Three Women

Irshad Salim from Karachi: For months I have on my easel a canvas of three women drawn with a black marker. The painting remains unfinished though. Choice of colors and artistic bells and whistles, etc. remain undecided also; so does the stated and the actual thematic tones. It’s a work in progress simply said. Decades ago, Akhbar-e-Jahan’s تِین عورتیں تِین کہانیاں (Three Women Three Stories) column stories that household members used to read, I guess is the first level of random access memory (RAM) I attempted to represent.

Soon, I ran into a cul-de-sac while juxtaposing characterization of the oft repeated ‘Ma, Biwi, Beti’ and ‘Saas, Bahu, Beti’ scenario we have in the society at large. I guess it’s not easy to swing. Looking at the rear view mirror makes you immediately aware that you ought to look at the wider view in front of you. These are shadows (realities) playing with dolls of darkness (despair) that is light (hope). Excerpt from Journey From Adolescence, a poem I wrote back in the 70s.

We ought to address these three women’s woes affirmatively. Collectively, they also are part of our society’s traffic mix in the front view mirror as well as in the rear view mirror. They may not have the first Right of Way (R.O.W.), but we can yield to them passing by/crossing just as is done on Zebra Crossings for the walkers!

The Rebel:

Abbas Nasir about Mahrang Baloch in Dawn: As the PPP was coming in for criticism for naming a brand new entrant to the party as chief minister of Balochistan, whose claim to fame is his total endorsement of the state’s security policy in the gravely wounded province, a Baloch daughter was doing herself and her people proud. Yes, while the PPP was enabling the non-civilian partner in the current hybrid system to gain the upper hand in Balochistan and party leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was said to be making his way to Quetta for the oath-taking of ‘my chief minister’ to join the movers and shakers of provincial politics, the tears of the rain-ravaged, waterlogged population of Gwadar were being wiped by a young woman called Mahrang Baloch. More here.

The ‘Empowered’

Maheen Rehman, a CEO, has proven wrong that the glass ceiling impedes advancement. She represents the microcosm ’empowered workforce’ the country with the fifth largest population and having only 0.4pct of the world GDP desperately needs to enable, facilitate, so that they can deliver, help put food on the table, assist in making a decent living. But there’s a bias and therefore a skew in the data. Almost 50 percent of the population they are –the bias generally runs deep vertically and horizontally in patriarchal Pakistan. Working from home, not to talk about seeking employment outside the home is considered a ‘culturally sensitive’ issue in most cases.

The Razias

At most traffic lights and on major intersections in major cities like Karachi, these ‘Razias’ sell various items amid vulnerabilities of ‘all sorts’: indiscretions, rebukes, crimes, pollution and disease–at times disgust at their sweaty faces and dress code. One thing differentiates them though, from the rest of the crowd they belong to: While the rest ‘beg’, these Razias earn daily, help put food on the table for the family. Their spirit is a hot mix of an elixir called self-esteem and the adrenaline of sense, sensibility and responsibility. That’s a humongous ‘sweat equity’ to earn in a patriachial society.