She watched the sun fall behind the horizon, face aglow with the last rays before the twilight beckons the stars. She knew these colors would fade within the gloomy despair of night, a sign of suffering that tomorrow is going to bring. It’s better to suffer alone. She glared at the clouds. Never had she realized how tenuous and feeble they were. Wispy and frail, just like her. As her eyes drifted to rest she could hear the voices hammering her mind: Apnay to Apnay hotay hain

Sana was the only daughter of her parents. Innocent, radiant and perky she made the best of her life. It was then that she met him; ruggedly handsome Aitzaz, her cousin. He was looking for a job in Islamabad and would occasionally dine with her family. He was perfect, good-looking, charismatic, funny and charming. It was not long before she realized that she was hopeless. She had fallen for him. They would now steal a smile during meals and end up having long conversations on mutual interests. Her mother was deeply inspired by the boy and his ambitions. She trusted him with all her heart. Sana took her beloved Mamu into confidence who paved her way and convinced Aitzaz parents that nothing is stronger than blood and both were the right fit for the nuptials. The dream that she used to weave with her dolls was finally coming true. Her prince charming had finally arrived to rescue her and marvel on a journey where love knew no bounds- contemplations of a desperate naïve mind. Seconds seemed minutes and minute’s hours as she anxiously waited for the wedding. She felt like a prisoner in her own house, who is direly envisaging his own release, counting each seconds of his life. To her, everything else lost meaning, her studies, friends, family and even her own brother who had always supported her at every turn. He had been the voice behind her decisions, a loyal and faithful friend. Despite her unconditional love for him she now had to choose one and betray the other. She could not sail on two boats at once. And as the history dictates, the heart always overpowers the brain, and alas! She succumbed to her desires. Not only did she drift away from her loved ones, she completely lost herself in the process. Her juvenile age did not do her any favors as well.  Simultaneously she was going through the phase of her life where she was trying to define her own self socially or psychologically, that every person has to go through once in his life. Guileless and immature, she deceived her own rule to place each and every step carefully.  Her only ambition in life was to spare time for her fiancé. After returning from college, she would desperately finish all her chores with the sole purpose of having a “me time” with him.  Even her father who would proudly declare “yeh mujh se hai, main is se” was a hallucination to her. Although he would steal a moment to feast from her plate every now and then- the only time baba ki jani could enjoy with her dad due to her confinement in a four walled room all day. To summarize she was completely unmindful of her family, the gift exclusively accorded by God. They too felt her drifting into oblivion.

Then the Big day arrived. She was engaged. Mrs. Aitzaz, as she would often fantasize in the future. But then things took a drastic turn and her happiness was plagued. First, her mother in law refused to accept her. Then her future husband showed his true colors. He was not in love with her but the property she harboured- the dual faced back stabber- as Sana would often call him later. “Sugar Bahu” as her mother in law would often put because of her incompetency to cook was an insult only she suffered in silence. These taunts would only melt down on the hope of her bringing a servant in her dowry. Soon her parent’s realized that in the name of blood they have married their daughter into monsters. The matters only got worse as Aitzaz would later deceive her brother for a visa abroad. On top of it, she found evidence of his affairs with other women. Heartbroken and shattered she felt life leaving her body. Assumptions began making their way into her vulnerable and frail mind:

They rejected me because I deserved it. I am a low life who is despicable and abhorred. They’ve discarded me, what’s to stop anyone from doing the same again. I am a burden to the society and shame to my parents.  I do not have the right to live!

In our community the cause behind an estranged marriage is always anticipated as the shortcomings of a woman. “Something must have been wrong with her or she must have several suitors and demeaning character. She must be infertile.”

Sana felt no different. She had thought of dropping out of university because the stress was too much to handle. She was sitting at the cafeteria watching the sunset. The night shift had ended and it was almost abandoned. The darkness it would bring in its wake was too demonic for her. As she closed her eyes to hold back her tears she heard a voice too familiar, comforting her: Do you see those colors! They are symbols, each showing you the good tomorrow could bring. It was one of her classmates who she had confided in, in a time of her distress. He had been a huge support to her and encouraged her to move on with her life. “You have so much to look forward to, your family and friends love you and you have so much potential. I fail to admit you are neglected. No! It is their loss who couldn’t see the kind-hearted and devoted girl eager to sacrifice everything for her future in laws. You have to live your life, not only for your own sake but for the sake of your heart-broken parents.” He would say. She got up and struggle a smile on her face. While walking back to her ride she cast a glimpse at the sunset. The last ray shone upon her face. A beacon of hope in the midst of darkness!

There are thousands of Sana’s in our community who go through the same ordeal every day. Not all of them are privileged to have loving friends, understanding parents and a supportive brother to help them through this obnoxious phase. They become victims to enforced marriages in the name of blood. Their refusal to consent results in physical and/or emotional abuse. They yield to the purported norms of the society but the consequences are excruciating. They would die to uphold your family traditions and name. They would never defame your names fathers- The faults are not in your girls, baba! Please do not take your daughters for granted. Love them as you would love your sons; trust them as you would trust your sons. They deserve nothing less!

Maimoona Shah


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