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What goes on in the mind of a victim of honour killing? What happens to her loved ones? This letter tries to encapsulate all of this, and makes you wonder if we are indeed human.
This post contains instances of violence that may be triggering for some readers. Please use your discretion.
My dear child,
Blessings be upon you!
Sitting here by the window, dressed in a pale green suit with tiny pink flowers on the yoke, that my mother had so lovingly hand-stitched for me years ago, I am looking at my hands. In fact, I have been staring at them for a long time, it seems. I want to raise my arms to the Almighty and ask for forgiveness, or perhaps just pray so that all the tumults in my life are put to rest soon. Most of all, my child, I pray for your safety. I pray that you grow up to be strong and beautiful, and venture into the world that is free of hatred, and full of love.
Faisal , your dad, seems to be struggling to conjure up a healthy breakfast for you in the kitchen. Yes, conjure! You must know how he is always struggling with the kind of multitasking that is required in the kitchen. In spite of that, each day, for the last 2 months, he has been getting up early to make breakfast for us.
I think you would be very thankful for your dad. I know I am, for having him in my life. I know, once you are born, you will gradually realize what a wonderful father he already is. Now, I think, I should try and help him in the kitchen lest he burns his hand. Ha!
His reluctant smile is enough to tell me that he has mustered up my favourite breakfast, albeit the taste may hugely wary. I know how much you love it too! But as I settle myself on the table and am about to take the first morsel, a doubt clouds my mind. Faisal senses my fears and comes closer.
My eyes well up as he holds my hand to comfort. “It is going to be alright, Shazia. We are fighters” he said as gently as he could, but I simply could not stop. The tears come running down my cheek and rest on my bulging belly. I know how you are saddened too by the recent developments in our lives. Faisal holds me close and we confide – how we both are scared of the decisive day that lays ahead of us.
We both break down, but then it’s time to head out, put on a brave front, and face the day.
I am taking the rickshaw to the court while Faisal will follow me on his scooter, after picking up the advocate on the way. Do you know – this is the alley that I visited for the first time five years ago, when Faisal married me and got me to his home? I was very scared then.
I hardly knew anyone in this part of the city, and they were skeptical too. The only place I had frequented was at Ajmal chacha’s shop. He is a very caring man. Gentle and considerate. There were times when Faisal had no job for eight months but Ajmal chacha made sure that our food supply was regular. May Allah bless him, always.
And that corner sweet shop from where Faisal has been getting rabri each Friday for you. I know how fond you are of that milky treat…just like your mother. Isn’t it? Looking out I can see the green tomb of the neighborhood masjid, and with my eyes closed in gratitude, I pray that he keeps you safe.
I am wondering why, for the first time in five years, on a gloomy summer morning, this whole neighborhood looks new and more vivid than ever before. As I approach the main road that leads me to the court, my heart begins to beat a bit louder. I look behind to make sure Faisal is following the rickshaw. Though I am unable to locate him, I know he will be there as soon as I reach.
The compound of the court seems different this morning. Possibly because before this, I have never been here in the morning hours. Usually, this is buzzing with activity and a whole lot of crowd keeps shuttling from one door to the other.
The rickshaw stops by a huge bargad tree that stands proud and tall outside the gate. The lawyers and their assistants are busy setting up shop for the day in the compound. Some of the typewriters are already ticking away while people narrate their concerns. Amidst the slender crowd I spot a familiar face.
That’s my uncle, Khaled chacha, walking towards me. He is the one who had bought me a pretty Chanel dress one Eid. It had a white lace down the waistline, when I was barely six years old. He was my favourite uncle since then. As he walks towards me now, I feel scared of him. His expression looks grim as he comes and stands right in front of me. “Shazia, this was not expected of you. You have been a disgrace for the whole family. And now, by challenging us in the court you are harassing us further”, he says, in his most threatening voice.
“Chachajaan, I am doing what I think best for my family to live a peaceful life.” I answer in the most compelling voice I can find inside of my petrified heart. “Then you are going to face the consequences…”, he raises his voice and threatens. “I am sure my father would understand only if you let him speak to me, Chachajaan”, I said, hoping to seek some support from the family that has loved and nurtured me for almost 19 years.
Just then, my father emerges from behind and plants a strong slap across my face. I fall, holding you close, hoping to keep you safe from the fall. I look back at him as he barks, “How could you even think that we would support you in this? Not only have you disgraced us but you have insulted the path of Allah. This child that you’re carrying is haraam.”
His words felt like acid on my ears. My Allah knows, my child, that you have been nothing but a source of joy and blessing for Faisal and me. Our love is as pure as Allah’s name and you are a boon. I cry, imploring my father not to disgrace me like that. A stone pelted at me rests on my arm, just then. The skin gives way to a deep cut.
I look in the direction from where it emerged and see that Abid, my older brother, comes running towards me, raging and cursing. He picks up another stone and flings it my way. This time it hits my hand that is placed on my belly. Fear not, my child. As long as I live, I will keep you safe, I promise.
All the men I called family once, surround me and bombard with the choicest of expletives. They call me names. My scared, tear-soaked eyes look around restlessly for Faisal, who is yet to come. With one hand rested on the ground I try to raise my heavy body when someone pulls my hair and drags me forth. Screaming and struggling to get my hair out of the painful grip I look up to see who is dragging me so mercilessly.
Just then, the happy laughter of my seven year old brother, Afzal, fell on my ears. As my mother oiled my hair on a Sunday afternoon and braided my hair, Afzal came running from behind and pulled a plait. A painful twitch on my head gave way to his cackling laughter, as my mother shouted at him, not to trouble his older pre-teen sister. Now as I look up, I see Afzal ruthlessly towing me to the center of the compound. Here he makes me rise on my feet, pulling my hair all the time, cursing and screaming.
Soon, another brick falls on my forehead and it starts bleeding. I turn around. Amidst the screams and curses, I can barely understand what to do…where to go. I run towards the huge bargad for shelter, all the time imploring the bystanders to come and help me. They stand there, mute and helpless spectators.
I fold my hands for someone to come up and save me…save you, in the name of Allah. I plead to the crowd to help a defenseless, pregnant woman, but when the ones who love you become haters, the whole world collapses on you. The bargad is no haven for me too, as the bricks keep coming my way, accompanied by hate slogans from all my family members. By now, the rain of bricks has thrashed my skin and blood is oozing out of each wound. I can feel my head reeling as I feebly fall on the ground.
My thrashed, helpless, wounded body did not serve solace to the blood thirsty fanatics. Faisal comes to my aid soon and he endures the same bearing. With my heavily swollen eyes, I see Faisal bleeding as well, all the while asking them to stop…and they do, once they are sure that we are adequately admonished. Our blood soaked bodies are now being carried in an ambulance to a nearby hospital.
A heavily bruised Faisal is sitting by my side; I open my swollen eyes, one fourth, to see a set of pipes attached to my listless body. Faisal is crying profusely, all the time beseeching Allah to save me…to save you. He holds my hand, both blood-bathed. I close my eyes and my attention goes to you.
Here you were, happily having your favourite breakfast made by your father and dreaming of a rabri treat coming on Friday… and now you lie here, inside of me…my child, breathing your last. Your breath slowly gives way and as you wave goodbye, I raise my hands, one last time. Allah, I thank you for making me a mother. I breathe my last.
I will always love you, my child.
The incidents described are inspired from the recent honour killing of a pregnant Pakistani woman, who was killed outside a court by her family on May 30, 2014. Creative liberties have been taken to frame the fiction, in order to highlight the hurt and pain that honour killings bring to a victim (and their loved ones). The article does not intend to hurt the sentiments of any religion, ethnicity, region, or community.
This post was first published here.
Pic credit: Calliope (Used under a CC license)
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