Stories about dupatta

This Labour Day, let us acknowledge and respect Pakistan’s hidden women

It is a sunny day. A dark woman with a dupatta draped over her head can be seen walking on the side of a pavement. Her destination is a house, where she is to cook, clean, wash and iron. Once done, she will enter a different house, and then another, to repeat the same chores. Sounds familiar? It should, for what is being discussed is the quintessential life of a housemaid in Pakistan. There are thousands, if not millions, of housemaids in our country, and yet they are abysmally ignored, shunned and marginalised by us all. Why? “My landlord has put my ...

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Nusrat and her dupatta

Nusrat loved to watch the sun come up in the morning, see its rising hues and its foes in the sky that wanted it to go back down – down, down, down, to the abyss of darkness, where there was no light, no hope. So, Nusrat would wake up at 5am. At 4am. At 3:30am. All to see the sun that rose so elegantly into the dewy mornings of October. But she never could. She never could stay tuned to the games of the sun, for the sun was a hopeful deity, and Nusrat’s hope was nonexistent now. So every morning, Nusrat would run with urgent ...

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A woman covered with a dupatta, unlike the covered lollipop, will never be covered enough

As I strolled out of Emporium Mall the other day and waited for my car, a street urchin approached me. Assuming she was going to ask for some money, I pretended not to see her, but then she did something shockingly out of the ordinary – she adjusted the dupatta on my chest, draping it in a manner so that my entire chest was now covered by a sheet of cloth. “Baaji, kitni pyari ho (you’re so pretty), but it doesn’t look good na”, she said, pointing to the men standing nearby. “All the brothers are looking at you. Look even I have my dupatta on ...

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Series 6 Was I a threat? Part 3 The dead princess

Ma stared at Saira’s lifeless body, unable to believe her eyes. She pulled her feet from the grasp of the floor and walked towards her. All kinds of thoughts crossed her mind in those few steps, which seemed to be taking an eternity to cover; Saira’s first steps which she had taken in this house. Her laugh that always resonated through the house echoed in her ears. She thought about how Saira always used to run around the house wearing a self-made tiara, asking everyone to call her ‘Princess Saira’. And now, the image of her princess’s immobile body was etched in ...

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I am Pakistani, just like you. Except we’re not the same

Edmonton like many other metropolitan cities is an interesting blend of people of various nationalities, race, religion and creed. Walk around in the neighbourhood or enjoy the lazy summer sunshine in a park and you will be struck with a variety of people and languages you hear. The same exotic sampling of populations is present in schools, which gives children a wonderful opportunity to not only mingle or learn about various cultures but also to accept their differences and forge friendships out of their own communities at a very young age. It was a special day for the children of a small elementary school in Edmonton. They had ...

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Series 6 Was I a threat? Part 2 ‘Red candies’

“May I come in, Taya Abba?” Saira had somehow dragged herself to his house. Her dislike for him had turned into hatred ever since he made her quit school. She even hated staying in the same room as him. Well, at least she wasn’t going to suffer alone; she had Afzal with her. “Have you revised your lesson?” he asked, staring at her intently. “Yes.” She started to recite yesterday’s lesson. All the while Taya Abba’s eyes kept surveying her. “Come on, Apa! You know Taya Abba doesn’t like it when we’re late.” Afzal was running ahead of her. “You go ahead. I’ll catch up.” She pretended to catch her breath. As ...

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Series 6 Was I a threat? Part 1 “Please don’t dishonour us by going out all the time.”

Life in a small town such as Mansehra is quiet and serene. The name it has been given is justified; it truly is paradise on earth. It is the beauty of the district and the simplicity of life that always attracted tourists to visit during it their vacations. But simplicity, even though it is quite pleasing, has some boundaries attached to it. Saira, a young girl of the district, had lived in Mansehra all her life. She hadn’t been out to visit much either and all the contact she ever had had with the outer world was through television. Girls in the village ...

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Quetta: Where hospitality has no bounds

When I received an invitation from the University of  Balochistan informing me that five of our engineering projects had been accepted for the first Invention to Innovation Summit – the first comment my director made was,  “Umair, do you know the halaat (conditions) in Quetta? Taking students there can be risky!” The 1st Invention to Innovation Summit in Quetta It wasn’t easy trying to make him understand that all universities from Sindh and Balochistan were participating; hence it was mandatory for us to attend. However, we were finally able to convince him. There were nine of us, out of which seven were visiting ...

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How can France assume the basis of our choices?

The dupatta has been around in our part of the world for thousands of years. The word itself is of Sanskrit origin, ‘du’ meaning ‘two’ and ‘patta’ referring to a strip of cloth. In ancient times it was worn as a symbol of modesty as part of an outfit that was comprised of three pieces and, as centuries passed, it became part of the cultural, religious norms in this region – not just for Muslims but also Hindus and Sikhs who cover their heads when walking into a religious building. These days it is worn by many young girls as ...

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A special place in hell is not enough for women like these

Two or three days ago, a young woman was accosted by an older woman for ‘not wearing appropriate attire’. You can see what the poor young woman was wearing here. Not that that’s important. But, anyway.  This older woman harassed this young lady (who wanted her identity to be protected, so we’ll call her MJ) and continued to touch her despite her requests. She later threatened MJ, stating that she ‘knew her license plate’ and MJ threatened to lodge an FIR against her and eventually the woman’s husband, a seemingly more neutral fellow, managed to get his wife to apologise ...

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