Illustration by Sarah Durrani
Illustration by Sarah Durrani

Yesterday, Razia, my clatter box maalish waali came and, as usual, while she was needing my flesh, she was eating my head with bore sagas about her family. Lying flat on my face on my yoga mat with her thumping my back, I don’t have much choice, na.

When she first started coming six years ago, I asked her how many kids she had, she said only one and sighed and dabbed at her eyes and said who was she to question His decisions. Her son’s called Osama (named after guess who?) and he’s 19 and such a hard working boy — I should see how nicely he feeds and looks after his racing pigeons — but that his kismet was bad and he’d failed in his Matric exams because only those questions had come that even his angels had never seen before and, okay, he was more happy flying his pigeons than studying his books, but boys had to have their fun, no?

I asked her what he wants to do now, and she said he wants to be a Customs officer and look after his mother and father as Allah Almighty has instructed all obedient sons to do. I asked her how he will become Customs officer if he’s only ninth pass, and she looked at me like Kulchoo’s labradog looks at his lunch and said Allah will provide a vaseela.

Luckily my session finished just then and I quickly counted out her money and jaan chhurhaoed without becoming a vaseela.

Regressive attitudes bring out the feminist in Lady Butterfly

So main tau straight away shock mein chali gayi when, three visits later, she started talking about her daughter who was married to her cousin brother. I raised my head to look at her but she slammed her hand on the back of my skull and pushed me down. 

With my face pressed into the mattress, I said, “Didn’t you say you had one child only?”  

“I do,” she said. “Why should I lie?”

“But what about the daughter?”

“Girls don’t count,” she said. “They are other people’s property.” 

Turns out, she has two daughters. Older one came top in Matric with full marks in science and wanted to be a farmacyst but, when she was 16, they married her off to her chacha’s son who’s a maulvi, and she’s now had her sixth daughter, and the maulvi’s son has put her in a burka and keeps threatening to marry again unless she gives a boy. So, poor thing, every winters a new baby girl arrives in her home, like smog does in ours. And also, she’s very weak and tired.

Second daughter is a junior countant in a catering business and making nice celery, but Razia wants her to leave her job because she’s engaged to her phuppi ka beta who was a security wallah in a school, who got sacked for saying hello hi to the women cleaners when they went in and out, and one day they went and complained to the principal who is like plastic scene in the hands of those witches, so she sent him backing the very same day, and so now he’s jobless.

Razia says the cleaners sarrhoed from him because he’s so handsome and never took any notice of them and so they acted out of saarrh and that he’s bilkul bay kasoor. The principal, it turns out, is Jonkers’ cousin from his father’s side, so I asked her and she said he used to feel up the women, and because she’s Me Too she couldn’t allow.

Anyways, the jobless phuppi ka beta says he doesn’t want his future wife to work in an office where men come to stare at her and also she goes to work on a motorcycle she bought herself and he says that shareef girls don’t misbehave like that and, if the girl doesn’t leave her job and give him her bike then he will break the engagement.

Razia says she can’t let the engagement break because everyone will think the girl was too chaaloo and it will bring shame on Razia’s husband and Osama — men feel more shame than women na, because they have more pride and more status and more self steam — and no one will marry her and then what will become of her? 

I told her then she will be a girl with an office job and a motorbike and she will make good celery and wear nice clothes instead of a bloody burka and eat good food and be healthy and not have a useless bossy husband who makes her have 17 children and look 74 when she is 24.

“And,” I sunaaoed her, “she will also look after you, Razia, and your precious Osama, not that either of you deserve it. Haan!”

The writer is a columnist and a satirist and has published six books previously, including the bestselling Social Butterfly series.
X: @Moni_butterfly

Published in Dawn, EOS, November 19th, 2023

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