What Could Have Been


The dry air courses through my lungs, the scorching heat tearing up the skin I once wore beautifully. In the end all that’s left is an empty shell, a husk of what I could have been. In a place where dreams are meant to die, where shackles are the norm of society, where how submissive I am is how valuable I am to the people around me, that is where I was born.


They call it Sadiqabad, my hometown. A rural area in the backwaters of South Punjab. This is where I experienced joy for the first time, as well as grief. A place I associate with my life and my death. A city built on customs and traditions, one that holds me captive. It’s been too long for me to remember how far I have come. If you were to ask me my age, I won’t remember it. I still think I am young. I have 4 children that are the joy of my life. Three sons and one very beautiful daughter.

Children are the hope we hold on to

They are in their early years of schooling. My daughter is the heart of our house, she shines like the sun bringing me joy, the years I was robbed of is what she has returned to me, her innocence blesses me and my family. I myself only studied till grade 8th and then I was forced into an early marriage with my cousin. Essentially, my marriage itself isn’t bad. My husband and I were forced into it; he has been the kindest man I have ever known.

Education is the heart of progress

I have lived among the shackles of an uneducated household; my husband works but no women in my family dare think about working. If I had been educated, I might have been able to do something for my family, I might have been able to pitch in. In these harsh times, in the face of poverty, my education and my earning could have been the difference that changes the fortune of my family.

In hope we trust

I believe that the lights of my life, my children, are the ones who will bear me the fruit of progress. They won’t be held in the arms of Sadiqabad. I have decided to burden my daughter with the hope for betterment. She will study, she will be educated, for the both of us. I am a mother who believes in the power of education. Unfortunately, the women around me have realized too late that education is the heart of progress. We could’ve been the stepping stones for our daughters’ development.


What I have learned throughout my life is that even if we strive for an ideal, there is very rarely any satisfaction at the end of the road. However, I hope that my children will have a better go of things than me. My children will be the light that I always dreamed off. I pray they will escape from our hard present to a future much desired, one those sweet angels of mine deserve and are worthy of.


Written by Salman Tariq

Edited by Adil Rahim Hyder