Author: Salmah Ahmed

I am an accountant by profession, I completed my ACCA (as a challenge as I was horrible in Maths)) and by default have always landed finance jobs. My real love though has always been something else. Being a Pakistani girl, my desi parents wouldn't have me study for a degree in English Literature or something art oriented. I was required to be practical and choose some professional field of study. However, I have always loved to write, doesn't matter about what, it's my favourite 'escape' place-my secret garden. I have always typed these short pieces secretly, on my laptop, knowing they would never be seen by a living person and feeling safe in that knowledge. Recently, however my dearest friend encouraged me to start a blog because I would write and bore her with these long novel like emails. I have also recently become a mother to a beautiful baby girl and it has been a wonderful, crazy and blessed experience.

Why and how Pakistani women use humour.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

Everything, and if not everything, then most things, are out of your fragile control.

Have you ever felt the itch to speak in a crowded room?

No, not the way you normally speak i.e. apologetic, appeasing, unsure, after a thorough spell, grammar and societal approval check in your head and each sentence dressed in piety and purity.

But the way men do, with gravity and bravado, wanting and expecting your crude word to be taken seriously, reflected on for its depth and width with sage little nods following its limp wake, even on an inane remark like the season’s mangoes weren’t ripe enough.

But you hold your peace, to keep the peace.

Have you ever felt like-screaming out loud, crying out loud, swearing out loud, whacking some misogynistic ass with a blunt or sharp object near you?

BUT.

You stayed mute, kept yourself very still, sipped some scalding tea to cool your fraught nerves. And when you were able to control those wild impulses bubbling just beneath the surface of your fevered skin, went about your daily chores with a strained smile.  

The problem is we have glorified patience to such an extent that it’s become synonymous with certain people. Like womanhood.

Of course we’re allowed to speak bitter truths, it’s a sort of democracy, isn’t it? If the state knows what that means. We’re only allowed to speak them in the garb of digestible humour, with wit and winsomeness, with entertaining coquettishness, with sidelong, intoxicating, winged-eyeliner glances, so we don’t upset the precarious power balance of the sexes, even if the audience is our own sex.

Humour for us isn’t a choice, a diversion or entertainment, it’s a defence mechanism, a shield to fend off attacks and a makeshift weapon, the kind gorilla warriors use with creative flair to attack organised armies, like burning tyres and sharp disc plates.

You can tell yourselves, instead of crying in the shower, that you spoke up. You don’t have to lie awake in your bed staring up at the colossal darkness gathering up on your side of the ceiling, you can tell that darkness to scoot, find a different room and another lonely, suppressed woman, because you spoke up.  

Writer’s Block

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

This – right -here – is – bliss.

Fingers flying over the keyboard, barely touching, caressing it like a beloved, sacred tool. Jumbled thoughts unfurling like a discarded yarn of wool. Tongue-tied, lost, dead me finding regeneration. That feeling of letting out, pouring of soul into the cup of nirvana. Discovering what being alive means and still tasting divinity. Finally finding a channel, that winding rocky pathway to self.

What is writing to some of us? Clue: it’s not just a hobby. It runs it’s tendrils deep into your core, it soaks you up like being drenched by a waterfall. Like a tear, a hearty laugh, a passionate kiss, great sex, you feel it in all your being, not just the point of contact.

Yet, you lose it – occasionally, predictably. You get caught up in the daily grind, that robotic, sensible, selfless life you’ve convinced yourself is what adults do. The gift gets the hint, it lets you be, understanding, respecting your needs. Or it feels ignored and sulks like a lover taking offence. You have to coax it back, by sweet words, by candles and coddling, by odes. Is this what we’re doing, paying platitudes to the miffed gift? Convincing it how much it means to us? Surely, it knows. Something that is the essence of your soul knows how much it means to you.

Or is it working a mystery beyond us? To shower it’s presence sparingly so we can cope, we aren’t blinded by it, or drowned inside of it. Is it working to protect us from our own destructive tendencies? Isn’t that reducing it to a hit, a cocaine shot? Destructive in large doses, and offering enlightening, ecstatic insights in intermittent hits. Being in love, being high, or being creative is like playing the cat and mouse game. The cat and mouse are interchangeable, we chase or we’re chased, we kill or we’re killed.  

 The gift, the bliss, watches, that all-knowing, slanting gaze from afar, a smirk on it’s perfect chiselled features, mocking, it’s form like a sleek goddess, gold skin glistening, tempting –just out of reach.

Book review-Against the Loveless world.

This novel caught me unprepared, in all my ignorance of Palestinian literature, dragged me along in a lashing current and threw me in an exhilarating yet dangerous waterfall of great magnitude and force. At the end of it, I revelled in the calm ripples of hope. It is befitting it ends with ‘Joy’, where love wins because the journey starts with loss of innocence and desperation. There is so much to say about this novel, yet I feel possessive of my thoughts. When a novel changes a part of you, it becomes personal and you don’t want to share it with the world. But this novel must be spoken about, as it’s not only a powerful feat of literature but also a very relevant, important novel.

A few pages in and I was awestruck by what Abulhawa herself admires in the writing of Baldwin and Kanafani. ‘They wrote with the same passion, the same irreverence and defiance; with overlapping wounds and bottomless love for their people.’ And so does she. Never once does she waver, backtrack, pander and justify. I won’t compliment her writing as ‘unapologetic’ (as I’ve seen one interviewer mention), because writing shouldn’t be apologetic in the first place!

Abulhawa delivers with compelling honesty a crystal clear perspective of the Palestinian people, their torment and humiliation at the displacement enforced on them by Israeli Zionists, their pride in and love for their homeland and heritage,  the compromises they’re forced to make in countries that never own them up, their unbeatable spirit and heroic fight for their stolen land at the great risk of losing their life, possessions and loved ones. It demonstrates how our ancestral land knits the fabric of our identity and that link can never be broken no matter where we re-locate. It demonstrates the power of sustained resistance to oppression. You lose when you quit, or as Baldwin states- “You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger.”

The protagonist-Nahr, is subjected to every imaginable torture, abandoned as a young wife, she has to resort to prostitution to ensure a secure future for her family, is physically and sexually assaulted multiple times, is imprisoned and tortured for sixteen years yet instead of feeling sorry for her, I can only admire her. What’s inspiring about her is her defiance and strength of character to rebel, laugh, dance, and love in the face of the storms tearing her world apart. In one scene she sings in an Israeli courtroom during her trial to show her disregard for Israeli authority.

What protects us against the loveless world, or what will protect us, from a world that demonises people they label ‘disposable’, is unity. We might be prosecuted, short-changed, de-humanized, but if we honour and love each other -we can fight that world.

The narrative doesn’t associate ‘shame’ with torture that is designed to humiliate. Instead, the scars are recognised as medals of survival and courage. It exposes the superficial concept of honour and these lines are too bad-ass not to be quoted. “We are not all blessed to receive a good education and inherit what it takes to live with some dignity. To exist on your own land, in the bosom of your family and your history. To know where you belong in the world and what you’re fighting for. To have some goddamn value…some of us, Madam Honor, end up with little choice but to Fuck. For. Money.”

And – “What’s truly revolutionary in this world is to relinquish the belief that you have a right to an opinion about who another person chooses to fuck and why.”

One thing that I didn’t understand or agree with was the lovability of Um Baraq (Nahr’s procurer for sex trade and close friend). Nahr forgives her easily and loves her like a sister, even though she is responsible for some of the worst experiences of her life, tricking her into inebriation and prostitution in the first place, blackmailing her back into prostitution with compromising pictures and sending her to an event where she’s absent while Nahr gets gang-raped and almost killed. She also bails her out of trouble time and again, but for me, that did not tip the scales in her favour. By the end of the novel, I couldn’t love her as Nahr does.

In her cube prison, Nahr retains her characteristic defiance, she dances, writes and sings but doesn’t break or bend, and shows us how true heroes never give up in the fight against injustice- no matter how powerful the enemy might be or how long the fight may last.

I’ll end with these two quotes.

“I allow myself to imagine that the dignities of home and freedom might be the purview of the wretched of this earth.”

“……the state will always find a way to imprison those who are truly free, who do not accept social, economic, or political chains.”

400 men to 1 woman. How are the stats looking now? Does this look minuscule?

Every single time, I try to focus on the positives this happens. A new barbarity.

I feel ashamed, sick and terrified. I proudly proclaimed on Independence Day that good people outnumber the bad in Pakistan. But 400 men groped and assaulted a single young girl for hours. How’s that for a ratio? How is that for outnumbering?

Her fault? She was trying to celebrate Independence day at a national monument in Lahore, making a video, trying to feel proud of her country. She didn’t know that women have nothing to celebrate. They were never free. They never gained independence.

I want to feel good about my land. But I say this sitting in London, where I can be part of any crowd, walk down any street, without being treated like the victim in Manto’s thanda gosht.

I have never been to Minaar e Pakistan, or any concert or even a mall unescorted. I wasn’t allowed by my father, because probably he knew what happens there and he wanted to protect me. Not because he was conservative, but because he was scared. But you know what happens when you hide women from animal like men? This is what happens.

Does every woman now need police escort services to step out of her house? How can their brothers/fathers fight 400 men? Today this crowd had the guts to toss around a woman like a rag doll in a public place, tomorrow they will scale the walls of your house to get to your women.

Women can keep wailing and shouting for change, its not going to make a dent in a patriarchal society. It’s time for men to wake up from whatever denial they’re all living in like Amir khan’s character in three idiots. All is not well. Media is not making it bigger than it is. I think even the media is shocked at the scale and barbarity of this violence.

It’s time men start a mass protest. Start it now, before every woman runs out of the country, if she’s able to.

Image from google -not my credit.

Did you know this about Pakistan?

-We’re big foodies. It’s our entertainment. You get the most tastiest food, even in the most cheapest places. More money won’t fetch you more quality for once! Biryani and mangoes are legitimate bribes.

– We’re dead serious about our hospitality. If you happen to be our guest, you don’t have to pay for a single item of your spend. And we will protect you with our life.

– We’re intensely loyal to our family and friends and sometimes even our bosses at work. We will go to any extent, even to our own detriment, to stand by them.

-Sufism and spiritualism are an important part of our culture.

-We like Indians. Because -relatability. Many positive and negative cultural practices/mindsets are literally the same.

-We are crazy about cricket, we design our own dresses, we get offended if a shop keeper doesn’t at least pretend to bargain with us, we love rain, we love chai, we love to sing, we believe in miracles and prayers, we fall in love easily.

This place I call home.

This place I call home. Home is where the heart is. Or that’s what’s they say. I feel it’s more intense, home is where your soul is. Your body may roam the world, but your soul stays stuck, locked in your homeland. It’s triumphs make you smile, it’s achievements make you proud but when it hurts, you hurt, when it cries, you cry, when it breaks and burns, a part of you shatters. You try and fix those problems that they say are too big for you, too complex, too old, too rooted in the land like mountains, yet you try, you stand with the weak, you speak up, you fight, you do anything you think you should or can to save that small part of the world that you can call your own, from rot and decay -to protect, to cherish and love.

This land which survives, from a short changed beginning, to a crossfire and clash of Titans in between, to various misguided and corrupt leaders, Pakistan is resilient, regenerative and has shown a constant history of rebelling against evil in any form, be it political, radical, criminal, or cultural. We’re assaulted by it and sometimes overwhelmed, but we don’t give in, good people outnumber the bad and are constantly fighting for change, rejecting nonsense that is passed on as the ‘right’ or the ‘only’ way. Even if it’s fed into our system, like poison, our body vomits it out. Our rebellion comes from the side that is extremely empathetic, hospitable, welcoming and spiritual.

Our ethos directs us to co-exist in peace. We yearn for order, justice and discipline that we’ve seldom been blessed with, and look for in various nooks, corners, texts and promises. But what really keeps the country thriving is the will and motivation of the common Pakistanis trying to protect, provide and care for their home and family.

Some ‘Patriots’ of mine and other countries, near and far, concern themselves with beating their respective drum of praise, hiding their evil, and only letting the good come out in the news, but beyond the image building gimmicks, every single country has its fair share of evil.

Let’s face and defeat that together.

Let’s free ourselves of prejudice, hate and violence.

Let’s ensure life with autonomy and dignity of every individual, irrespective of birth, class, religion, race, or borders.

Let’s give precedence to the only thing that matters -peace and love.

Happy Independence Day! 14.08.2021

Intellectual honesty and independence

I have never been popular, in school or later on in life, because I hate fitting into a hierarchical system of popularity. I abhor sycophancy. I cannot agree with someone for the sake of it,  just because they’re my friend, family or managers at work. I thought I would grow out of this social awkwardness and rigidity, but I find with time, I care less about the superficial opinion of others. I cannot in all intellectual honesty, applaud people when there is nothing to applaud. I find it hard to fake my passions and emotions. It’s a weakness, because a few white lies are necessary for survival and success, especially in Pakistan.

Pakistanis are a clannish lot. We hold loyalty dearer than honesty. We naturally fall into groups, alliances and fit ourselves into the most accessible and relatable herd. This means that we find ourselves in any scenario being the mindless sheep following a symbolic leader/mentor we admire and looking to them for cues on how to act or even think in a socially acceptable manner. Even in intellectual platforms, in classrooms, or in social situations, I’ve seen people holding back their opinion until the informal mentor or leader has spoken. We go to great lengths to prove our loyalty to our clan or group. We gush easily and agree easily. We find it hard to disagree or think independently and unapologetically. If we don’t toe the line we are shunned as the ‘ones who don’t fit in’.  I understand that we are tempted to agree with people we like or admire, return favours and cheer on our friends. There is an expectation to do so if you’re a ‘friend’, but such a process seems much like a barter transaction, exchanging favours, praise and acceptance.

Shouldn’t intellectual independence be valued? Shouldn’t debate and opposing ideas in the realms of courtesy and barring personal attacks be encouraged? There is nothing wrong with disagreement, how else are we to learn from ideas radically different from our own?

Anyway, this is just me thinking…in my isolated bubble.

Dard jab dil mein ho tou dawa kijiey,

Dil hi jab dard ho tou kya kijiey?

Ghalib.

Why it’s important to call out internalised misogyny as much as we like to call out misogyny!

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

“Customary laws differ considerably among the different regions and ethnicities of Pakistan. …..Everywhere, however, the basic unit is the same, just as it is in Pakistani rural and to a lesser extent urban societies: the ‘patriarchal’ extended family: ‘patriarchal’, though as innumerable Pakistani and Indian daughters-in-law are bitterly aware, behind the patriarchal façade, the grey eminence, the greatest tyrant and the most ruthless enforcer of custom in these families is quite often the senior female.”

Lieven, Anatol. Pakistan: A Hard Country.

I do not agree with Lieven, as there is no patriarchal ‘façade’ here. It exists, and is real, but he makes a valid point about the enforcers of custom being the senior females in any household. Women who have been prosecuted under tyrannical patriarchy and have lived with misogyny their whole lives, learn to imbibe and internalise it to the extent that they themselves become tyrants in their household, long after the patriarch is gone. They maintain the order of patriarchy as they know no other world where women can exist. Should a woman projecting the same narrative be pitied, shielded and not be censured at all? What is the alternative of not calling out such women?

We know of many mothers who shame their sons for not being ‘honourable’ when their daughters engage in free will. We know of many mother in laws, who make their daughter in law’s life hell simply for their existence in their sons life, as they have gone through a similar pattern of abuse. Such older women, having never challenged the status quo, never fought for their own rights and the rights of their daughters and daughters in law, have achieved an exalted status within patriarchy that they are proud of. They reap the rewards of upholding cherished misogynistic customs. They do not deserve brownie points, validation, praise or pity for maintaining the status quo. In fact, it would be dangerous to not speak out against that narrative, which coming out from a woman’s mouth is just as toxic as coming out from a man’s mouth, because if that narrative is not challenged or questioned, it would become an acceptable stance where many women who live day to day with the same ideals enforced in their psyche, would turn their heads down and continue accepting that as the norm.

Women have fought to create safe online spaces for themselves where they can post, question ideas, seek help (mostly anonymously), and learn from new points of view. The ideas in these platforms could be revolutionary for them and help them understand the injustice of their daily lives. If a narrative that has been enforced on them since childhood is then questioned and debated, it might make an impact on their mind and rouse them to think, stand up and revolt. There is no courage, no glory, in keeping the blinders on and cribbing in hushed voices about the evil patriarchs, but never doing anything about it. But what they can change is themselves and thereby change the narrative for their daughters and hopefully their sons. Alternatively, in every culture, there are unethical opportunists, who use the existing system to their own benefit while being hypocrites at the same time. These opportunists, are not victims of the system, they play the system, for their own selfish agendas while leaving behind a chain of damage and not caring two cents about it.

Moreover, the smug misogynists who watch silently from the side-lines are not going to change, because it doesn’t suit them to do so. You can critique and call them out till the cows come home, but would they even lend an ear to beings they consider far inferior to themselves and their intellectual superiority? Mostly they won’t even bother getting into a debate, they will give you a few vile abuses and move on to their comfort zones.

Abuse, and the propagation of it, by either a man or a woman is just as reprehensible and worth being condemned. If we are quick to call out misogyny, we should condemn internalised misogyny as well which is really a shield to it. We need to smash the shield to get at what’s behind it. A man could be a smart puppeteer by not speaking up himself, and letting a woman do his dirty job, but how can we pin him down for not doing or saying anything? How can we exempt an adult of their abusive opinions and actions? Provocation and expectation by someone else, and hundred other social factors could tempt us to commit a crime, but at the end of the day, the person who commits a crime must be held accountable for it.

If women face injustice, women must unite, stand up against it and change their mindsets. There is power in numbers. Unified voices make a difference. Patriarchy isn’t going to give women their rights on a silver platter at a few disjointed voices calling them out, unless women stand tall together, support one another as a coherent group and fight for them. If women are never questioned or censured for their dogmatic, regressive views, thereby imposing on them the urgent need to re-evaluate, think and change, and instead are ignored and pitied for the abuse they propagate, things will go back to square one and the cycle of abuse will continue unhindered. A culture of change needs to be set in motion now. That will only happen, if those deeply affected by it -women, change themselves and fight. Even if we aren’t as ‘privileged’, ‘empowered’ or ‘enlightened’ as we perceive ourselves to be, we can still bring about change. A single voice matters. A single act of defiance matters.

Why it’s imperative for privileged women to speak up, and why privileged men need to listen.

For most of my life I was mute. I didn’t think much about things that didn’t concern me directly. It was a selfish and happy state of being. News depicting the worsening state of the world didn’t interest me because it was grim. I didn’t have much of a voice or an opinion. I did what I was told to do. I faced moderate discrimination and harassment as a girl child and a young Pakistani woman, but I was expected to internalise it and not speak about it. The expectation wasn’t vocal, but it was very loud. Something that isn’t voiced or acknowledged becomes a greater problem because it’s repressed or suppressed and comes out in the form anxiety, depression or even suicidal tendencies. Luckily for me, if I came across a few bad men, I was surrounded by a lot of good men as well who shielded, respected and loved me.

So, why as a privileged Pakistani woman, am I raising my voice, making posts condemning violence against women? What’s my problem? But you see, even though I didn’t face the severest form of abuse, I saw it happen around me, very close to home. I knew of and in some occasions was witness to domestic abuse, sexual abuse and assault happen to my family and friends. But the concept of doing something about it, speaking out, seeking justice was an unheard of thing. So I lent a shoulder, cried with them and moved on with my life.  On very rare occasions, I took a stand and stood up to a bully, but when I did, it made a massive difference to tip the scales in the favour of the oppressed. Does one voice matter? Does a single act or word of support and kindness make a splash in the big pool of injustice. Yes, it does.

Parvin Shakir expresses it well:

Zulm sehna bhi tou zaalim ki himayat therha,

Khamoshi bhi tou hui pusht panahi ki tarha.

I don’t have much of a ‘following’ so I know what I say isn’t going to reach many people. So why speak at all? Because, if I don’t, I would be going to my grave marching like an ant lifting a morsel over its head. My concerns would be self-centred and petty. Maybe, just maybe, I can change someone’s toxic viewpoint and support some oppressed soul who has almost lost hope. Now, a person who has a massive following, a large audience watching their actions and words has a bigger social responsibility to act in an ethical and moral fashion, because they influence many people. In a recent interview Sadaf Kanwal, a privileged Pakistani model and dancer, who enjoys the absolute benefits of free will and choice, propagated the exact opposite for other women, while not following her own dogmatic views. Can we afford to be hypocritical in a country which has seen a recent spike in femicide, where a man killed a woman for serving him cold food? It’s not only irresponsible but dangerous.

Now, when such issues are voiced it’s an uncomfortable read for men. I get that. You don’t want to be painted ‘villains’ by women of your country. But one thing needs to be understood, that we aren’t talking about the good guys. You can keep the superman cape on and flex your biceps with abandon. No need to get threatened. When women make such posts in support of their gender, they are not addressing the men in their lives who have loved, supported and respected them. I am blessed to have known and met many good, decent men as my family and friends. The rage in these posts are directed at the killers, rapists, beaters, bullies and harassers. Unless you are one of them, you can sit back and relax. The post is not for you. Just as you like to take up the cause of the Kashmiris and Palestinians, and call out the oppression, violence and injustices they’re facing, we women, are concerned with the very real, close to home threat upon our person and want to raise our voices against the oppression happening to our gender because unfortunately we all know of a victim and her story. Standing up against cruelty, in any form and anywhere, is still known as bravery. In fact, starting from your own home is considered the better practice. Islam encourages you to speak up against the oppressor, without being biased about it.

But some Pakistani men fluctuate between a state of denial and aggression to crush this outspokenness they’re somehow threatened by.

Their counter arguments that have come to my notice are below with my responses. Again why am I bothering? Hegel advises us to listen to ideas you dislike as there might be ‘some sliver of sense and reason’ contained within ‘otherwise frightening or foreign phenomena’. Hence such contradictory ideas need to be heard, dissected and thought through. For the same reason, it is also imperative that privileged men listen, think and then choose to imbibe if they agree.

  1. Comparative analysis: You start quoting stats on how in A, B or C countries crimes of sexual and domestic violence are way more than in Pakistan. Sure, that could very well be true, although Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country for women. I’ve lived in the UK- violence against women, toxic masculinity, patriarchy, discrimination and racism all exist here. But shouldn’t our concern be to keep our own house in order? To fix our country, and let A, B and C country fix their own issues? What would this comparative analysis do for us, make us feel good about ourselves, lull us into thinking things aren’t that bad? Do you also realise in Pakistan how many such crimes go unreported due to the honour code of victims’ families and the culture of shaming and silencing. If those were added, how would the stats look? Would the legal system, which is already hostile, corrupt and tipped in favour of the powerful, be able to cope with it?
  • Whataboutism: Under a post discussing violence against women, you talk about how men also suffer gravely and how their depression and suicide issues outnumber women. This is called whataboutism. Men’s mental health is a grave issue in its own right and absolutely needs addressing. Maybe if we took mental health seriously in Pakistan, and there were free facilities provided by the government to such men, these crimes of aggression could see a massive reduction. Women can only benefit if men around them are mentally sound, so it’s in our favour that men seek help, they open up about the struggles they face, they embrace being vulnerable, not feel as if the burden of the entire house rests on their shoulders and they cannot ever show emotional weakness. The culture of toxic masculinity needs to be crushed from childhood, by parents and in schools which would only ease the pressure on men. However, when someone talks about their problem, you do not come up with a counter problem to gaslight that person. If this issue concerns men, they need to talk about it in a separate post, campaign for it and own up to it, but do not bring it up in a post already discussing another problem.
  • Silencing: You talk about why each sexual crime is made into a hashtag and why such hashtags aren’t created for men’s suffering by the media. You have access to media at the touch of a button and normally mainstream media is controlled by men, so please by all means, create your own hashtags, and women will support you because as I said above women can only benefit if we have mentally sound men around us. When a hashtag is created, media attention is directed to that crime, by asking why media attention is given to a single crime is akin to silencing the victim or her family. They have every right to speak up and ask for justice. It doesn’t matter if it’s an individual or a group of victims. An individual victim doesn’t become any less worthy of being heard than a mass of victims.
  • Shaming: Another popular stance is to evaluate a victim’s life choices and pass judgment of why she was more likely to be the victim of that crime. Unfortunately, we cannot make assumptions of why bad things happen to good or bad people, or if they did X, Y, or Z then it wouldn’t have happened because we can’t be sure. Some bad people go through their whole lives without being touched by crime and some good people get prosecuted due to no fault of their own. This bystander’s view is insensitive and demeaning.
  • Denial: You believe, with a frightening sense of self assurance that women in your lives are safe, happy, treated like queens, and they haven’t suffered at least some form of inequality, injustice, abuse or mistreatment. But do you see how unfair and tunnel visioned this stance is? A man cannot speak for a women’s sense of safety and happiness, you need to ask the women of your family that question and if you get an honest reply you would then get a sense of reality. Keeping your head buried in the sand like an ostrich is the easy way out. The first step to change is acknowledging a problem exists. Opening your eyes, looking around, and doing something about it, will only help you and the women you care about.

I’ll just leave with these lines by Ghalib:

Manzil milegi bhataq kar hi Sahi

Gumrah tou woh hain jo,

Ghar se nikle hi nahi.

Book Review -No Honour.

Spoiler Alert: Contains major spoilers.

No honour is another unputdownable crime thriller by Awais Khan. This time it’s the heart-wrenching tale of a brave 16-year-old village girl, Abida, who keeps landing herself from the frying pan into the fire by either her own misguided decisions or the evil intentions of people around her. It details her struggle from almost being killed for honour in a Punjabi village, to being sold in prostitution in Lahore, forced into drug addiction and finally her escape to a life of peace. Although the story starts and ends with the honour debate (via honour killings in villages), most of it is about the criminal underbelly of Lahore and its peripheral areas, atrocities of the sex trade in Lahore, drug use by the poor and elite alike and inhumane treatment of Pakistani women in general. Some characters were very well sketched. I particularly liked Jamil’s character for his standing up against brutal customs for his daughter. Kalim’s character is mention-worthy and had a good arc, a classic rise-fall. Abida was pretty much unrelatable for me as the author’s previous character, Mona, and my eyes went quite ‘round’ at her antics, but I liked that she was gutsy. The writing style is quite different from the author’s debut novel ITCOS. ITCOS was unapologetic, a take it or leave it sort of a book, and left a lot to the reader’s interpretation. No honour constantly reasserts beliefs, explains every motive, telling the readers what to think in various parts. I felt my ears burning a little due to the graphic incidents of brutal rape scattered throughout the novel. It was a heavy read in many parts with few light-hearted moments or relief, but such was the nature of the tale and such true stories go unheard every day.