FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Untie My Hands
Posted:Sep 8, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Khaled Ahmed
 
 
Jyoti Malhotra writing in Pakistani daily The News in 2016 told us how the Shah Bano case in India in 1985 had highlighted the plight of a Muslim wife given “three talaqs” and driven out of her home by her husband. After the Supreme Court of India ruled in her favour, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi got cold feet and passed a law which made three talaqs legal. Now in 2017, the Supreme Court has finally made sure that another woman, Shayara Bano, is not treated the way Shah Bano was and has annulled the “three talaqs” slapped on her.
 
 
Back in 1985, I recall only one Pakistani scholar with guts enough to say in writing that “teen talaq” was not strictly Quranic, but it didn’t register with a population delighted with the “punishment” of Shah Bano. The gender inequality lying at the root of this custom of divorce has since grown and is considered an edict of Islam. In Pakistan, the current crisis for the woman forced to leave her home and study or work is harassment, and violence, if this harassment is protested by her.
 
 
Foreigners who visit Pakistan often don’t get to meet Pakistani women but when they do they become aware of how culturally superior to men they are. In college and university exams, girls get all the top positions since long and there is nothing the male-dominated state can do about it. But the woman as a mother, sister and wife continues to be treated shabbily till she can no longer have any positive influence on her offspring. The quality of Pakistani men has suffered because of the poor quality of life of the Pakistani mother and is growing worse as the ideological state hurtles towards its male-dominated dystopia.
 
 
Oxford University Press Pakistan has celebrated the 70th anniversary of a backward-marching Pakistan by publishing Kicking up Dust, a book by Azra Abbas who did her MA in Urdu before teaching at a college in Karachi. A Shia Muslim, she is married to novelist-poet, Anwer Sen Roy. In 1981, she published her stream-of-consciousness poetry Neend ki Musafatain (Journeys of Sleep)’ which is now translated and presented by Samina Rahman.
 
 
There is pain in Azra Abbas’s unembellished prose-poems: “There is a silent, running battle going on with my mother over her passionate love for my brothers/She visibly showers them with her love. I fret silently as she saves more food for them/Buys more clothes for them, blows on them after saying her prayers to ward off the evil eye/ I try to do all that my brothers do/I play like them and study more than they do/ but her lack of concern for me and my other sisters is evident.
 
 
“I remember one day my brother sleeping on the bed next to mine/I hear my mother say, ‘Look how he sleeps, just like father.’/I wake up as she says these words/I see my brother sleep in the same pose that I had been in but my mother has eyes only for him/That day I lay for a long time in that position/Maybe my mother will notice me sleeping like my father.”
 
 
The most moving scene depicted by Azra Abbas is at the Shia ritual of Majlis where the martyrs of the family of Prophet Muhammad PBUH are remembered. The call is “where is Ali Asghar” in Karbala, and not for any woman in the family: “It is not for the first time that I am hearing sounds of lamentation/I often accompany my mother to these majalis/My mother also reads the tragic verses in her deep, emotion packed voice/But tonight the voice penetrates my sleep/As a dark night descends from a dark sky, it forcibly pushes its way into my consciousness.
 
 
“I gently remove my hand from my mother’s clasp and escape the confines of the side-screens/There is a crush of people making my mother oblivious to everything/People outside are holding large religious banners/Here are lots of people/I am dodging between their legs/A man is holding something in his hand/Weeping as he reads/I start weeping as well/ People are looking at me/There is a group of very young boys holding small banners/They are all off to somewhere/I am surrounded by a circle of sounds/I grab a banner from one of the boys/‘Give it to me’. He is amazed/Someone comes up to me and says. ‘You are a girl/A girl cannot hold an alam (flag)’
 
 
Last message in the poem “Untie my hands”: “Untie my hands before the tumult of judgment day/let me gather my tatters around me/procure sustenance for my children for the last time/and drink from the poison cup/Let my shackles be opened.”
 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Ties between India and Japan are probably at their best ever, Japanese Ambassador to India H.E. Kenji Hiramatsu told India Review & Analysis’ Nilova Roy Chaudhury, as he outlined how the two countries have moved closer. Ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit
 
read-more
India will on September 26 dispatch around 900 tonnes of relief material for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh which is being loaded on to Indian Naval Ship Gharial at Kakinada port in Andhra Pradesh.
 
read-more
That regional cooperation in South Asia is lower than optimal levels is well accepted. It is usually ascribed to – the asymmetry in size between India and the rest, conflicts and historical political tensions, a trust deficit, limited transport connectivity, and onerous logistics, among many other factors.
 
read-more
Reflections on September evoke a host of memories.
 
read-more
  During the budget session of the legislative assembly, the Chief Minister informed the  House about state’s missing children. According to her, as many as 162 children have gone missing in the past three years.
 
read-more
The Communist Party of China (CPC) is expected to amend its constitution at the upcoming national congress.
 
read-more
An atmospheric test by Pyongyang  would ensure that North Korea could become a pariah state for the rest of Kim Jong-Un’s lifetime...However, their technologies in terms of making nuclear and thermonuclear bombs and rocketry that was acquired from late Pakistani scientist A Q Khan network and the Chinese/Soviet sources merit
 
read-more
The apprehension was justified. US President Donald Trump’s disregard for institutions and fondness for reckless rhetoric meant that his maiden appearance at the annual UN General Assembly was a closely watched affair.
 
read-more
It is a privilege to be invited to this most prestigious of law schools in the country, more so for someone not formally lettered in the discipline of law. I thank the Director and the faculty for this honour.
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Column-image

This is the continuing amazing spiritual journey of a Muslim man from Kerala who plunged into Vedic religion after a chance encounter with a Hindu mystic under a jackfruit tree in the backyard of his house when he was just nine. It is a story w...

 
Column-image

History is told by the victors but in our modern age, even contemporary events get - or are given - a slant, where some contributors soon get eclipsed from the narrative or their images tarnished.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive