who feel that only the institution of marriage can provide them with safety which is otherwise a fundamental right of all human beings.

She has no fixed home, and being a woman, she must have a constant fear of being sexually exploited throughout the novella, which forms its central theme.

5.    Sau Candle Power Ka Bulb by Manto 

Manto was known to always be in trouble because of his countless stories on sexual desires, sex workers, and for telling the harsh truth of the aftermath of partition. He openly uses words like, breasts’ in his stories as sexual organs at a time when even women only whispered these words. Chughtai became friends with him while they were both fighting charges of obscenity in Lahore.

In Sau Candle Power Ka Bulb, (‘A Bulb With The Power Of 100 Candles’) we are confronted with a husband who forces his wife into sleeping with men in order to earn some money.The husband, previously introduced to us as a pimp goes looking for customers on the road, finally leading them into his own house and to his own wife.

One of the customers, who has been led into the house similarly hears the conversation which goes on something like this: He orders her to get up, to which she replies, “Kill me, but I can’t get up. For God’s sake, take pity…” upon hearing which the pimp/husband tries to coax her by saying, “Rise, my love… don’t be so stubborn… or how shall we live?” pushing her into something she’s clearly uncomfortable with. On being rejected for the second time, he immediately starts hurling abuses at her, “You haraamzaadi, you daughter of a pig!” In the end, it is hinted that the wife finally does get up, but only to kill her husband, thus rejecting to be exploited by him and asserting her right over her body.

It’s  important to note that Manto is somebody who has, through various other stories introduced to us bold women in the form of sex workers, who are in charge of their own bodies but here in this story, we’re shown a different shade of sex work, wherein the woman’s autonomy is completely taken away. Marriage is shown as a tool to control women, not giving them rights over their own bodies and it is conveyed as the wife is being trafficked into sex work. It is a breach of her fundamental rights, and this is the idea behind Manto’s story.

All these stories are examples of courage and hold great significance in the development of the Urdu story and for bringing to our notice the misery of the average Indian woman. A new era of Urdu stories has taken birth that not only acknowledges the issues of women inside and outside of house, but also openly deals with ‘immodest’ and ‘indecent’ themes such as sexuality.

Originally published on: Feminism in India

Iqbal Bano – The Pakistani Songstress Who Sang Of Revolution

Iqbal Bano was an Indian-born, highly acclaimed, Pakistani Ghazal singer. She is best remembered for taking on general Zia-ul-Haq, the general responsible for the hanging of Pakistan’s chosen leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Iqbal Bano is known as the epitome of defiance and revolution. She is one of the few singers who amalgamated traditionalism with modernism by adding her voice to the revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s verses as early as 1960’s.

Source: Youtube

Early Life

Born in New Delhi on 27th of August in 1935, Iqbal Bano traced her origins to Rohtak, Haryana. She made Pakistan her home later in life after being married. Due to her strong spirit and the revolution in her blood, she had had a cult following in the country, influencing them with Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poems of fiery spirit and ‘disobedience’. She was best known for her semi-classical Urdu ghazal songs and classical thumris, but also sang easy-listening numbers in the 1950s films.

Bano had developed a love for music at a very young age. Bano’s friend’s father recognized this early and pursued Bano’s father to teach her music. “My daughters do sing reasonably well, but Iqbal Bano is especially blessed in singing. She will become a big name if you begin her training.”

Education

In Delhi, she studied under Ustad Chand Khan, who was an expert in all kinds of classical forms of vocal music. She was instructed in pure classical music and light classical music within the framework of classical forms of thumri and dadra.

Career

Ustad Chaand Khan referred her to All India Radio, Delhi, where she sang on the radio. In 1952, at the age of seventeen, she was married into a Pakistani family. She moved to Multan with her husband who promised her that he would never try to stop her from singing, but would rather encourage and promote her, which he did.

She had become a star by the 1950s – singing not just ghazals, but also soundtrack songs for famous Pakistani Urdu films like Gumnaam (1954), Qatil (1955), Inteqaam (1955), Sarfarosh (1956), Ishq-e-Laila (1957), and Nagin (1959).

She had gotten so popular amongst the Afghanis with her songs in Farsi that she was called to attend the Jash-e-Kabul in Afghanistan once a year. It is said that on one such occasion King Zahir Shah, during the jashn (celebration) was so moved by her singing that he presented her with a gold vase right after she finished singing.

Spirit of Revolution

Faiz Ahmad Faiz wrote revolutionary nazms, but it was Iqbal Bano who made them eternal.

A little insight into the Pakistani setting during the 1980s is of utmost significance to understand Bano’s struggle and strength. In 1977, General Zia-Ul-Haq took charge of Pakistan by disposing Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He declared himself the president of Pakistan in the September of 1978. With time, Zia’s dictatorship took an increasingly religious turn, since he had explored the scope of playing what we can call (in popular lingo) the ‘Islam card’ in Pakistan during that time. He had exploited this privilege in order to retain, and strengthen his power in the country, and to establish a rulebook that was to be derived from his own understanding of religion, and of course, biased against women.

Source: Yuva Revolution

It was the result of the support he got from the citizens of Pakistan that he was able to implement a series of policies that reflected his personal beliefs and his understanding of religion, through which he created his very own version of Islam, ready to be universalized. In the year of 1985, Zia’s forced repressive Islamicization took a form of telling women, through law, what they were to wear & what not to wear.

It was an attack on the free will of women, which was, is, and will remain a God given gift to all of us humans, which is what makes us ‘ashraful-mukhalaqat’ (Supreme beings), after all. Or at least this is what has been established in the Holy Quran. Muslims are given a free will, a right to choose between good & evil, so that God can hold people accountable for their actions. But alas, Zia didn’t quite understand this, and was imposing his version of religion on an entire nation.

Also Read: Amrita Pritam: Not Just A Poet, But Revolution Personified

Free will has been celebrated by various poets such as Iqbal in one of his shairs,

“Khudi ko kar buland itna ki har taqdeer se pehle,
Khuda bande se khud pooche bata teri raza kya hai.”

(Make yourself such a strong devotee that before writing down your destiny,
God himself asks what you desire.)

As a consequence of this staunchness, the saree, which was part of the cultural & traditional attire owing to its Indian roots, suffered. It was banned in Pakistan. In the same year, Iqbal Bano, who was by then one of Pakistan’s most famous & loved singers, came out to resist this forced religiosity.

She came up with an act of beautiful defiance, where she sung a revolutionary nazm (free verse) called ‘Hum Dekhenge‘, by Faiz Ahmed Faiz to an audience of nearly 50,000 people in a stadium of Lahore, wearing the very clothing that was banned, – a beautiful black sari – despite the poet’s works being banned by General Zia ul-Haq’s military regime on the grounds of his close ties with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Hum Dekhenge, within no time, became a battle cry, a slogan. Through her songs she educated the illiterate and bound them together for a greater cause.

She suffered various consequences for her action. She was banned from officially singing at concerts and appearing on the television. Despite this, people were buying her tapes on the black market and her fan following only increased with time. With this one song, she had formed a cult following who would go to the extent of buying her music in black. Bano, with only her voice and spirit, shook lakhs of people with this single act.

Hum Dekhenge – The Song Of Defiance (with transliteration)

Iqbal Bano with poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz | Source: universalpoetries

‘Hum Dekhenge’ (We shall witness) is a revolutionary nazm, which was written in 1979 by Faiz Ahmad Faiz, in response to General Zia ul Haq’s repressive dictatorship and a critical commentary of Zia’s brand of authoritarian Islam. Faiz in this poem talks about the Islamic idea of justice i.e. the day of judgement and Iqbal Bano colours it with hues other than grey.

Here is the beautiful nazm (with translation by me):

Later, Sahir, adding to this, wrote a nazm by the name, ‘Wo subh humi se aayegi’ (Only we can bring that break of dawn). Unfortunately, there is no recording available from the event as the lights and mikes were shut down. You can find a previously recorded, ‘Hum Dekhenge’ below.

Death

Iqbal Bano died 21 April 2009, in Lahore at the age of 74, after suffering from a short illness.

References

Originally published on: Feminism in India

A Feminist Reading Of Chauthi Ka Joda By Ismat Chughtai

 

Ismat Chughtai is known for her fierce feminism that she explored by putting out on paper Urdu stories of blunt and bold themes such as gender inequality and lesbianism. The list of feminist stories by Ismat is a long one, ‘Lihaaf, being the most controversial of them all, and hence very well known. There are various other stories that deserve attention and close critical reading, one such story is Chauthi ka Joda (The Dress Of The Fourth Day), in which Chughtai has focused on the exploitation of women done by family members for their sexual pleasure, an issue that still remains a big taboo..

Chauthi ka Joda revolves around a widow, Bi amma, who lives in near-penury with her two young daughters, Kubra and Hamidah. The story focuses on Bi amma’s obsession to get Kubra married off as soon as possible, and the terrible outcome of Bi amma’s urgent and desperate attempts to get her married to her brother’s son, Rahat.

Bi amma considers marrying off Kubra as the best way to get rid of her, reduce her own burden, and secure a good future for her, and to ensure Hamidah’s timely marriage. Kubra is portrayed as an extremely simple and plain girl who is too innocent for the worldly shrewdness, and is quickly ‘aging’, as Bi amma is constantly reminded by her neighbours.

Amidst this obsession with Kubra’s marriage comes news of the arrival of the girls’ cousin Rahat, Bi amma’s brother’s son who is to live with the family for a month for his training. The family starts to worry about how they are going to feed another person with their limited income (Bi amma’s sewing skills are not enough). When Bi amma’s sister hears this, she tells Bi amma to calm down and make use of this opportunity by impressing Rahat and getting him to marry Kubra, who upon hearing this, becomes dedicated to this cause.

The obsession for marrying off Kubra is seen in full light when Rahat finally comes to live with them. Their lives start to revolve around him – Bi amma going to the extent of selling off her gold bangles in order to feed him well. Hamidah is given the task of luring Rahat, with explicit/inappropriate jokes, casual flirting in the role of a ‘sister-in-law’. While Hamidah is asked to lure him since she is ‘pretty’, Kubra is expected to win his heart by ‘khidmat’ (doing tasks for him). It is safe to say that all the three women put all their soul and heart in his treatment, though which Chughtai critiques the custom of Indian families treating their son-in-laws like demi gods.

In one instance, Hamidah tries to make Kubra look good by referring to other women in a derogatory manner, calling ‘gori chitti’ (fair complexioned) girls inappropriate wives to which Rahat replies in affirmation by referring to his sisters-in-law who spend the entire day in ‘sola sringhaar’ (beautifying themselves) and don’t even peep inside the kitchen for a second. This is an example of inherent misogyny in women through conditioning.

Chughtai critiques the custom of treating son-in-laws as demigods.

Bi amma laments the fate of her elder daughter in the words, ‘Khuda ne soorat nahin di, isi liye rahat uski taraf dekhta tak nahin(‘Rahat doesn’t even look at her because God hasn’t given her fair features’). She constantly pushes Kubra to make up for her loss of beauty by doing things for him. Thinking that it might result in marriage i.e. ease in life, Kubra cooks food for him, washes his clothes, makes his bed, knits a sweater for him with injured hands at midnight, going to the extent of starving  herself in order to feed him extravagantly. However, Rahat is only interested in Hamidah, if at all. He casually flirts with her, holds her hands, and says things that make Hamidah uncomfortable – showing no interest whatsoever in Kubra.

Finally, Hamidah’s interaction with him comes to a standstill when she is sexually assaulted by Rahat, to which her mother and her sister reply by invalidating it, calling it ‘itni si baat’, and deeming it insignificant. Her mother is so blinded by the possibility of Rahat marrying Kubra, that she refuses to acknowledge his assault until the end, when she goes to see a maulvi (mullah) expecting him to transform Rahat’s liking towards Hamidah into liking for Kubra. This suggests that Bi amma did actually understand what was happening to Hamidah, but decided not to act on it.

The mullah gives her some flour with a special incantation, telling the mother to get rotis made by Kubra, and delivered by Hamidah. Kubra makes these sanctified rotis even though she is suffering from high fever, and Hamidah is asked to take it to Rahat. It is late at night, and Hamidah tries to resist, but Bi amma succeeds in emotionally blackmailing her. When she goes to him, he agrees to have the roti but only if she feeds him with her own hands. Hamidah is uncomfortable, but for the love of her sister, she sits down to do it. Rahat immediately starts to misbehave, and ultimately rapes Hamidah. (Though this is not explicitly told in the story.)

The climax tells us that Rahat leaves by the next morning train because is already betrothed. The final scene features a dead Kubra’s body wrapped contently in her final ‘Chauthi ka joda’ that wouldn’t betray her (she had been suffering from tuberculosis), a helpless, lost Bi amma and a crying Hamidah. Thus, the Chauthi ka joda for Kubra’s wedding ultimately becomes her shroud.

With this tragic story, Chughtai critiques the hypocrisy of the superstitions and customs maintained by society. The superstition about the Chauthi ka joda on which the entire story is based, is a shining example. It is believed that if the Chauthi ka joda doesn’t turn out right, even if a single sequin is misplaced, something unholy will happen.

Chughtai critiques the hypocrisy of the superstitions and customs maintained by society.

The ineffectiveness of the maulvi’s way of treating Bi amma’s issues is highlighted when the situation does not merely fail to improve, but worsens in the worst of tragedies. Chughtai also implicitly criticizes the problematic custom in India that the elder sister needs to married first in order for the next one to get married, as well as deconstructs the need for marriage to be the overarching goal of a woman’s life.

Kubra’s age & plainness is considered an issue throughout the story, suggesting the entire weight of a woman’s worth lies on her ‘beauty’ and youth. This story is filled with problems that are faced by women. One is suggested by the idea that Bi amma had started to collect Kubra’s dowry since her ‘Bismillah’ ceremony i.e. since her very birth.

Through Bi amma, Chughtai critiques the kind of pressure that builds around a mother’s mind, especially if she is a widow, to act according to the society’s will, wherein Kubra’s marriage became the end solution to her misery. Kubra’s growing desire (not for the man, but for marriage – as pointed out by Hamidah in the story) focuses on how women are made to believe that their marital status would solve problems for them, and if the marriage gets delayed, they get hopeless..

Chughtai also explores the exploitation of women that happens at the hands of the men in their own family. It is considered a taboo to even speak about sex within familial relations, and if somebody assaults a woman/man in the family, people are quick to hush it down. In fact it is highly likely that the victim might cover up for the perpetrator because of the farce that lies in family’s ‘honour’. Most importantly, Rahat’s act is an important reminder that sometimes, criminals can be in our own family.

 

Originally published on: Feminism in India

​To the Guy who sees my Body as Free Verse

You say that my brown eyes remind you of fireballs; eager meteors ready to enter your territory & destroy everything in the vicinity. They remind you of sunsets, and sunrise.

 

That when you look at them, you see a lot more than just hollow darkness.  Amber, chestnut, cocoa, chocolate; you see in them colours you cannot possibly put together in your canvas. 

 

That they are not just brown, they’re copper against honey. Fire against calm.

They’re newborn stars against an age old galaxy. That they can be an eclipse and a planet at the same time. That they can suffer with poetic composure but also inflict.

You lock my gaze with your eyes and get in the bed with me. Your hands glide into mine as effortlessly as I spend my days waiting for the nights to come, and bring you to me.

 

Your skin brushes against my body, tracing along the edges of my skin like an artist carefully outlining the finishing stroke of his best painting. 

 

Every touch, feels like a whole new story being carved on my body. You tell me that my smile looks like it’s a withered flower that was once lively & beautiful.

You see glitter in the spaces between my wrinkles. You say that this smile, it adds glaze to the entire piece that I am.

 

The insecurity in my blood eases up.

 

Your legs tug at mine & I release a long held back smile for you. I can feel sparks inside the sheets waiting to turn into fire.

 

 Just then, you turn to my face & make way into my mouth. The fire is extinguished, just a few milliseconds before it was readying to explode. 

 

All night, you make me believe that I am art. Finally, you shut your eyes to sleep & the museum you saw in me is allowed to close down. I immediately get up & run to the bathroom.

I look at myself. No, I stare into the looking glass. I think I stay like that for a little longer than an hour. I see wrecked masterpieces & havoc on my skin. I see fine art on an unfine skin.

I find myself somehow look at this dimmed reflection the way I would at a beautiful vintage vase or an antique piece of jewelry.

I take a final look & come outside, to lie down beside you.

 

I wait for you to get inside me like I would into an old art gallery & give me this one, final assurance, before I shut down forever.

Living In A War Prone State

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Indian paramilitary soldiers stop a Kashmiri woman during curfew in Srinagar, Image from Dawn

DISCLAIMER: The story is pieced together from real occurrences from the life of a very dear friend, the instance used is real in nature, but it had been fictionalized to some extent; as is required for the creation of a significant piece of art.

 

I was ten when I saw a bomb blast for the first time. I was a child then, and luckily or unluckily enough my encounter with this sort of violence was pretty intimate. I was in school, in my class, writing my diary (I have had the company of words since childhood) and suddenly I heard a loud bang, followed by the sound of what seemed like a thousand glass windows shattering all at once and the usual decorum of the school being disrupted by hundreds of children screaming in unison.

The first time I witnessed a war, my eagerness to grow up and do something about it rose to its peak.

I sat there scandalized like a breathing, living statue. Blood flowed freely in my veins, but sadness weighed down my heart. My teacher quickly, mechanically got up, without a hint of fear or shock and helped each one of us get out of the building that was shook by the blast. We were made to go to the backside of the school and wait there until some sort of miraculous help came.

I did not cry about this incident as much as I should have. Of course I did cry, dear reader, but it was only because I had lost my favourite coloured eraser, or damaged a shoe in the process of escaping a stampede like situation.  

This incident still remains intact in my heart.

It was after months that I got the details of the terror I had seen so closely. I was told that an abandoned car parked outside of the school gate where unsuspecting students had been playing games inside it, above and under it for weeks had been filled with explosives that day. I couldn’t help but wonder at the possibility of the catastrophe that could have struck us, if we did not have a huge playground, separating our innocence from that horror.

As I grew up, that playground became a sacred spot to me.

Later, in a fresh spirit of protest, I saw people getting out on the roads; some holding candles and some holding placards condemning the day’s episode. But soon, that spirit of protest and anger died down as violence became more and more common in the state. There would be a bomb blast, the government would order troops to pick up innocent people and charge them with the heinous crime and in retaliation, there would be another blast and it would go on and on.

There were still people fighting the repetitive instances of violence, but with measured steps, without any weapons in hand- only graceful words on their lips. Honestly, people armed with weapons looked more vulnerable to me.

It was much later that I realized that my first encounter with a bomb blast came after so many innocent men were convicted for crimes they did not commit, and that it was intended to not harm the school at all, only to bring attention of the authorities which it managed to do. It was a war I did not understand.

Ghalib’s, “Ladte hain aur haath mein talwar bhi nahin,” (Oh God how they fight without even a sword in their hands) became something I decided to live by.

The second time I saw bloodshed, I saw innumerable women unveiling themselves on the street of my homeland in defiance. I could see the fire in their eyes and that was when it spread onto me, that fire and inexplicable strength.

But I was still just a child. I was told that to make a difference, I’d have to leave my homeland that was then stained with blood, to come back armed with the power of knowledge. I couldn’t have compromised with my studies because I really wanted to ‘save’ my home and all my people.

In war, we were all united, you see. All the little differences were wrung out as inaudible complaints.

So, I left my land and went on to wet the soil of another city, which became my home for the next few years. Nobody talked to me about my home. Every time I recalled, a perfect and unimaginable picture was presented to me; a picture of my streets & the people that it had betrayed was nowhere to be found.

Maybe that vision was what living in denial looked like.

I knew I had to return & see it for myself, for my brain was tricking me. I had to return to see what lay behind those images of a utopian land without bloodshed. I had not yet forgotten my first rendezvous with the horrors of war.

When I came back home, it wasn’t long that I was again acquainted with the same horror for the third time. When it happened for the fourth time, dear reader, I couldn’t (read:didn’t) see it at all.

I was physically present there, but what I saw did not hold much account. It did not challenge me to do something about it as the previous encounters had. It did not bring about a burning fire inside my heart threatening to spread across my body. The violence held lesser and lesser value with each of its succeeding attempts in my presence. It did not hurt my eyes anymore. It did not affect my countenance. It had stopped having the same effect on me as it used to have on me as a child.

I could sense the immense pain in the air, and yet after a while, I got immune to it; immune to all the restrictions and shackles that violence brought. To roam freely on your land, to love freely on this land was becoming difficult as more and more people readied themselves to give these small liberties away. Freedom was a luxury now; one that, surprisingly, nobody could afford.

I had managed to find reasons and justifications for the death like calmness of my inaction.

Nothing could be more painful to human mind than to submit. I bore a hell within me with the fire of revolution slowly turning into the inextinguishable and inescapable fires of jahannum.

Yet in all the chaos and dismay, I found my resort. I found words; words that could heal my wounds like no medicine ever could, words that could make flowers blossom instantly on the barren land of my homeland, words that gave me a reason to bear days when I was laden with desires to commit myself to my land’s emancipation but was deprived of enough hope and faith to support it.

So, instead of trying to plant seeds on the land that has become barren with innocent blood, now I plant words. I plant words on walls, on papers, and even on social media. I sit in that very playground and write. I plant words because they are the only weapons readily available to me.

They’re the only weapons I was waiting for all my life. Maybe they are my best instruments of war. And with these words, I will keep practicing my form of rebellion till the time my words flower with such beauty, OR my land consumes me…


 

Secret Letter

Hi, baby. There you are! So long, no?
Yes, yes, I know. You keep busy with your college, curricular, internships and all that.
But why is it that you haven’t been coming to me at all, lately?
Have I become so uninteresting to you?

You know, you make me feel like an abandoned housewife sometimes. Craving for you like you’ve never loved me wholeheartedly, leaving me all by myself in this strange & lonely place, feeling completely undesirable.

Do you remember there was a time when you would come to me every night? You would come to me when you would lose faith in everybody else. I was like a never ending source of love to you. I was like a solace that you didn’t only want, but very much needed. I reflected you. I reflected your courage & reaffirmed your faith in yourself, and that’s why you loved me so much. In fact, I also remember a time when you wouldn’t be able to sleep without confiding your day’s secrets in me. I guess that phase has passed now, and rightly so.

Now, now that you’re happy on your own, content in your life (but for how long?), you’ve stopped coming to me. Do you not need me at all anymore? All that time you spent with me has made me needy of you. I know it’s not your fault, but isn’t it a little unfair to me? I don’t have hard feelings for you. It’s just that I really, really miss you & want you to come to me sometimes, like you did before.

I miss how you would come to me to get your back patted every time you achieved a milestone, no matter how petty, I knew it was important to you, and so, being as much in love with you as I am, I celebrated it with you. I miss how you told me every little detail about your day and with such beauty, that I would promise to store those emotions inside of me for an eternity.

In all the time that I have spent with you, I have come to understand how much you stress over the fact that it’s your time to develop & hone skills for the rest of your life, and you’re doing really well. I understand you. Doesn’t matter if you have to leave me behind for some time. Because you can trust me, I’ll stay right here. I am part of you, the way you are an indispensible part of me.

I’m happy for you, but I’m also very concerned. You know, earlier you never feared to voice your opinions, since you knew I wouldn’t judge you, but now that you have expanded your horizons and try to do the same with others, I know it doesn’t work. I miss you doing that sometimes. I miss you expressing yourself wholly.

I always knew you would someday fall into the trap of writing fiction & leave me lying in the bookshelf as a piece of display, but I didn’t know it would be so soon. And since came unexpectedly and unannounced, it struck me really hard. But no matter what happens, remember that I am happy for you, and I will always have more faith to offer to you, whenever you decide to return to me because I am a reflection of you, an unafraid and strong you.


And yes, these pages, these are your own. Come back to them whenever you want to, and you will be welcome.
Without you, I’m empty, both literally & figuratively.

Yours, forever
‘Dear diary’