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    The Lily

    We all wear black, here, most of the time.

    I often ask my mother and my six other sisters that, why when we go out, which is once in a blue moon, we can only see each other’s eyes.

    Whereas I see them with big beards laughing out loud, playing games, driving big cars, singing, going to the mosque. My mother tells me that our god, our almighty is present everywhere, he loves all of us and that he wishes the best for all of us, he alone is our true father, but I condemn her words. Everyone in my village, they all say the same thing about our god, but it’s been ten days to hearing no gunshots and it’s the second day to seeing myself in the open skies, out of the small dingy dark room, where they had retained us in chains. We were sixteen living there for 49 days.

    I developed rashes all over my skin, it used to pain a lot down there. They say it’s a jihad; also, that sacrifices must be made but jihad against who? Your own people? And here I am considering we believe in the same god. 

    Rabia, the oldest woman in our village, tirelessly asserted that there is only one God, we may take different names. She was always smiling, loving, and she often used to treat us with hummus and falafel. Maybe she was lucky. Maybe she was never captured and enslaved, or she never had to feel rough hands on her bosoms. Maybe she never got slapped by a fourteen-year-old boy in the presence of older men who were laughing at his brute actions.

    Numbers 723, 724 had their hands tied with mine. It was difficult to even scratch our heads. We never talked to each other for more than 50 seconds as it would pain us a lot. We had developed non-verbal communication that was full of agony, pain, disgust, desperation, and all of it leading to numbness. One could hardly get some light in through the bolted windows and doors. Darkness had made our red chubby cheeks completely pale. We were accustomed to hearing loud gun shots and the clamour of bloodshed and abuse. They say that when you go to heaven after fighting a holy war, Allah bestows 72 virgins upon you. Where is this holy war? Who has gone to heaven? Is my Allah so small and cruel that he likes bloodshed and disparity of his own souls? What then makes men ridicule the almighty and sin against their own kinds?  So many of us have lost our lives and dignity to these self-proclaimed heart-wrenching demigods.

    I wanted to believe in Rabia’s words that no action of ours goes unnoticed in the eyes of Allah until our bodies became a vestibule to extortion. Anyone at this hour could come and do anything to us. My spine drooped due to lack of space and long hours in the same position. Our bodies had started smelling and they would throw cold water on us in lieu of bath. The food was half cooked. Our count got reduced by 8. I heard that one was sold in the slave market for a lot of money. Unsure of her name but her number was 786. Well, isn’t that considered a pious number? Aah! I am sorry. I just seemed to visualize her innocent virgin shade across many of us.

    I was number 725, played with two to three times in a day. My vagina had become an open passage and my breasts used to ache so much that I had got used to succumb to that trauma. I was just a body with no soul. At least how they took and treated me. Wish I could slit their throats. Undeniably forced to laugh and make pleasurable sounds, I would ask them for how long?  And when one needs to only bleed and cry? Brutal, they would shy away from this question. But I knew that the truth has a strange power. I was aware of my suffering. I don’t know much about America. All I know that things were bad when they came and now it is worse. Peace seems to be like rainfall in this desert.  I used to miss my mother a lot. She wanted me to be a doctor or at least a nurse and heal the wounds of people. I don’t know whether I would be able to fulfil her dreams.

    As that of Number 723 who never woke up from her sleep one morning. The little princess had left her body. Seven of us were left in this hell. It was the most horrible start to the morning. Gunshots were extremely close and loud. Bullets pierced through our door making holes. There was more light that seeped in. When I looked towards those holes, I smiled. I felt as it were a signal sent for us, amidst this crossfire, a ray of hope to escape this hell. Ahmed, the man who forced himself on to me, became a host of bullets right in front of my eyes. I could see him howling through the holes of the door. And there were Rabia’s words echoing in my ears again. Just like an infant I am trying to get used to the life again. Well, the only difference is that I neither have any excitement nor any curiosity. I don’t indeed feel love the way I was habituated to. It’s a new world or perhaps a path of endless uncertainties.

    When I face the sun in this desert. I do not feel hot or burned. I have become too cold from within. The pores of my skin, my tired eyes, my crouched back have grown older than anyone could imagine. I am trying to sense the older me. They used to call me “Zanbaq alqarya”, that means “Lily of the Village.” My sister and her husband left for England many years ago. I was supposed to shift and study. She tells me that girls wear jeans and can do a lot of things that men do. It sounds an illusion to me, a fantasy. At times I feel that even dreaming what exists in the other world would be rebuked as sin. Well, she has a daughter who goes for swimming and plays with both genders. I am happy but jealous too.

    It is the twelfth day today. I have started feeling the warmth of the sun. My body is recovering from the nasty memories and injuries. Duration of sleep in the night has increased by half an hour. But I still dream of going to England or perhaps just be… as I were a butterfly in the garden. My mind splits between two worlds. On one hand is the sacrifice that our god took from me and on the other is the fact that I am still alive. Again, on one hand is whether the lily should just carry on losing all its beauty in the eyes of its admirers or whether the lily should be a part of a larger valley of flowers and belong somewhere which in heart it knows it deserves.

    They all say that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But I have seen light piercing through the holes of bolted doors. I have seen light in men who are afraid of light themselves and light in my darkest hour of truth. I have seen light in the girls who were chained with me, raped, day in and day out. And the light that burned and cut their souls.

    I truly hope and pray that I bathe in this ocean of light and heal myself. My existence reminds me of my mother wanting me to be a nurse. Can’t help. I, today, choose to heal my world, my body, and my thoughts. All of us will rise in our true potential one day. When our god would see me regardless of the judgment day, I know I will smile as widely as a child. I think I perhaps know Rabia’s secret of happiness. It is her truth and oneness, the depth of her love that is as deep as the entire universe.

    When I look back, the world seems covered with illusions of cruelty, power, greed, and control. When I look ahead, I see…I see her face and in that, the light of God!

     

    Oh Rabia! Mark me with this light that lives in you, and I shall blossom again.

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    Authors: Rukmani Monga & Pranav Brara

    Author Bio:

    Rukmani Monga – a Research Scholar at Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women’s Studies (SNCWS), Jamia Millia Islamia entails a good understanding of gender issues; gender-related policies and feminist approach to development, discrimination, and exclusion. Her M.A. Dissertation titled, “Access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Facilities: A Gendered Analysis of MCD Schools in Okhla (South Delhi)” supervised under Dr. Suraiya Tabassum, was well-appreciated with Grade “A”. She has secured the “First-Rank” in the M.Phil. Entrance Exam for Women’s Studies conducted at SNCWS, 2019. Her areas of interest include Feminism; Feminist Theory and Practices; Feminism and Indian Politics; Women Movements; Gender, and Politics; Dalit Women; Minority Women; Muslim Women; Identity Politics.

    Pranav Brara is an actor, screenwriter and filmmaker. He started his journey with theatre and has written and performed in more than 50 plays. His creative process lies in the deep understanding and observation of human behaviour. He has worked with Dadi Pudumjee, Khalid tyabji, Naseeruddin Shah, Tina Johnson , Seema Rahmani and Dilip Shankar.  

Comments

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    shubha says (Dec 5, 2021):

    this is quite heart and soul trenching. couldn't stop my tears, while reading with the emotions full of sorrow, miserability, yet, the light of hope and belonging.

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    Shiv says (Dec 5, 2021):

    Very touchy and it's another common story of poor, oppressed women

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