It was for the first time in my life, as far as I remember, that I reacted to a murder in that peculiar way: awe and delight. My instant reaction was ‘Bravo!’ when I read the news, ‘She shot her lover dead.’
Slightly disturbed at this brutal reaction to a gruesome act, I tried to make amends by reasoning with myself: ‘But she destroyed herself too. Didn’t she? She might be hanged.’
But damn the gallows.
The fact remains that I was fascinated and still can’t make myself believe she did a wrong. And I am not alone. I talked to a few friends of mine, all women, about this episode that took place in Lahore and was reported two weeks back. And they all reacted the same way.
At times you find truth stranger than fiction. In fiction life appears a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces at least fit together, no matter how crooked and a pattern emerges, no matter how weird. But with truth! No way! There are moments you could simply gasp at reality and not grasp it at all.
It was a year back when my sister came to know through some one that Mr. Y. had taken a second wife. I refused to believe it. “It’s a lie. We just visited Mr. and Mrs Y. a few days back and they were both quite the same happy couple.”
“And who do you think is his second wife?” My sister ignored the remark and persisted. “How should I know?” “Try to guess.” Something dawned on me. “Oh God! Don’t tell me it’s her!”
The family is known to us for the last seven years or so. Though it’s not a very long period but they had been our next-door neighbours for four years. And we have a relatively close acquaintanceship with the family. The couple has two sons, aged 24 and 21.
Memories of my childhood are pleasant. Unlike the tough times I had as a teenager. There are soothing associations. Like trees and butterflies and romping in open space and wild bushes.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t born in any valley full of pine trees and flowing streams. But very much here. The hot, humid city with no mountains and only the sea which was far away; it wasn’t a forest. But Karachi was no concrete jungle either when I was a kid. Some twenty years ago.
The houses were few and far apart. There were wild creepers, thorny bushes, cacti, jasmine and guava trees. The kids were numerous. It was a joint family.
My cousin sister and I loved to catch butterflies with bare hands, watch with fascination their dazzling patterns and hold them till our fingers were tainted with the colours of their wings. And then we would set them free.
Eyes are vulnerable — those tenuous instruments, as blind Borges called them — and film is vulnerable. And it is the confrontation of two such vulnerabilities which makes the cinema such a poignant medium. — Bresson (‘Notes sur leCinematographe’).
Looking at Deepti Naval’s plain yet attractive face in Saath Saath. I thought there was after all a girl on the silver screen you could identify with – a pleasant identification, for she emerged as a strong-willed person who made her own decisions. Even the love-story wasn’t far-fetched. It could have happened to you, or to any other woman.
Saath Saath is not a very arty movie. It’s a soft, realistic, semi-serious film. But it’s one of those few ‘new wave’ Indian movies which make me wish we could have the same kind of parallel cinema in Pakistan.
Could marriage be the most boring end of a romance? Once I thought it couldn’t be. And I used to be furious at those who mocked at love-birds when they took wedding vows. Now as I watch Seema and Umer, married for the last six months, I couldn’t help but yawn and say, “How boring!”
Since the days when I was an idealist and had a heady notion of love, I have observed some love marriages. And how did they turn out? Anywhere between sour, troubled, smooth or inspiring. Never before did I witness a love marriage that was boring.
For instance, Parveen and Sultan’s turned out to be a real tough one.
After marriage Parveen found out Sultan wasn’t ambitious enough and he discovered she was too materialistic. And they both realised their likes and dislikes weren’t the same.
Sometimes women can be their own worst enemy. Particularly when it comes to falling prey to the stereotype. For instance, it’s a generally held belief among women (forget men for a while) that ‘women are dull, uninteresting and stupid’. At most, they are ‘shrewd’ and ‘bitchy’. It hurts me when I find educated women holding the view.
I wouldn’t say all educated women harbour this notion. I know many women who judge people, whether men or women, on their individual worth, untarnished by prejudices, stripped off of stereotypes. Nonetheless, I’ve come across women, working and educated who have a rather negative opinion of women.
“Women bore me,” one told me with disdain, “they only talk of dresses and jewelry.” You might have forgiven her and let it go by sticking a label ‘so-called intellectual’ if you’ve ever heard her talking about things like Kant’s Criuque of Pure Reason or Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Autumn of the Patriarch or watched her falling into a heated argument over USA’s foreign policy in Latin America or the games politicians play in Pakistan.
Women are strange beings. Suffering silently. Taking in whatever comes. You wonder if they are black holes — sucking inside the cruelty, the injustice. Without a whimper. With bruised souls, they continue to exist. Hidden from the ‘all-knowing’ male eye.
But at times your black hole metaphor collapses. Something happens. A rare event. They refuse to rake in any more. They explode. And the rebels are born.
They simply stand up and walk down the streets, picketing!
A rare phenomenon indeed, in the female population deprived of education. Pinned down by the hard issues of survival, they appear immovable. And their privileged few sisters rack their brains in vain to change their lot.