This story is about me.
A woman born in a world where men dominate all walks of life: be it relationships, careers, out at the streets even. Pakistan is said to be a male dominated society. Yet, I fail to realize how so. Except for the fact that men are physically (only a bit) stronger than women and that they can roam around wearing whatever they like (in our part of the world) and even roam around naked (a privilege no woman in this society has), I fail to understand how it is that men are dominating. I feel women are competent; they raise their kids, they run daily house chores, sweep the floors, water the plants, cook food for their husbands, kids, their friends, their ‘saas’ and ‘sasurs’ and yet, handle their own personal businesses also. In a society where not many are born and raised to stand up for their rights, or even utter a ‘no’ in front of their parents, where obedient is to sit and not have your own voice and opinions and where a woman having her own opinion and standing up for her right is said to be ‘baghi’,
My mother, my pillar of strength, taught me how to face the world. Hands down, and my father had a part to play as well, but my mother was the one who molded me into the person that I am today.
The pain, torment, torture…call it what we may, it was evident that a rather bold and hurtful step had to be taken. Mother planned to move out, to move to some state abroad, to have a career and to raise her kids whom she loved so much with all a mother’s warmth. However, due to responsibilities of parents (who are rather old and dependent on their younger generation at this period of lives) she planned to stay. I was barely seventeen when I learnt for the first time that there is such a thing as public transport. It was the first time in years that I had to go through the dusty roads of Bedian with a man that I barely even knew on his own personal rickshaw, and I still remember how creepy he looked and the one thousand and one mirrors he had inside his rickshaw just to notice my every move. I kept quiet the whole way, paid him his due and went inside the house. I was never to take a rickshaw again.
Mother had alot more responsibilities now, she had to run errands do the groceries, keep her school running and keep the house running. Call the plumbers, fix the gas pipes, make sure the water tank supplying water to the entire house is cleaned. Maybe she forgot my classes ended early today, I thought to myself, and started walking home.
Ended up taking a rickshaw, yet again, this time a tad bit more confident, and even making small talk with the driver, explaining him the ways around my place, and how to take the shortest route in order to cut traffic and save time.
I got used to the independence, and though deep down I had always wanted to have a car of my own, to own a red fancy car with my glasses on and blaring loud music, I knew that I couldn’t afford one, atleast not with the way things were, and kept my wishes to myself. If we were to survive through this, we had to do it together. Even if it meant sacrificing a few wants.
Slowly, things started progressing. The business grew, more admissions came, the school was expanded and new classrooms were added. My grandfather was pleased, and why wouldn’t he be; his only daughter was helping him out in improving his branch of the schools the family owned (the rest belonged to his two brothers). Being the eldest of all his siblings, this school was gradually started before the other ones and naturally, because of grandfather’s name and his prestige in the area, and because of the respect that people had in their hearts for him, they wanted their kids to study in his school.
Mother was doing fine, being strong, and it gave me great hope to see her like this, and imagine that one day things would be allright, because we are told to be optimistic in the eyes of pessimism and tell it straight that ‘yeah, I’m gonna beat you everytime you try to come near me!’ And mother did exactly that, and in her actions she taught me never to give up, to always try even if everyone leaves you far behind, even if things you planned to do for years don’t quite turn out in your favour, even if life brings a completely new chapter in your mid-life, just keep walking and never give up.
I had heard of stories of faith but hadn’t seen it quite so closely yet. By it, I refer to faith. Lost hope in more ways than one while growing up, but that’s for me to know. Things gradually got better, I learnt that accepting how life is, and what it brings you, good or bad, is the way to go about it. If I didn’t, well, I really didn’t have any other choice. So I took public transport, rains or scorching heat or freezing cold, I took it. I stopped complaining about the expenses that I had to bear with, and stopped eating out with friends because I had to save for my rickshaws, until there was a time that I literally wept because I had been trying to save for something I really wanted, and one way or the other, I always had to use that money for something less important, but something which was the need of the time.
Yes, this is my story, but it doesn’t end this way. It is actually just starting. This is how it all started, the making of a rebellious young woman, not so young now, but yeah when it all started. I learnt to start earning on my own, because I needed to get even with my expenses and still have some money left for movies, eating out with friends, whatever it was. I free lanced, I worked for different people and different brands, and whatever I did, I did it with all my heart. Because I knew, unlike the other girls who would show up with perfect hair and perfect heels in perfectly air conditioned cars, I was different. I didn’t have all that to be honest, but I was happier than most of them. They complained about smoking too much or complained about boys or how they couldn’t afford the most expensive heels at the mall, because they were just not that ‘rich enough’. I would chuckle to myself, if only they knew how hard life was for a few others, they would stop complaining and start thanking for all they have. These people, with the perfect makeup and flawless smiles and best of friends and the best of everything, and yet so empty inside; focusing on the petty issues and thinking that life never was beyond heels, bags and men.
Life took a turn, and I had now learnt how to work, with different kinds of people, rich, poor, in need, desperate, flirts, influentials, inspiring ones, at times even threatening ones. But you learn to deal with different people, once you step out of the house and you’re on your own, and you know that only you can make this an easy task, or a difficult one. You always have the power, the will, the confidence. It is always upto you.
Inspite of my mother’s warnings about the family ‘not liking’ a young woman going out to work at this age, at this vulnerable age when you can just about do anything and roam around with anyone you like, be caught up in groups or people not of your choice but merely due to peer pressure, I knew I had to. I was never the sit at home, wait for pocket money sort. I wanted it all on my own, yes, I guess Taureans are made that way. I was stubborn, still have, though I hate to admit. Its a part of me now. So I went, I worked, I earned. And this gave me such an adrenaline rush that I got addicted to it. So I found work, anywhere and everywhere I went, usually my luck was with me (career wise). I got a part time job, started earning more than enough, took care of my university expenses on my own too (minus the monthly dues ofcourse). Started hanging out with my friends, gave a few bucks to my mother as well, only in times of dire need. I would love the feeling it gave me. But yes, I still had to wait for school to get done.
Then I graduated. A post graduate, still no car, a few bucks in hand, a part time job, life wasn’t that bad. I went looking for admissions to all different schools and colleges on my own, went through the examinations alone, everything. I never even bothered if I had a friend going to the same school/university, because by that time I was so used to the life that had been handled and lived independently that I didn’t need anyone around.
Strange or sad, I didn’t care. It was me, and I had become that, without realizing.
Stepping out of the house, getting into schools with a co-education background, having a part time job, having male friends, everything that I had done in my life was being viewed negatively by family. ‘Buri baat hai’ (Its not a good thing) they said. ‘The girl is still young and she should not be making na-mehrum male friends, or stepping out of the house wearing ‘jeans’. I would listen to all these things, my mother lecturing me for hours, telling me how I embarrass her when she would get to hear it from anywhere. ‘Just you wait mama, and see what the rest are upto in the family when they all grow up, and step out of their houses! And I haven’t even done anything wrong, whatever I have done was purely a need at the time and friends, you make plenty along the way’, I said and went to my room and cried the whole night. And yes, I was right, about the ‘wait and see’ bit.
So then restrictions gradually lessened and I didn’t realize when time flew, it just did. I was this woman who was so strong, like her mother, that nothing bothered her anymore, and had become insensitive to the world (minus beggars and the poor people who come rushing to your car at the signal), it was just me, what I liked, and how to achieve it. Yes, maybe it also taught me to become selfish, but I had seen the world and it had not done me any good, except for at a few blessed times maybe. I was tired, and I was downtrodden, and I needed a place to rest. My mother became my saviour, and she taught me things and told me stories, excerpts from her life, demonstrated (clearly she’s the best actor in the world and she just doesn’t realize it yet) and put forth so that I may not come across any such situations in my life, and if I did, I might be able to handle them, in a way differently.
The rebellious woman knows not what ‘no’ means. The rebellious woman does what she likes. The rebellious woman is not scared of anything or anyone, and she accepts challenges. The rebellious woman will fulfill her promises, no matter who stops her and who doesn’t. The rebellious woman is the one who would stand up in the midst of all silent cries and say ‘I know my rights!’. A rebellious woman is not shy anymore, like a little innocent girl, she has willpower, and a light in her eyes, that tells people she has seen alot in her life. A rebellious woman doesn’t care what society says, let alone what a person says. She just doesn’t care, she has no time to lose. She needs to achieve alot more from life, she has to quench the thirst in her soul with desires that are yet unfulfilled.
This story is about me.