Wednesday, January 14, 2009
What we mean by the word ‘woman’ when we say a man and a woman. One can say a woman is a grown-up female of the human race. For centuries, she has played a four-sided righteous role of mother, daughter, sister and wife.
Daughters of Eve are performing a multi-role in Rawalpindi and Islamabad and elsewhere in the neighbourhood of the twin cities haunted by social and economic concerns.
A woman, most of the time, has to do ‘this and that’ as circumstances dictate her. If a woman is employed to manage affairs of a household she is called a house-keeper. If she is a servant in a house for cleaning rooms etc. she is disposed of, as ‘naukarani’ (house-maid). She is termed housewife if she acts as mistress and manager of a house. And, in short, she is wife if and when a man marries her according to a prescribed religious rite. So, a man who weds a woman under a contract (nikahnama) is acknowledged as a woman’s husband.
Relatives and friends of both sides wish a man and a woman, now called the bride and bridegroom, a long successful life and a bright future. And, as such, a woman and a man become life partners in many respects — social, economic and cultural.
Travel to Lahore and back from there to Rawalpindi, very recently, turned out a meaningful, constructive and informative — and, of course, suggestive — journey from social and economic points of view. Thanks to the Pakistan Railway’s non-stop morning and evening trains. Usually, most of husbands, who accompany their wives and children to railway station platforms, return home after saying ‘Khuda Hafiz’ (good-bye) to life partners. They pray for safe journey of their kith and kin notwithstanding the confidence they have in the PR drivers and guards.
Interestingly, no compartment was without children and women whose majority was wives. They were mostly of ages ranging between 35 and 55. The passengers waiting on the platform out of pleasure and anxiety rushed into the train when there was the third whistle by the guard. There was hustle. And the children in their seats started singing: “chhak chhak chali hamari rail, kaisa hay yeh dhakka pail, chhak chhak chali hamari rail” (our train is warming up and moving down but what is this hustle and bustle…). There was pin-drop silence as soon as the word ‘hush’ came out of a wife’s mouth.
Wives were gentle and they didn’t mind the presence of a gentleman in their midst. How long they could sit silent? The gentleman yawned and said “Allah-o-Akbar (God is great)”. The silence was broken. Women hurriedly recited the first ‘kalima’ the moment the fast moving train came to a grinding halt. The driver had intelligently applied the brake to save the life of a pregnant she-goat.
All passengers — men, women and children — were now on the same track, the right one which leads to God. Wives began to reminisce the days when wheat flour, meat and vegetables sold at affordable prices, there was no electricity and gas loadshedding and the lower middle-class people could buy for their children an apple a day to keep the doctor away.
“Nowadays, my husband returns from work in the evening without an apple, and my youngest child cries ‘abba, go back, come with fruit’, I get angry and slap the fruit-hungry boy and this infuriates my life partner,” Salma spoke the truth. “We love each other. But what should I do when my husband quarrels with me over how and why I’ve finished the budget money before the end of the month?” Zohra complained against her husband who retired from the Ministry of Defence.
Zebun Nisa, comforting the angry woman, drew attention of other wives. “I too quarrel, sometimes, and respond positively, at others, to my husband. We discuss how to live together and lead life with a spirit of unity, faith and discipline in an atmosphere of peace, prosperity and brotherhood of mankind. My husband is basically a soldier. His mother sent him to army to defend the motherland. I’ve learnt many good things from him to combat the enemy. And we have to bow to Almighty God, not to anyone who pretends to be our friend. Any person, big or small, who exploits the needy and fattens himself by hoarding, black-marketing, profiteering and smuggling ‘atta’, rice, pulse, fish and meat, can never be patriot, nor people’s friendly.”
Mrs Waqar and Mrs Nasir of Rawalpindi agreed to the views of Zebun Nisa and Mrs Asif who suggested sharing of each other’s experience in beating the food price hikers. Another wife disclosed: “I buy two kilos of costly mutton and make eight packets which are meant for two months. I apply the same formula to beef, out of which ‘shami’ and ‘seekh kabab’ and ‘kofta’ and ‘pulao’ are prepared. But there has to be a balance, pulses and vegetables are vital to health. Let us ask our husbands to get united against the exploiters.” Pressed by women, my advice to them was: “love begets love, love thy defenders and thy country.”
Courtesy: The News, 14th January, 2009