My crime that night? I was travelling home with two na-mehram boys
In middle school when my cousin, like all other Pakistani girls, ditched uniform shorts for track pants at gym class, I asked my dad if I could do the same as well. I handed him the application form to fill in so I could give it to my gym teacher. He laughed, lit his pipe and set my definition of gelling in and modesty right.
Needless to say, I bore weird glances from the Pakistani community of 12-year-olds at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Virginia for two full years. I learnt indifference. But it becomes difficult to continue practicing the learned art in this country of desi aunties, prying uncles, and unfed cops. Yes, unfed!
Hunger turns cops into moral police in the wee hours of the night and morning. Like hounds they search for cars with women traveling with na-mehram men and once they think they have found their prey, they stop the car. The na-mehram is asked to step out. God forbid the woman wishes to join him.
“Bibi ji, andar tashreef rakhien.” (Kindly stay inside please.)
The investigation begins. ID cards are checked. Last names, parent’s names aren’t matching up. Jackpot! Sit back, lady. Ponder over your fate in the car while the men outside raise questions over your morals and values all for money for chai/pani. And if you’re traveling with a righteous man (definition up to debate) who isn’t generous enough to feed the hungry hounds, you’re in for some drama. There’ll be threats. The name of this land of the pure will be invoked.
“Don’t you know, this is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?”
And when nothing works and the cops realise that their midnight cravings will go unsatisfied, they’ll let you and the poor na-mehram off the hook with unwanted pieces of advice. A cop once told me that good women don’t go to offices, they stay at home. The same night, another cop informed me that I would have marred the honour and name of the na-mehram I was traveling with, had the cops not been courteous enough for not informing the media channels. My crime that night? I was traveling home from the North with two na-mehram and trying to get back to Lahore in time for work the next morning.
But fortunately or unfortunately (debatable again), you will not be traveling with a “righteous man” and the matter will be settled within minutes. Cash will be waved, midnight munchies put to rest. No one will judge. Sometimes the bribe is even kosher.
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