Diary of a Feminist: The Schism in the Soul

Two weeks back when I read about the Council of Is­lamic Ideology’s question­naire on women’s status I couldn’t but utter ‘Oh God, these people! They speak a dead language and they live in a cocoon.’

And 1 thought: In their fanaticism they have be­come blind as a bat. But no. Not as a bat. Bats have a remarkable facility of echo location. And these people seem to locate neither objects nor con­cepts. Least of all, the change, the reality. They sound so oblivious of it all.

Thus CII states in the questionnaire it has sent to elicit people’s opinions: “To satisfy their own lust, westernised individuals in Pakistan want to bring women out of their homes and make them the centre of attraction in society in negation of Is­lamic instructions. They wish to thrust on the woman, economic responsibilities in addition to her family re­sponsibilities. In your opi­nion, what weaknesses will re­sult in an Islamic society be­cause of this unnatural approach?”

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Diary of a Feminist: Love Takes Courage

When I think of the three of them I tell myself at least Azhar Bhai could have lived in contentment. Being a man, he had more power, more control over the events. He could have steered himself, if not his mother and sister, out of it all.

But what went wrong?

He was handsome. He still is. Only his flamboyance is gone, replaced with sobriety. But I vividly remember he was quite a lady killer. Many of my cousins were crazy ab­out him. He was a charmer. He had a hell of a time with girls. I couldn’t have known all about it but my elder brother and I were great friends and he used to tell me some stories.

Even if my brother hadn’t told me about Azhar Bhai’s extra-curricular activities, I would have known it anyway. My cousin sister, Farah, though elder to me but closer, had a crush on him. And everybody knew it. It was in the family.

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Diary a Feminist: Stranger Than Fiction

There is something eerie in the air these days. Else, why would you come ac­ross so many strange news? Events which are bizarre. Which defy reason. Which evoke a whirlpool of thoughts, a phantasmagoria of feelings.

There is something op­pressive. Absurd.

I remember when I read Kafka’s The Trial. Quite a few years back. I had heard it was great. And I knew a bit about Kafka’s standing in philosophical literature. But that was all.

I had this approach (and still have, to some extent) toward books: I read be­cause I just loved to read, loved to know, and not be­cause I was out to discover hidden meanings. Or truths, or philosophies, or some kind of enlightenment.

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Diary of Feminist: Islam and Women

We have been reciting the Quran without know­ing its meaning since our childhood. I don’t re­member anybody ever en­couraging me to read its Urdu translation. Whenever I said, “Mother, I am reading its transla­tion,” she said “O.K. That’s fine. But read it in Arabic too,” with an implication that reading in Arabic is far more desirable (though you can’t understand a word) than reading the Tarjuma. As a growing child I found it a double task to read it both in Arabic and Urdu. Thus most of the time I ended up just reciting it in Arabic.

When I grew up I was told that reading the Urdu transla­tion is useless unless you read it along with Tafseer. I don’t disagree with this observa­tion. You can’t take the Di­vine book lightly. If you really want to understand it you’ve got to study it thoroughly, seriously. And it requires an immense effort as well as a genuine desire.

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Diary of a Feminist: Marrying One’s Brother-in-Law

I had attended her wed­ding. A typical wedding it was. And Tabassum made a typical bride — beauti­ful, bejewelled, stony. I looked at her up close. Her eyes were closed. There was nothing on her face I could read.

‘Oh God!’ I felt helpless. I wanted so much to know what was going on inside her head, inside her heart. If only I could have a glimpse of the soul behind the glossy, inert mass of bridal red.

She was getting married. To a widower. Her brother-in-law! And her dead sister’s children, be­wildered and silent, en­circled their Choti khala, their new ammi.

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Diary of a Feminist: The Luxury of Living Alone

Single, young women liv­ing independently was a Western social phenome­non that fascinated me most. In books it sounded like a fairy tale. And when I saw it in real life I was totally captivated.

I remember when I first entered Isabelle’s apartment, my hostess in Paris. I was breathless. “Two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen — all to her­self,” I marveled. Coming from a crowded house of 13 from the East, it took some time to register on my mind that Isabelle, a single soul, had got all that space to herself.

All those years, I never had a room of my own. As a kid I shared it with my el­der brother and a sister. Later, being the eldest, he had the privilege of get­ting a separate room while us two sisters were left to fight it out.

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Diary of a Feminist: The Mystery of Love and (Second) Marriage

Love is a mystery. Or so they say. But marriages in our society puzzle me more. Particularly the sec­ond marriage. Sure, sec­ond marriages are no en­igma for men. It’s quite simple and easy for them. But why? And how could it be so smooth, so painless?

I wondered as I watched Bano Qudsia’s drama of ’83, Hikayatain, Shikayatain at my friend’s place. In a fara­way, small, peaceful city of Azad Kashmir. My friend is married. And like most of the couples I’ve come across, they’re quite a mismatch. My friend and her husband have only three things in common — age, blood and temper. Both are 29, first cousins and temperamental.

So there I was — a house guest — watching the play late at night. My friend’s husband was in the other room with their four-year-old daughter (he is not interested in plays. He prefers to watch wrestling, cricket).

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