Tuesday, February 11, 2014

(2) CHAPTERS OF INJUSTICE

 Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

Chapter: 1

It was a sunny day. Robbi was so delighted to win the prize in her class for an essay competition. Her teacher told her that he was sure that one day Robbi would become a great woman.

Robbi said to her teacher, “God willing, I will become a doctor.”

The teacher replied, “God wills that. I know because He has given you all the abilities which a successful doctor should have.”

Robbi went home and showed her mother the prize. Robbi’s mother was happy too, but her father didn’t seem very happy about it. Robbi’s father was a drunkard; her mother had to pay for her education. Financially, she made ends meet by doing needlework. Besides going to school, Robbi also helped her mother with household chores and with needlework.

Years passed and Robbi eventually made it to grade nine. One night Robbi’s father said to her mother, “Robbi has now grown up.”

Her mother said to him, “No, she is still young, but why do you say that?”

He said, “Now Robbi won’t need to go to school anymore.”

Her mother said, “No, she still has to study. She wants to be a doctor.”

“A doctor, impossible!” he said.

“She is the most clever girl in the class, why can’t she be a doctor?!” asked her mother.

Her father replied, “Because the time has come for her to go to her real home.”

“Are you thinking about Robbi’s marriage? She is still too young,” she said.

“Well, sooner or later she has to go; the sooner the better.” said Robbi’s father. He added further, “I have already talked to my old friend. He has a son who works in the fields, that will be better for her. I don’t want to talk about it anymore; that’s final.”

In the morning when Robbi was getting ready to go to school, her mother said to her, “Stay at home today.”

Robbi said, “Why, dear mother?”

She said, “I have a lot of work today and I want you to help me.”

Robbi said, “Alright, if you say so, I am not going.”

So on that day her mother told her that her father was going to get her married. Robbi’s heart was torn into pieces. Her mother said to her, “It is inevitable. I can do nothing; nor can you refuse. If we go against your father’s will, we will both be in trouble. So it is better to be quiet and endure.”

Robbi’s dreams were shattered. She felt a storm inside her, and she wanted to cry so loudly that her voice would break the sky. She fell asleep weeping and sobbing.

In a few days, Robbi’s father married her off. Now she wandered aimlessly through life as if she were already dead.

Chapter: 2

Robbi was only 14. She was studying in the hope of becoming a doctor when her father married her off. She was married to Zaman, who worked in the fields. All of Robbi’s dreams were shattered before they could come to fruition. Her husband treated her as if she was a servant or slave. He punished her, abused her, and harassed her. He commanded her to look after the buffaloes and cows. She milked them and grazed them near the bank of the river a short distance from the fields where her husband worked.

Robbi gave birth to Rabia at the age of 15. Robbi and her daughter were weak due to Robbi’s pregnancy at a very young age. Early marriage led to many detrimental effects upon Robbi’s health. It had been more than a year since Robbi had seen her mother. Robbi’s father never allowed Robbi’s mother to visit Robbi; neither did Robbi’s husband.

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and months turned into years as Robbi continued to bear all the injustices that her husband administered to her. In rural areas of Sindh, a province of Pakistan, it is common for men to treat women in this way. Very few women raise their voices against the oppression. Robbi would never resist, but she had decided that she would never let her daughter fall victim to this abuse.

One night, Robbi said to Zaman, “Saeen, Rabia is now five. We need to send our daughter to school.” (In Sindhi the word ‘Saeen’ is used for someone who is admired or respected.)

“School? Don’t you know in our village girls are not allowed to attend school? She will never go to school,” her husband replied.

“But Saeen, she must get a primary education, at least, so that she can read and write our native Sindhi language.”

“I don’t like your explanations and answering back. I said she will never go. Now get out of my sight!” he shouted angrily.

Young Rabia was watching and listening to her parents arguing about her from the window. In her heart, Rabia hated her father because she had seen him beating her mother many times. One day, Robbi went to graze the cattle, as usual. Normally, Rabia would stay at home with her grandparents. Her grandparents had never cared much for Robbi or Rabia because they had been disappointed when Robbi did not give birth to a boy. On this particular day, Robbi decided that she would begin to take her daughter out with her to graze the cattle. Robbi had learned reading and writing in Sindhi when she was a child, and she also knew a little bit of English. She decided that she would educate her daughter herself while the cattle grazed.

One night, Robbi called her daughter, “Rabia? Rabia? Where are you?”

“Ami, I am here with grandpa.”

“Won’t you let me read you a new story tonight?”

“Oh, yes.”

That night Robbi told Rabia about her plan. Robbi had originally thought that Zaman would do the same for their daughter as Robbi’s father had done for her. “At least I have gotten my primary education. I have to do something for my daughter, otherwise in this male-dominated society my daughter will be deprived of even basic education,” she whispered to herself.

The next day, as usual, Robbi woke up early, milked the buffaloes, churned the Lassi, and fed the cattle. When she served breakfast to her husband, she told him, “Saeen, I want to take Rabia with me. She will learn grazing the cattle and cutting the grass. She is not going to school, so she better learn the household chores.”

“All right. Keep a close eye on her,” he agreed.

After Zaman had gone, Robbi and her daughter left to graze the cattle. Along the way, she gave Rabia two hundred rupees, which she had earned by selling the milk. The money was used to buy two pens, (one red and one blue), a notebook, and a first grade text book from the village general store. Robbi also gave her a palm straw bag, in which she packed her lunch. Rabia purchased all these things and put them in the bag.

When they reached the river, the cattle started grazing, and they both started the lessons. On their first day, Robbi taught her daughter some letters of the alphabet of their native language. For five years they studied in this way; hiding their books from everyone. Usually, children do their homework at their homes, but Rabia did hers at the river bank. Rabia eventually learned to read and write the Sindhi language, and a little bit of English.

Stay tuned to RizwanAhmedMemon.blogspot.com to read more of this story.
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True to his nature the man closed one more chapter of injustice with Robbi.
I wonder how many Robbis would yet be killed, sold and kidnapped etcetera! That so called civilized man should know that the woman is also a human. She breathes the same way as he does. Her heart beats as his, and like him she has emotions, too. Let her live her life!
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Respond to the story:
Should Robbi have raised her voice against her father’s decision?
Are men superior to women?
What is the message of the story?
As a male, do you treat women like Robbi’s father and husband did?
How can women be equal to men in a male-dominated society?
What impact does this story have on you?
What can you say about the author’s efforts to support women and prevent oppression by men through these stories? Write an email and tell the author at this address RizwanAhmedMemon@gmail.com
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