This is part of our series, “Tales from The Dark Side“, about the deepest, darkest, harshest realities of Pakistani society that should serve as lessons.
Disclaimer: These are real-life stories, the names of subjects have been changed to protect their privacy.
He dropped by the Shahi Mohalla again. He did not remember the last time he had visited Nasreen. He eventually decided to giver her a visit, for no particular reason. This time, however, Nasreen had welcomed a new baby girl who was old enough to be a woman, herself. Nasreen wasn’t the one to beat around the bush, she got straight to the point and told him that it was his daughter and now that he was here, he needed to provide for her expenses. He knew in his heart that this could be true but he wasn’t someone who could just easily accept his defeat. She persisted but he kept putting down her repeated requests of providing for his alleged daughter. When she didn’t stop, he stopped being adamant, smiled to himself and thought of teaching her a lesson.
The next day, he kidnapped his own daughter, raped her ruthlessly and dropped her back at Nasreen’s.
The girl was half dead when she was brought to her mother. Nasreen was devastated and he had finally won amnesty from responsibility over maintenance of his child. He apparently succeeded in telling Nasreen that she was lying about the girl being his child, in his own “masculine“ way. That was all that mattered to him and there was nothing that mattered to the world outside except that Nasreen was a prostitute and her whole life was a one big sin.
Nasreen wasn’t the only one. A few blocks away from her, another girl Laila would go through something similar, sooner or later.
Laila worked as a dancer. She had a very young son, an asthmatic mother and almost nothing to live by. She was pregnant with her second baby when her “manager” called her to inform that she needed to perform at a gathering. She was promised three thousand rupees for an entire night of dancing. Looking at her asthmatic mother, her malnourished baby and her inability to provide for them, she nodded in agreement to the manager’s demands. That night, Laila performed for several hours till the dawn. At least, she was going to get something, however meager it may be.
Towards the end of the night, the audience seemed to change their demands and asked the organizer to remove her from the stage. Laila was paid one thousand only. Although, the amount could have filled her mother’s and baby’s stomach for a day or two, there was nothing in the world that could bring back her miscarried baby who went away as she danced for her audience. That night of dancing had cost her own incoming baby’s life. Laila had no option but to go home and feed her waiting mother and child while people outside her world were discussing how easy it is to leave the Shahi Mohalla and live a respectable life. But for some reason, Laila could not understand any of it.
And then there was Saira who thought she had left her dancing days behind her.
She quit dancing and singing when she got married because her husband did not like what she did. She was happy, though. He loved her, took care of their children, took her to the northern areas of Pakistan for holidays. Things were good and she had started to forget about her previous life. The fate, however, wasn’t on her side. Her husband passed away a few days after his thirtieth and her in-laws left no stone unturned in getting her re-married to her brother in law. He was alcoholic and barbaric. To prevent herself and her kids from his uncalled for wrath, she packed her stuff and silently moved back to the Shahi Mohalla.
Maybe it is easy for them to leave Shahi Mohalla and live respectable lives or maybe we have put on our blinders and only tend to see the world the way we want to. Who knows?
For more of the deepest, darkest realities that plague our society check out ‘Tales From The Dark Side‘.
Acknowledgment: Research for this article has been extracted from a project carried out by four LUMS students, Sarah Hayat Malik, Natasha Khan, Muneera Millwala and Maha S. Khan.