The housewife

Published: January 4, 2013
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She is a mother of three. She has a comfortable life. But loneliness is a reality she cannot avoid. PHOTO: REUTERS

It is an almost wintry morning in Karachi. There is a nip in the air. Lazily, she switches off the fan. Karachi’s weather is also like Karachi itself – interesting but confusing. Outdoors, it is sunny and warm bordering on hot. A trickle of sweat down one’s back reminds one that this is what Karachi winters are like.

Indoors she needs a shawl in which she wraps herself up tightly. Maybe it makes her feel protected, much like a newborn, who is wrapped tightly in a sheet of cloth, to reassure it that it is safe as it was in it’s mother’s womb. We all have our fake reassuring sheets of cloth….our cocoons….which we keep re-visiting.

The logical thing to do at 9am on a Sunday morning is to get up and make a pot of tea for her family, and then start waking them up…

Her husband who is snoring blissfully, looks innocent- not at all like the man who the night before had yelled at her for their son’s abysmal grades in school.

She observes him for a while. His hair is more salt than pepper now. The crow’s feet are pronounced even when he does not smile. She looks at his hands; she always liked the hands…strong, with long-fingers and a broad palm.

It has been weeks since she really looked at him.

The idea of a tea pot is distant now, although the piercing ray of sunlight coming through the window nudges her to wake up.

“Why don’t I close the curtains properly at night?” she inwardly curses herself.

Pulling up the light feathery quilt she got from the visit to Jaipur, India, over her eyes, she lazes.

The house next door is under renovation. Labourers have arrived. She cannot understand why they would be there on a Sunday morning. As a Pakistani bourgeois, she mostly cannot relate to their misery.

It is tough for her to empathise with someone who will wait for three hours in a CNG line to get gas for his rickshaw or a labourer who has arrived for a daily wage on a site on a splendid Sunday morning. But then, the labourer cannot relate to her voids or her problems either.

I guess it’s a fair deal.

She is a mother of three. She has a comfortable life, but loneliness is a reality she cannot avoid. So, she fills that void by frequenting sales at Zamzama and trying out new dishes and poring over changes in her face and her 37-year-old body and reading socialite pages of magazines.

Life did not start this way. She had dreams, once upon a time. She had once wanted a career as a physio-therapist; of a functional marriage; of children that needed her. Those dreams were now long gone.

In the background, one of the labourers had put on the FM radio on his mobile phone and connected it to one of those cheap Chinese speakers for the benefit of the team. Carrying back-breaking bricks after a customary breakfast of sugar-laden tea and a fried paratha, devoid of the concept of “keep health food groups in mind: Have protein and vitamins”, the FM radio encouraged the labourers to work.

Without any fans and the air-conditioners switched on, the background music was clear.

On the radio the song “Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din, baithay rahein tasawwur e jaanan kiye huey” (The heart once again yearns for those leisurely times, when we could sit back, and let our imagination wander to the beloved) plays. Gulzar’s words shake up something inside her. She is transported to one of her favourite places in the world – Central Park, New York.

She remembers the first time she excitedly went there with her husband, introducing Central Park to him as though she were introducing her inner self to him.

His laughter and mocking words “You’re such a tree-hugger!” echoed in her ears.

She knew then- there were certain parts of her that he would never understand.  Deep inside she knew that she should be satisfied and even excited about their visits to Saks Fifth Avenue, or the less fancier version Macy’s, but not Central Park.

“Jaadon ki narm dhoop aur aangan mein lait kar, aankhon pe kheench kar tere daaman ke saaye ko, aundhe pare rahein kabhi karwat liye huye

(Lying laidback in the courtyard, under the mild winter sun, Covering the face under the shade of your shirt’s lower hem, And alternately turning over or lying on the side).

This dream has pinched her after many years…an unrealistic ideal. Lying in her bed in Karachi, in that moment, she is teleported to Central Park, NYC – her head in the lap of an unknown, unnamed man, who reads his own book with his back against a tree, while she reads hers.

Every few pages, they look at each other and exchange a smile, or share an interesting line in the book.

————————————————————————————-

“Aah. Aaj buhut so gaya. Kyun begum, anda paratha miley ga aaj ya naheen?”

(Ah! I have slept a lot today, wife, will I get some egg and paratha today ?)

The Jaipur quilt is lifted off her face. He gives her a quick peck on the cheek, switches on the lights, and goes out to get the Sunday newspaper.

She wakes up with a smile, strangely refreshed by that half-dream. Whilst planning breakfast in her mind she ties her hair up in a careless bun and enters the washroom to splash her face with water, till the unknown man and Central Park drown.

Only then does she wonder where her husband drifts to when he is lonely.

Read more by Farahnaz here or follow her on Twitter @FarahnazZahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

A writer and editor, who has worked as a Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works as a media trainer and communications practitioner. She tweets as @FarahnazZahidi (twitter.com/farahnazzahidi?lang=en).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://underconstruction Waqas

    I am a husband and your entry really touches me, I am hoping to see my wife tonight and give her a warm huge, sit with her and ask how she is feeling today :), thanks to you…Recommend

  • Kay Jay

    Like seriously? being a housewife is not at all boring, i am just sick and tired of people thrashing housewives and their lack of ambition in life. If a woman works out of will, everyone respects the choice she has made but if an educated girl decides to stay at home because her hubby is financially strong so she is the laughing stock of the pseudo liberals!!!

    I am an MBA graduate in Human resources Management and married my high school sweetheart who is a Doctor, and moved abroad. I was never the working type, mainly because i got tired very quickly, i enjoy my life at home, but i was amazed at the opinion people held of me. It’s kind of saddening that people these days are so frustrated that they just need something to degrade or look down upon..
    Live and let live in peace! Recommend

  • Sane

    Excellent. Every husband needs to be a friend also not just the roaring husband. Respect is earned not enforced.Recommend

  • Parvez

    For some unexplained reason I really liked this, especially the way you started it and how it progressed………….nicely done.Recommend

  • KKG

    Good reflections but moving aside from the main focus I was surprised to note that a Karachi based woman is reminded of her dreams by listening to an Indian movie song and then turns to a Jaipuri( Indian) quilt for warmth. Yet India is an enemy nation and you claim to be a different nation with no commonality whatsoever. Any answers?Recommend

  • Ayesha Pervez

    I got married kind of young and was unable to make a career for a long time… I dont mind being a housewife… Im happy with the fact that Im here for my two kids whenever they want me plus Im studying, do freelance writing, have written a book and also keep a tenant in my house for some extra cash. Alhamdulilah my husband provides well and I have utilised my time home well. housewives have a double advantage: they can earn via a home business and also be there for their children.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Author: Charming narative.
    @Kay Jay: This post wasn’t judgmental about women who choose to stay at home as you seemed to think.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @KKG:
    ……..and I am surprised that you have posted a childish comment purely with the intention to provoke a controversy……………..do grow up.Recommend

  • Wajih

    I was 23 when I left Pakistan after my graduation.When I turned 29, my parents wanted me to get married but I was total rat. Western girls had lot more energy then eastern ones, I was tangled in confusion monopoly mostly can easily understand.

    In one year I was married to this almost stranger girl, spent three days in Pakistan and in no time we were flying to our new home in Vermont. That was April 1994. Today I am the luckiest man alive. She adapted herself to me. I learned religion from her. We have three beautiful boys. In asian community we have here, she is the most awesome cook, the most eligible women to seek advice, the best shadi suit design volunteer and what not.

    I always opposed the idea the of hoemly homemaker wife . . guys they are the best thing that can ever happen to you.

    Saleha, you are the love of my life, and you make me complete!Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Kay Jay: I was never the working type, mainly because i got tired very quickly, i enjoy my life at home, but i was amazed at the opinion people held of me. It’s kind of saddening that people these days are so frustrated that they just need something to degrade or look down upon.

    I hope you are not anemic or some thing that is making you tired. Some people are unable to relax and get tired easily.

    No one can degrade you or look down upon you, unless you ACCEPT their opinion of your situation.Recommend

  • John B

    As I have been observing all my life, the life of Muslim women changes when they marry and I see some shades of improvement with new generations but not a whole lot. There are exceptions, of course.

    The most happy Muslim women are the poorest and the richest. The poor shares the same disappointments and perils of poverty with her husband, manages to make ends meet and keeps her husband in her toe. The rich has no time for anything other than themselves and are a happy lot in wasting time in shopping and flirting.

    The middle class women are stuck in between and the men do not know where they fit in.

    Life is what you make out of it. Find a replacement for NY central park in books or in social work. Recommend

  • indian

    hindi song, jaipur quilt… r u in india…?Recommend

  • Fahad

    Absolutely beautifully writtenRecommend

  • sry

    Very nicely written and a pleasure to read, but the author should have given it a different title.

    This title generalizes too much; indicating that, may be, all housewives have unsatisfying marriages.Recommend

  • Aurangzeb

    This is a lovely short story.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Nice short story!
    I personally do not want to be a housewife after putting so many years into an education and great schooling; however, I don’t look down upon women who do choose that lifestyle (I won’t lie. I used to not so long ago). I may not understand it because personally, I need something to do to feel productive and something that is JUST mine (making money doesn’t HAVE to be the main focal point), but I won’t dis a housewife any more than I’d dis a career women as I soon hope to be the latter. However, in my semi-short experience on this planet so far, people don’t respect housewives and I’ve seen too many husbands disrespect their wives for not doing anything productive (and I don’t mean from a money related point of view). For women who plan to be housewives, just make sure your partner knows that going into the marriage and make sure he’s a man capable of respecting you as a best friend and partner regardless of whether you go for the fancy corporate job and earn loads, or decide to stay home and do whatever it is that makes you happy in your ‘me’ time. Recommend

  • Nobody

    And I also agree whole heartedly with what someone else on here said; people’s judgment of you only matters if you let it. So what if someone has a negative opinion of you? It’s not going to affect you unless you let it. Recommend

  • Maliha Ahad

    Its a simple story of a housewife who is lonely and bored and takes refuge in a fantasy for a few moments! I didnt find it a slur on housewies in general. Recommend

  • http://nijheer.wordpress.com Najia Nazir

    I don’t think if this narrative meant any harm for the homemakers at home. her occupations have been deftly dealt with. She can engage herself in so any luxuries but she cannot have a being to share her intimate being with. I am a working om who is married to a doting hubby. yet there are moments when one feels to share with another being who would articulate your own delusional thoughts without any words spoken. Guess this goes for everyone of us,regardless of our work statuses, or even genders. What say?Recommend

  • Aneela

    @Kay Jay:
    That is total rubbish that housewives are made to look like they have lack of ambition. it is educated, stay at home housewives who get all the respect in this society, not unmarried working women (who also get pestered constantly by married peers and colleagues about when they are “planning to get married”). also, if you think every “pseudo liberal” girl’s dream is to not be married or have children her whole life, and to never be a housewife at some point, you are sorely mistaken. Recommend

  • Sarfaraz

    Nicely written….Farahnaz.
    But it is getting to a stage where you cannot day dream without India/Pakistan divide and Muslim women social position being brought into it. Live and let live! Enjoy a nice story and don’t delve too deep…. Recommend

  • Ahmad_SE

    very well written and selection of the topic..should continue the effort to promote human rights and women rights especially.Recommend

  • abhi

    Nicely written blog!Recommend

  • Mano

    @Aneela:
    Seriously? You mean because I am an unmarried working woman, I have no respect in my society? You broke my heart girl !Recommend

  • Aijaz Haider

    Was a pleasure to read this blog. Better late than never.Recommend

  • Aneela

    @Mano:
    I think you and I both know that married, stay at home women, do receive a lot more respect in society than you and I. If you have never felt that way, I guess your life experience has been better than mine Recommend

  • Gilani

    Why don’t you pack your bags to leave for NY then? Who is stopping you?Recommend

  • Umaimah

    TO ALL THOSE HOUSEWIVES WHO GOT OFFENDED.. nothing in this post degraded a housewife. Recommend