Pretty features masked in lustrous adornment, heavy distractions she was grateful for. Dark rouge carefully applied to the perfectly rounded arcs of her unapologetically full pout, her hazel eyes; a muddy mess of memories, brown into green spiked with defiant yellow, lined with kohl. She thought of her new life, her new master. Her stomach churned and her eyes pricked with tears.
Hai mama why did you damn your child
To the confines of an old man
He’s rotten, decrepit, he beats me daily
I’m tortured until the very end
Hai mama did you not see I was
I had no place as his slave…
You ruined my innocence, you sold me off
Mama you took my soul, that’s enough
Why are you letting me die?
The last shrill note hung in the air before the raucous applause shattered it, each woman murmuring her appreciation for their song. Shahida allowed a quiet smile as a buzz of chatter warmed the mud hut walls, the older women held each other cackling whilst they rocked, talking of old age scandal-“…that bastard Zaid, two wives dead and he has another in the wings!”. She was in the company of those like herself, the suffering, the silent. Shahida the witness. Shahida the witness. Shahida observed her surroundings at age 12. Was married life really so bad? Her smooth unflawed skin crinkled as she thought.
But she needn’t think, this was a joyous occasion. Shahida’s dad had dowry of RS. 8000 , Shahida was married… to a “good” man, a successful merchant, who earned enough to have a house in Islamabad! Her head stayed low, eyes down despite her brain screaming for them to document the frenzy around her. A flutter of movement startled the bride and she vaguely felt the scratch of her weighty embroidered scarf graze her slight cheek bones.
Grief and pain was normality in marriage, she accepted this. He would occasionally become angry, she would be there to hurt… she accepted this. She could cook and clean, you only had to look at the dirty yellow calluses that invaded her hands. She would cook and clean, she had nothing else to offer. A dirty thought crept into her mind.
She felt nausea stealthily washing over her being, what about children. Could she birth him a boy? She had to.
He needed a lineage, they always did and she’d be more than gone if she didn’t. Shahida swallowed her tears, feeling the ache slither down to the centre of her ribs. She let go and thought of Islamabad, always thought of Islamabad. Masha’Allah. She’d heard of the women there, “modern” women, who walked outside in their Pakistan without male company, women who wore polished hair and makeup, tottered around the dusty streets of the city in shiny red stilettos. Shahida wondered if she’d be one. Faisal seemed nice.
He wheezed as he stumbled in, face taking sour shape upon feeling the impertinent beads of sweat which slid down his face, only halting to gather a hot sticky mess by his thick black moustache. His slanted black eyes, disguised by dark rings of yesteryear scanned the room to pin his bride. His dull skin brightened a little and his thin wide lips curled into a smile, found her. Older than expected , but nonetheless satisfactory, he approved. Faisal gripped the few pieces of gold he’d picked a few hours earlier in his clammy hands and ungracefully shuffled to her as a hush fell over the room. He impatiently tapped his leg until the service was done.
Ten to six and he still wasn’t home…he’d gone to town where the uncovered women were. The potent smell of dhal attacked the air with exotic, raw spices. Shaking, Shahida poured a sloppy portion, took the roti off the chawa and waited. And waited. A brash laugh shook her and she sat to attention, repressing the urge to vomit. Faisal was here.
“What is this?”
“Dhal. Dhal Faisal ji.”
“Did I ask for dhal? Do I look like a fucking peasant?”
Faisal the Judge.
Shahida’s eyes widened at his curse, she swiftly averted her gaze…but he’d seen. Anger rushed through him, electrocuting his core, blood rushing to the surface of his skin, veins throbbing as his insides boiled. Who was she? Who was she, to judge him? She became a blur as he undid his belt, grasped the cuff of her salwar and thrashed her flesh. He couldn’t hear her pained screams, he only vaguely felt her 50 pound body shake with each melancholy blow, he worked like a machine. He let go when he could see no more white, only crimson. She dragged herself to the corner as he left.
“Bitch.” The door slammed.
By Madiha Farooq @
These views do not represent the views of all Rmovement members but individual members.