Stories about respect

The road not taken: Going to Cambridge or getting married

In Pakistan, and in my native language Urdu, woman translates into aurat, which comes from the Persian awrah, meaning “parts to be protected”. Literally, too, in my present Muslim, closed-knit, patriarchal society, women like me are guided — by their fathers, husbands, brothers, sons — to be protected from threats against their body and family honour. While these men encourage “western” trends to an extent — like education at reputable schools, recreational sports, or even temporary employment — cultural traditions halt these prospects after marriage. You are born, our men tell us, to marry fast, and vouchsafe both yourselves and your future daughters ...

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Reclaiming public space: Can it be a (wo)man’s world, too?

It was a Saturday night when it rained cats and dogs in Lahore. Cool breeze finally taking over the scorching heat made for an excuse to go out and enjoy to the fullest. With such a spectacular change in weather, it was compulsory for my husband and I to drive out into the city around midnight and be amused by the pleasant ambience. Even at that hour, roads were full of traffic. Trees were swirling in the gusty wind. Eateries along the road were jam-packed with people; after all, Lahoris are known to enjoy food like none other. Boys in groups ...

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Confessions of a SAHM: Don’t compare me to Instagram-perfect, working mothers

When I was a young university student, I dreaded the idea of being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) so much that whenever I would come across one, I would be thankful that I don’t have to live her life. I would constantly reassure myself that no matter what, I will never be a lazy SAHM who spends her entire day cooking, cleaning and changing dirty diapers. However, as I grew older and the first time I locked eyes with my little boy, I turned into a new woman. I had people telling me that your life will change once you ...

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A Rs10 tip on a Rs4,000 bill is an insult, not a favour

Tipping is unique to the food industry. As a doctor, never once did a patient hand me an extra Rs20 note as a thank you for a good knee exam. The reason is that we expect a doctor to receive adequate compensation for his work through the bill alone. It was when I put down my stethoscope and took a hiatus, serving chai to paying customers at my own café, did I develop a greater appreciation for this art. Tipping persists in the food industry because we don’t expect the labour to be paid what they are due. Serving food ...

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Kamran, a soldier eternally

The heavy breathing, bewildered expressions, and tears welling from the eyes of the three people surrounding Kamran saddened him. He didn’t know what to say, how to respond, what reasons to give. After all, he was clueless himself. The silence was silently injuring everyone’s hearts from within. This silence had to be broken, and thus Kamran spoke in the most wavering voice. “Why won’t any of you say anything?  Isn’t it enough for you all that I’m finally here?” No one knew how to answer. Finally, after a long pause, Ammi spoke in an almost inaudible voice. “Yes beta. Of course, we’re ...

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General Elections 2018: Please, don’t be “that” voter!

Brace yourself fellow Pakistanis, for tall claims, big promises, loud slogans and a lot of attention will be given to you as we approach the General Elections 2018. For five years, politicians of various parties have argued, misbehaved and abused each other on national TV to win your vote. Make sure you value that vote! Without further ado, let me be clear where I stand with my vote; it is for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). However, the rant ahead is not an attempt to be PTI’s advocate. I am more concerned about what you vote for rather than whom you vote ...

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Why our mosque culture needs to change: An open letter to Masjid Aunties

Dear Masjid Aunties, It’s common for you to undermine people who don’t meet your religious standards, especially in a place of worship. Converts get pulled out of prayer by the arm for not praying with an abaya. Women are publicly shamed and bashed for not wearing the hijab correctly. If someone doesn’t regularly go to the mosque, they’re looked down upon. It’s sad, but it’s a rampant issue in the women’s section of the masjid (mosque). Informing someone about something advised against is fine, but please, do so respectfully. Women at the mosque judge and gossip amongst themselves. This mentality can be ...

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Married to an “alien”

The threat of extremism appeared on the horizon about a decade and a half ago, plunging Pakistan into a different kind of war. The Armed Forces, until then, had been concerned with tackling and keeping malicious forces in check at the borders, but now they had a new enemy much closer to home. Each bombing and suicide attack has caused us great pain and we have lost thousands to senseless chaos since then. December 16, 2014 seemed just like another nightmare, but this incident had the entire nation in unparalleled shock. I remember the disbelief as I heard reports of terrorist ...

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My birth was an ill-fated ugliness

The kiss from the scorching sun was now a routine, For there was no shelter that could block it from me; Ugliness not just defined my face, As my birth was no less than an ugly fate.   Amidst the chaotic environment, I was trained, And repeatedly told that it was no shame, Because survival on your own is something only the bold can do, And if I resist, then society would crumple me, like a toy of play dough.   The countless tears I hid silently, Were considered useless and unworthy. The smile I gave with a one clap gesture, Had unknowingly become my unique signature.   A thick coat of red ...

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When did I become your favourite punching bag?

Have you ever hoped for silence? Have you waited for minutes, hours and even days for the absence of words, conversation and noise? I find myself here more often than I should. Sitting at my bedside questioning my life and sanity, wondering what path I took that brought me here. A path I question but very well know; the curves and bumps on each and every step. This isn’t a new occurrence, it happens often and every time I tell myself I will soon escape this moment of craving pure silence. I feel like a caged bird, clipped off of her wings and fragile ...

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