Luxuries were never a part of my life. Growing up as a shopkeeper's daughter, I became used to the tiny share the world gave my family. Even so, we never stopped praising our Lord, who has kept us in the best of health and given us peace of mind. We happily accepted whatever He provided us, and we never turned to mortal beings for any kind of aid, financial or otherwise. But some things in life are temporary, and the peace we had found turned out to be one of those. When I graduated, my parents looked for a boy for me to marry. As soon as they found someone suitable, they fixed the date for our marriage. His family had seemed a noble one (they didn’t even allow photographers at the ceremony), but they were only good at hiding their true selves from the world. They told us that the boy was very well-employed, and this convinced us to tie the knot. Things were not the way they were presented to us.
A week after my wedding I was already waiting on the family hand and foot. I received no honeymoon and no money, only responsibilities. From cleaning their bathrooms to cooking their meals, the entire household was put under my charge. I came to know of my new husband's joblessness fairly quickly. I am a computer engineer myself, but I was not allowed by my husband and the in-laws to earn a livelihood or get a job. We were wholly dependent on my father-in-law for the bearing of our expenses. I had no choice but to accept things as they were, but there was further misfortune in store for me. My soul shakes when I think of the time I spent in that house, the setting for a story in which my father-in-law played the villain.
Despite there being some spare furnished rooms on the ground floor, I was given a very small room on the rooftop to live in. I didn't raise my voice against this, but then the cruelty began to increase. We are all human, and all of us make mistakes. Unfortunately, my in-laws had little patience for such errors. Little things like forgetting to turn the water motor on was all it took for my father-in-law to assault me with a cane. Bruises became a permanent feature on my body soon after I got married. My husband always stayed quiet, and chose never to interfere in matters between his father and his new wife.
My husband made me realize that it's not just the extremist terrorists who use Islam for their own purposes. He knew that his father beat me, but he never raised his voice against him. He would say that it is obligatory for me to respect and obey his parents, and treat them like my own. While upholding the rights of his parents in this way he neglected the rights of his wife, and failed to follow the sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAW). Time passed, and I kept on tolerating the atrocities my father-in-law subjected me to without a word. A few months later I got pregnant with a child, and that was when my in-laws declared they could not take care of me and dropped me off at my parents' house.
But how long could a married daughter stay at her parents' house? After I gave birth to my Mohammed, I returned to my in-laws seeking healthier relations after the birth of a son, but there was no change. In fact, the burden on me was increased, and I was intentionally kept so busy that I had very little time to spend with my son. He would cry all day, and nobody from the house ever tried to calm him. It wasn't long after his birth that I mistakenly dropped a jug of water, shattering it to pieces. The reprisal was swift. My father-in-law held my hand tightly and pushed me out of his house, demanding that I be taken to my parents' home. My husband came out with a suitcase and drove me into the night. Darkness all around. The azan for fajr prayers sounded as I cried and attempted to grasp what was happening to me. It didn't feel any less than qayamat (the end of the world) to me. The car stopped, and the man pushed my son and me out before ringing the bell at the gate. As he got back into his car, I heard him say 'apni beti ko sambhal k rakho' (Take care of your daughter yourself). He left me with a suitcase at my parents’ gate and didn't even wait for them to come out. I filed for divorce soon after.
Why did this all happen to me? The only reason I can fathom is that my father-in-law thought he owned us because he provided for us. He allowed himself to do whatever he wanted to us, and didn’t hesitate to deny us our meals if we tried to step out of his influence. That’s why I, a university graduate, was not allowed to work. My married life and eventual divorce taught me that financial independence is as necessary for women as it is for men. I realize that if I were a working woman, my in-laws would never have treated me like trash. They couldn’t have.
After learning the most powerful lesson of my life, I got admission to B.ed to continue my studies and pursue teaching as a profession. I have also learnt graphic design, and I'm serving online platforms with my skills and earning a handsome amount of money. Things might have shaped up differently if I had started doing this work years ago. But that was the will of my Lord, and he must have wanted my story to be a lesson for other girls. And now, maybe it can be.
From Afsana: This anonymous story serves as a testament to the importance of financial independence for women, and ends on exactly the sentiment Afsana was founded upon. Stories have an immensely empathetic power, and that power can be leveraged to inspire and instruct. Millions of girls from across Pakistan feel alone in the world, and Afsana hopes to reach them through our platform. If you have or know of a story that could help us in this movement, we would love for you to contact us through our website. Together we can work towards a better future for Pakistan’s women.
Written by Arooj Saghir
Edited by Adil Rahim Hyder