BENGALURU : When Parveen returned from her in-laws’, Hasan was bolting around like a mad man. ‘I will bite his throat, that bastard,’ he swore at his brother-in-law. It was left to Parveen to pacify him, ‘Leave it bhai, he is a useless fellow.’ Gradually, Parveen became extremely irritated by the rules and regulations that she found she had to subscribe to in Hasan’s house. She was seized by anxiety: how would she and her mother spend the rest of their days living with a man who constantly preached the hadith and ibaddat?
She longed to seal her ears with wax just so she didn’t have to listen to his ceaseless talk. Her childhood home had become at once a mosque and a prison. Advice, advice, unceasing advice to women. the steps one must follow to live a good life, to reach heaven – women were subject to all of it. Compared to Hasan’s home, Parveen felt that even her covetous husband’s house was a better place! When had Hasan adopted this persona? She grew tired of thinking this through - had it all been a Saudi influence?
When she received the polyester saris and the black burqas just like her mother and Mehar, perhaps she should have considered her future more seriously. She was afraid of developing a great hatred towards her brother and her religion because of his constant preaching. After all, she said her prayers five times a day and read the Quran; but the unyielding and antiquated rules her brother insisted upon were entirely unacceptable to her.
Here, Parveen. Allah will grant you great rewards in the afterlife. Forget what is going on in this one. It is nothing. Pray, observe your fasts, increase your ibaddat, do not watch TV, relinquish the vulgarities of life, search for the path to heaven: what do you say to this?
She thought of Mehar and felt great pity for her. How had she put up with him? She realized that his actions and utterances were mixed with the arrogance that comes from being a man. Resolute in her decision not to spend the rest of her life at his mercy she had told her mother, ‘I cannot bear to stay in this house any longer - I feel suffocated!’ Subaida looked at her daughter, a worried expression on her face. ‘Where will you go?’ ‘I will stay with Nanni. She only lives on the next street.’
Subaida could not prevent her. She could not understand the extent to which life in the house was oppressive. When Parveen saw her mother was agitated, she brushed it aside as a sign of the older woman’s rigidity. Her great-aunt Amina had no children, so Parveen moved in with her. Parveen felt unable to attend any village ceremonies or festivities. The women’s sympathetic looks made her life hell. She was offended.
At least the home of her great-aunt felt like a refuge she could claim, and it lacked such tensions. Often, she would wonder how Mehar and Sajida would escape the tyranny of Hasan in the coming days. She thought of their parallel lives time and again.(Extracted from Women Dreaming by Salma, translated from Tamil to English by Meena Kandasamy, with permission from Penguin RandomHouse)