Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Dream that didn’t Come True

A Dream that didn’t come true
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

A true spirit of serving humankind makes one so brave that one fears nothing and nobody. People who risk their lives and do dangerous work to benefit human beings are real friends of God and His beloved mortals. Ronak, a social worker, had also put his life at risk. He worked for women’s education in Sindh province of Pakistan, where education was considered something that spoils girls.

Ronak started his struggle in Larkana. His target was the rural areas of Larkana. He took his necessary electronics, like a projector, laptop, mobile, and a calculator. He would conduct seminars at Otaqs (guest rooms in villages where people sit and chat in their free time). He would raise awareness among villagers about women’s rights and their status in Islam.

Ronak reached a village named Dahani, where people were not interested in education at all. The men would stay at home and make the women do the chores, graze the cattle, work in the fields, and look after the children. Ronak had never seen this kind of rule anywhere else before. He wasn’t even allowed to enter the village because no strangers could enter the village. He saw that most of the men wore Sindhi caps and had beards. He couldn’t find anyone who could understand or help him.

He was sad and tired. Around the village were gardens of olives, so he decided to go into a garden and eat some of the fruit. He plucked some olives and sat under an olive tree to eat and relax. He saw that some buffaloes were grazing, but there was no one with them.

“Hey, who are you? And what are you doing here?” asked a woman who was in the top of the tree under which Ronak was sitting.

Ronak got spooked at first. He looked around, but there wasn’t anyone to be seen. The women threw an olive at him.

“Hello! Look up.”

“Oh, sorry. I am Ronak. I am new in this village.”

“Go back to wherever you have come from! Strangers are not allowed here. If any man of this village sees you, he will kill you in the name of honour-killing. He will think that you were chasing me, and even he might think that there was an affair between us, he will kill me, too.”

“I am a social worker. I work for the education of girls.”

“Oh, really? I had a dream in my childhood of getting education, but that didn’t come true.”

“Oh, why?”

“That is a long story. Well, my name is Roshni. In our tribe girls are not allowed to go to school. That’s what I have been hearing since my childhood,” Roshni said to Ronak.

“But I can admit you to school.”

“I am now too old to go to school.”

“There is no age limit for learning.”

“Well, there must be different values in your tribe. That’s very contrary to the rules of this village. I will have to leave this place before anybody sees me.”

“Listen, wait a second!”

“Sorry. I cannot.” Roshni left with her buffaloes.

Ronak was facing difficulties in that village. He would go to Larkana where he had reserved a room in a hotel, and come to Dahani in the morning. It was not so far from the city.

The next day, Ronak came to the same garden to find Roshni. As he approached the garden, he could hear a sad song in a woman’s voice.

“Weak, powerless creature I am.
He says you were born to work.
My Lord is that true?
I don’t think so.”

Listening to these sentences sung in a heart-touching voice, Ronak got goose bumps. He traced the footsteps which led him to the same olive tree under which he met Roshni the day before. Roshni was sitting on a branch, and there was a cloth she was doing needle work with and was singing along.

“He shattered my dreams.
He snatched my childhood dolls.
And handed over me things
That I couldn’t do well.”

Ronak didn’t disturb her. He sat at a small distance and listened to what she sang.

“You have a beautiful voice.”

“Oh my God! You have come again! What do you want?”

“I want you to go to school.”

“You, a stranger, will send me to school?”

“Yes, I can.”

“See, I have already told you that if someone finds us talking together, he will kill both of us. You better leave.”

“I am afraid of nobody.”

Roshni was confused and afraid. She quickly gathered the buffaloes and left the garden.

Everyday, Ronak came to the garden, and tried to talk to Roshni. He somehow motivated her to attend school.

“But it feels very awkward to sit with little children in a class.”

“You want to get an education, right?”


“So for that, you will have to attend the class.”

“My family won’t approve of it. They didn’t allow me to go during my childhood; why would they do it now?”

“You are now an adult. You have a right to make your own decisions.”

“In our tribe, girls do not make any decisions, not even of their own marriage. My father and brother didn’t even ask me whether I was happy or not when they decided my marriage. However, my husband is a kind man. He cares for me. He is very different from the men in our tribe. He respects women.”

“Will he allow you to attend school?”

“I am sure he will.”

“Shall I talk to him?

“No, it is not appropriate. Maybe he will not like this.”

“Look, dark is falling, and the buffaloes are moving to the village now. I will meet you tomorrow.”

“Okay. I will wait for you.”

At night, Roshni said to Muhammad Khan, her husband, “If we had children - a girl, would you have allowed her to go to school?”

“Why do you ask this, Roshni?”

“I just wanted to know your view about girls’ education.”

“My tribe’s view is my view. Our ancestors never sent the girls to schools. They have always opposed girls’ education. That’s the reason there is not any schools in our village.”

“What is the harm in getting an education? I believe an educated woman can look after her children very well. Education helps one on every walk of one’s life.”

“You may be right, but I respect the village customs and traditions.”

“With the passage of time everything changes, and I think it is time for our customs to change.” Saying this Roshni slept.

Muhammad Khan couldn’t sleep that night. He thought about the questions Roshni asked him. He also was sick of the traditions of his village, but he had always remained silent in front of his father, his uncles, and other elders of his tribe.

The next day, Roshni told Ronak about her husband’s view of girls’ education. Ronak asked, “Would you leave this village and stay in the city with your husband? There you can go to school.”

“My husband will not leave his village,” replied Roshni.

“It sounds like your husband is a rational man. He will understand my point of view if you help me in meeting with him?”

“This Friday evening, my husband will sit in the main Otaq of the village. You can meet him there, but do not mention the fact that we’ve discussed this and are in agreement.”

“How can I get into the village?”

“If anyone stops you and asks who you are – and why you have come, tell him that you are an olive trader and you have come from Quetta to meet with Muhammad Khan for olive deals.”

In this way, Ronak met Muhammad Khan, then confessed that he was actually a social worker, and was told how to enter the village under the guise of being an olive vender. He convinced him that education is necessary for boys and girls and asked him for his help to raise awareness in the village.

“Brother, I am with you, but it is very difficult to talk about girl’s education and rights here,” Muhammad Khan said.

“Can I arrange a seminar in this Otaq this coming Friday?”

“I will have to ask the elders.”

In the evening, Muhammad Khan talked to his father about the social worker. “Now a city boy will teach us the rules of living life!” Muhammad Khan’s father angrily replied.

“Father, he just wants to tell the people about the importance of education?”

“You know, in this village no one wants education.”

“Father that is because they have been told that education is something that spoils man. The people of this village hate western clothes, the English language, and education because they have always been told wrong concepts about them. Whereas, clothes are clothes; every nation has their own way of covering the body. In the same way, every nation has their own language, just as we have our own tongue, Sindhi. Plus if education was a bad thing, the Holy Quran wouldn’t have said that God instructed us to read by using the word “Iqra”, the first word revealed to the Prophet.”

“Your tongue speaks a lot.”

“Sorry, father. I cannot be a slave to these old-fashioned and useless customs anymore.”

“If you dislike our ancestors’ traditions, you do not deserve to live in their village,” saying this Mohammad Khan’s father went to his bedroom.

Roshni was listening to their conversation behind the door of her room. “I know that social worker,” said Roshni to Muhammad Khan.

“How do you know him?”

“Do you trust me?”

“Yes. I do.”

“So listen…”

She told her husband everything about the social worker.

“Why don’t we leave the village for the sake of the future of our children? I had a dream that didn’t come true, but I want all the dreams of my children to come true. If we remained here, it seems impossible.”

“You are right, Roshni. We will leave this village and its customs. We will move to the city forever. Our elders will never allow us to be independent and liberal here.”

Muhammad Khan talked to Ronak, and he helped them find a house in the city. There they lived happily ever after. Roshni went to school, making her childhood dream come true.

Many people stick to the traditions of their elders for entire duration of their lives. If the customs are outdated and worthless, one should always change them. If one cannot change them, one should change oneself. 
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