MINGORA: Sumbal Rehman is a teenage local dancer but the performing art is not her passion. She performs in functions to earn livelihood for her family and buy medicines for her ailing father, brother and sister.
Sumbal, 16, decided to step out of her house and start her career as a dancer when both her father and brother, the bread earners of the family, fell ill. She joined the dancing profession, which is looked down upon in conservative Pakhtun society, to save her family from starvation.
She wears a fake smile to hide her sadness when she performs in functions and wedding ceremonies. “I was the only one in the family to do something for livelihood when my father and brother fell ill,” Sumbal told Dawn.
Being an illiterate girl, she could not find any job in any government or non-governmental organisation. “So I decided to dance in functions to look after my nine-member family and buy medicines for my father and brother,” she said in a choked voice.
Sumbal is lone bread earner of her nine-member family
Ali Rehman, her father, was a cook and had a barber shop in Eingaro Dherai, a suburban area of Mingora. However, he was attacked by paralysis suddenly, leaving the family in a lurch.
But it was not the last tragedy for Sumbal’s family. The mental illness of her brother Farooq, a rickshaw driver by profession, proved the last straw on the camel’s back. The worries of the starving family multiplied when Saima, Sumbal’s elder sister, was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
Sumbal said that she earned enough money from her first function to arrange medicines for her father and take him for a checkup. “Dancing in our society is not a respectable profession but I had no other option as I could not see my family dying in front of me. No girl prefers to dance in front of strangers but poverty compels her to do so,” said Sumbal. She added that she glamorised functions of other people with her dance but her own world was withered with grief.
Sumbal said she would leave dancing if arrangements were made for the treatment of her father, brother and sister. Her family lives in a two-room rented house, which does not have any toilet and kitchen.
Ali Rehman said he had never thought that he would become so poor that his daughter would go out to dance for livelihood.
“When I earned I ran the affairs of home and we all were happy. But everything changed after I fell ill. After long discussions, she convinced the entire family to allow her to dance for livelihood. It is really a pathetic condition. God save every father from this bitter experience,” he said with tears rolling down his cheeks.
Husan Pari, Sumbal’s mother, is also not happy with the profession of her daughter. “Presently, our neighbours do not know about Sumbal’s dance. I do not know what they will think and say when they come to know,” she said.
Husan Pari said that she put a huge burden on her heart to allow her daughter to go out and attend functions as a dancer. “What can we do as the male bread earners of the family are ill,” she questioned. Sumbal and her family appealed to the government and philanthropists to help them in treatment of the three patients and save them from more miseries.
Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2015