Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2017
‘He’s stabbing women because he wants us to stay at home. He’s instilling fear in us. But we will continue to come out and work’. — Gulzar, 27, domestic worker
SO says my domestic help (maasi) after visiting Humaira, a 16-year-old girl from her community, in a hospital after she was stabbed near Liaquatabad while returning home to Moach Goth, a low-income settlement in Baldia Town, Karachi. Gulzar, divorced and a single parent, tells of another stabbing, this one of a 45-year-old maasi in the area where I live near PECHS. “She was stabbed in street number 10. She makes chapattis in bungalows and lives in Korangi,” I am told.
How would city officials have reacted if the lunatic was stabbing powerful, rich, influential men? Would they have shrugged it off saying it is impossible to find the lone knife-wielding man in a city of almost 20 million?
Published in Dawn on June 22 2016
IF you ask 100 women in Pakistan whether they work, 78 of them will respond that they do not – our female labour force participation rate is 22pc. If probed further on how they spend their time, they might mumble: “I cook, clean, send children to school, buy groceries, and take care of infants, toddlers and the elderly …” The list would go on.
Published in Dawn’s Books and Authors in November 2015
“I’m a storyteller. I’ve always been more interested in storytelling than in writing,” the Italian writer with the pen name Elena Ferrante said in one of her rare interviews conducted via written correspondence. No wonder that Ferrante’s writing is a phenomenon that has taken the world of literati and readers alike by storm. Termed as modern classics, her novels have attracted a huge readership. Originally written in Italian, the series has been translated into English by Ann Goldstein. Her much-awaited The Story of the Lost Child, the last book of the Neapolitan series, came out recently.
Published in Dawn on March 23 2015
While trade unions in Pakistan are by and large led exclusively by men, women too have played an important role in labour struggles in the informal sector.
Whether it was tenants rising up against landlords in the pre-Partition era, brick kilns and agricultural workers struggling for freedom from bondage in contemporary Sindh and Punjab, the peasants’ resistance against the military for land rights, or the fisherfolk’s struggle for rights on natural resources, women have emerged as leaders. They have mobilised marginalised communities to tackle tough challenges.
I call myself a feminist? You know why? It’s simple: ‘feminist’ is a sweet-sounding word. And I love it. It doesn’t bother me if the word makes many angry in my society where people put strange appendages to this beautiful word. Like militant, radical, phony, pseudo, blah, blah. To hell with adjectives! And don’t tell me ‘feminist’ is an adjective. Feminist is a person, a human being, a noun.
Stars scribble in our eyes the frosty sagas
The gleaming cantos of unvanquished space — Hull Crane
If you believe in stars (even if your belief is like a faint sensation), if you believe that the wanderers of the cosmos influence your destiny on Earth then it’s time to rejoice. The year 1985 Juts been termed by astrologers as opportune for women.
The New Year began on a happy note when I came to know of the findings of a Pakistani astrologer. He says women are going to make remarkable headway in 1985. The progress will be made in the realm of education; knowledge will expand. The chart he has calculated, indicates that on March 20, 1985, Mercury will enter the Heaven’s at 9:17 PM and thence of will be the ruling Planet.
Most social customs revolve around the institution of the family. And the family, or home, is the woman’s domain. So let’s face the fact that women play a significant role in perpetuating decadent social customs.
Women dominate family affairs no matter how much subjugated they are in other matters of life. But their dominance is pathetic. Because the dominance is over petty, superfluous things masked by the disproportionate importance attached to them. By women themselves. Who else?
During my early youth I believed that adolescence was the most wonderful period in a person’s life. And I thought every teenager in the world was in a blissful state. It made me feel miserable. Because I wasn’t having ‘the most wonderful time’ in the least!
I think it was Urdu poetry that played mischief and filled my head with romanticised notions of youth. I am sure fiction didn’t do any harm because for one thing, it was ‘taraqqi pasand afsanay’ I was reading since class five; for another, they must be going above my head at that time anyway.
Whatever poets said about ‘sweet sixteen’, to me it was nothing but sour. All my complexes (inferiority complexes) intense ambivalence (particularly toward my mother), fights and frictions (with siblings), dreams, aspirations, frustrations, etc, made my mind a confused jumble of thoughts and feelings, and my ‘stream of consciousness’ a torrential, frothing mass. But mercifully all that was behind a placid facade: I was quite a quiet person.
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?”
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.