I remember the moment when for the first time I came to know about the meaning of my name. After asking my father almost three times and being ignored because of his buried head in the newspaper he finally looked up, removed his reading glasses, fixed me with his stern stare (which appears when he is irritated at something) and replied , “ ‘Fiza’ means ‘nature’.” And then, after thinking for a moment he whispered, “’Breeze’. Yes that’s an even more appropriate word to describe your name. ‘Breeze’.”!!! I repeated the word again and again in my head, with moving lips. It gave me an impression of utter freedom. I loved my name since that day because I knew it then that it belonged to me, and now after knowing the meaning I adored it even more deeply.
Of course, then I never knew that my name had nothing to do with my real life. One’s name rarely relates to real life unless by mere coincidence. How often will a Bahadur Ali be a brave guy as well? A girl may be named, Jamila , but that doesn’t mean she is more likely to grow beautiful. Similarly, there was a contrast in my case too. Now when as an adult I ponder over it, I realize that things around were so different from what I perceived them to be as a child. The place where I belong from; there is no such thing like or understanding of a free woman. Unfortunately, I am a woman who belongs to the same place.
I opened my eyes in a family where one can’t imagine even in dreams of being considered equal to a male family member, even if you are intellectually sound than them. Going to college and university was something only a boy could look forward to. Encapsulated into innumerable fears and uncertainties I fought hard for rights known to others as “basic rights of twenty- first century’s women”.
The most painful part of the whole story is that it is not just me who went through such painful circumstances, but there are thousands of other women too who are living with a degradingly inferior status. Unfortunately, many women here not only accept it without a question, but also impose it forcefully on other women and girls. I really wonder how women can be considered inferior to men, when it is them who give birth to those known as ‘Superiors’.
Women and men are anatomically two different beings but that does not mean that one can classify them with adjectives like superior or inferior. It kills me inside when I look at fathers around me. Not illiterate or backward fathers, but educated and apparently civilized males who believe that the birth of their baby girls is a calamity on them. If they don’t admit it openly they moan inwardly. Many factors can be discussed when it comes to the breeding and nourishing of a mindset like this. In my case, I blame the feudal system as a main cause for crushing the rights of women.
The place I’m talking about is not some tiny, ruined area. On the contrary, it is one of the biggest industrial districts of the Province of Sindh, known as “Ghotki”, and has a good number of parliamentary members. Located in the north of Sindh province, its boundaries are sketched with Punjab Province to the east, India, to the south, district Kashmore and Jacobabad to the north and district Sukkur to the west. Women here endure a life worse than that of cattle. Psychological slavery is imposed when your soul is engaged by the people who pretend to be your very ‘protectors’.
Due to innumerable socio-economic problems women have a very low literacy rate. Apart from the lack of education, they are victims of cruel and unjust customs, specially designed to favor men. Sometimes these helpless women are killed in the name of “honor” and sometimes they are sacrificed by bearing the brunt of the wrong doings of their male family members. After Jacobabad, Ghotki district witnessed the highest number of human killings in the name of Karo Kari. Besides honor killing, Wani, Sawara, child marriages, forced marriages, Wata Sata, and domestic abuses are the order of the day in Ghotki.
Being a keen observer sometimes deep inside me I used to feel a burning wound that wouldn’t let me sleep. At that point in my life I started feeling the burden of some huge, unseen weight on my fragile soul. And it was then that I picked up my only weapon, a pen, and started writing things I could not share with anyone around me and yet wanted the whole world to know about it. This time I held the pen of courage, filled with the blood of my sisters and mothers who have been victimized, since years, by the brutal majority of Ghotki men, and thus started writing about this patriarchal society. Once I started with it, “Rah –e-Wasl” my first upcoming novel came into the shape of a book. I realize that probably it won’t make a big difference, but in order to satisfy my conscience and to serve my sense of responsibility I have made an effort. Since now I have found a courage and the need to use freedom of expression, it makes me feel a little bit free to express my frustrations over these inhuman injustices. I’m not a social campaigner. I am not a proclaimed feminist. I don’t crave for arguments. I am not a political person, but I am a person with empathy. I am a human and I believe in equal rights for all humans, be it males or females.
I believe that my words are a light breeze, blowing gently. This breeze is not strong gales of wind. It won’t blow the buildings of patriarchy down, but one day perhaps there will be thousands of other breezes coming together to create a hurricane that will not be ignored. After all, “Fiza” also means “nature”, and my nature is to claim my autonomy and autonomy of those suffering for merely being women.
The fire in me is nature. And nature itself compels us and implores us to believe that we, the Ghotki women too, must be free; just like the breeze coursing through the trees.