Dedicated to Mukhtar Mai

Agony Of A Daughter

Saad Anis

I awaken to a throbbing pain flowing through my battered body. I try to open my eyes, but a sharp twinge reminds me that they are badly swollen, owing to the severe beating that I took yesterday. I try to sit up, but the scathing sting that shoots through my corpse of a body, makes me wince in sheer agony. The mere thought of the day before makes my heart stop momentarily. As I take in the dreary surroundings of the ramshackle hovel to which I have been confined, the ghastly memories of recent events come flooding back. I remember now....

 I am a teenage girl, the youngest daughter of a family that dwells in a conservative village. Like all villages in our society, ours taught us about the gaping inferiority of the female sex, and our subsequent duty to diligently serve the superior male gender. I was obedient from the very beginning, and unquestioningly did what was asked of me. I did not object even when my father arranged my marriage with a man I had never seen before, and would not behold until the day of my wedding. I cried bitterly at night at my flagrant helplessness regarding my own fate, with the shining stars offering little solace. I was overwhelmed with melancholy, but consoled myself with the position that I was fulfilling my obligation towards my parents. Little was I to know that I would incur the menacing wrath of my whole community, by committing the ultimate transgression.

 And then I saw him. I had heard about love from a few outspoken and rebellious women of our village, who had described it as an emotion that fulfills the unquenchable thirst of the soul, yet leaves one craving more. But even the most eloquent of writers could not describe the aching joy that I felt, the passion that I sensed for this stranger at first sight. The feeling was apparently mutual, as he seemed mesmerized by my person as well, and gazed wondrously at me.

 I learned through some discreet inquiries that his name was Ranjha, and he belonged to the neighbouring village. Things progressed rapidly from there on; the first tentative meeting, the secret long walks, the silent understanding, the consuming passion underlying the apparent hesitation, the timid admission of youthful love, brought to me unbounded happiness, such as I had never experienced before. Nevertheless, all during this blissful time, the fear of my family and community, and the torturous foreboding of my coercive wedding remained at the back of my mind. I expressed these inhibitions to him, and we decided to elope, and forever free ourselves of the suppressive shackles of our chauvinistic society.

 However, my worst fears took their ghastly form when we were caught on the night of our daring escape. What followed was a physical and verbal tirade of barbarous abuse. Ranjha was taken away to his village to be “punished for his sin”. I was beaten half to death by my morally righteous father, for casting this irremovable blemish upon his precious “honour”. I was kept in solitary confinement and denied food and water, while my family decided upon their future course of action to “redeem” themselves after my “shameless vice”.

 It was eventually decided that my fate would be determined by the council of village elders. All of a sudden, there was a faint ray of hope for me amidst the bleak circumstances. Surely, these wise men would understand the sanctity of love, and would act to unite me with my beloved to maintain the inviolability of this universal emotion.

 However, their shocking ruling struck me like lightning, and left me dumbfounded. I had, according to them, stained the reputation of my whole village through my sinful promiscuity, and should thus be punished by being publicly deprived of my own honour.

I felt dazed, and the magnitude of the stunning realization hit me with full force only when I discerned a group of men maliciously approaching me. Their eyes exhibited the naked lust which they were about to fulfill. I desperately fought to free myself, but was easily overpowered. My violent screams pierced the encapsulating silence, but fell on deaf ears. A burning ache scorched my whole being whenever I was touched by these vile animals. I could hear my own cries echoing against the environs as one decadent brute after another mounted me, but not a single voice of dissent was raised. A daughter of the village was being rapaciously robbed of her dignity, and the people were blind to it. Even my parents looked on silently as I was hit again and again into submission; providence watched dispassionately as an innocent believer, who had dared to dream of a better life, was repeatedly violated; the gods looked on shamelessly as my clothes were ripped apart, and my esteem flayed. I  kept screaming until my voice was hoarse, as I weakly watched blood oozing down my body, and gathering in a puddle on the ground. My body writhed in naked suffering with each depraved shove. I looked up at the heavens for divine intervention, and then at the spineless cads wordlessly viewing my desecration, my eyes pleading for mercy. I saw their blank, distant stares; it was then that I realized the chilling fact that the flame of ethical conscience no longer burned in their corrupt hearts....

 I remember everything now; the pain, the frustration, the fear and the utter humiliation. As I watch the golden sunlight dimly enter my stifling confines, I realize that I have nothing to live for now. The daylight doesn’t offer hope; it is merely a mirage meant to deceive fools like me; fools who dare to dream, and live to regret it dearly....

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