By Lubna Naseem:
I was born of my mother, but my birth certificate states my father’s name. My mother who sheltered me for nine months didn’t have any identity. Who was she?
I grew up loved and cherished in a cozy household, but thoughts and worries of learning how to run a house, cook and sew were implanted in my mind from an early age because that was my destiny.
Years passed, and I was asked to keep my opinions to myself and do according to what my parents said. I entered graduation (of my parents’ choice) that I was compelled to do so as to get a suitable groom. At college, boys would stare as though I had murdered somebody. One dare not laugh out at jokes, else you would instantly be a spectacle. Scathing comments were passed against women who spoke to the other gender more. However, the male students were free to do anything.
When sitting idly, a question always echoes in my head “Who am I?” As a child, I was a little toy to amuse the elders in the house, a little girl to dress up in pink, and just someone to indulge. As an adolescent, I was a growing girl who had to be protected from the big bad influences of the outside world. I was trained and forced to perform the many duties a woman should. Everyone took it upon themselves to make me realize my gender, and how my aspirations must match up and be ‘grounded’ and I don’t have the right to think or plan anything for myself. Everyone’s (specially relatives’) prime aim was that I should get married and confine myself to the would be husband’s life.
But till now, there is no recognition of me. Before marriage, I have to make everyone happy at home. My primary aim in life is the contentment and satisfaction of others, and I know after marriage I will be someone’s wife, someone’s daughter-in-law, someone’s aunt and someone’s sister-in-law. Everything will change to ‘the wife of ___’, bank accounts, locker, passport everything. But nobody will actually know who I am.
My only duty will be to please the husband and in-laws, to stand behind my man and keep my opinions to myself. Then too I will have to shut up and turn a blind eye, learn to be supportive no matter what. It all depends on the vagaries of my husband. If he decides to talk nicely then my morning will be good but if he is in a nasty mood my whole day goes for a toss. I have to make sure that my husband has all the comforts to make his life comfortable and in return he can throw me around with no rhyme or reason. But still, I have to bear all of it because society has given men all the rights to get separated and take another wife but if a girl does such type of act she will be termed characterless and everyone’s eyes will be on her. A man can talk to anybody , do whatever he feels like but a woman is bombarded with questions if she is seen talking to someone new or tries to get little social. She is suddenly the subject of another type of entertainment for those around her who crack cheap jokes at her expense.
Nobody asks what I like, what I want to do but they keep demanding things from me can, expecting me to sacrifice, take a step back. I was never a free bird when I was at my place, and now also there is no place of mine in the society. Then who am I?
Am I the embodiment of Durga or Kali-everyone worships so dutifully? Or just an empty vessel where men can pour in their frustration? Why have I sacrificed my dreams and aspirations at the altar of the male ego? Why do I blame everything to fate? Why have I shed my tears silently and borne the burnt of abuse? Where did my laughter go?
I might not have an identity of my own, but I realise that on me depends the existence of these men. I don’t think they have the power to call the shots anymore. I am slowly but surely undoing the shackles and growing wings so that I can take flight. So cherish me, respect me, love me, care for me and treat me well… Because if you don’t give me my rights, I will grab them. If you don’t respect me , I will command it. I breathe the same air as everyone else; my heart beats just as yours does. I dream as everyone does and I want to live my life only my way. I am claiming what is mine… nothing more, nothing less.
For I have realised that I am nothing more than me.