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.
Click, click, click.
You hear her high heeled footsteps on the pavement.
She’s in her best clothes. A shimmery dupatta is draped loosely over her head. At corners she stops. She stops and waits. People see the look in her eyes. The seductive glimmer. Her red lips curl into a smile. She winks at her contenders.
She catches his eye and he pulls up on his motorbike. He smirks, and she’s his. All his— for an hour and just 500 rupees.
That’s what he’ll call her when she leaves. Even if she heard him it wouldn’t matter. She’s probably heard worse.
She lives in the shadows. All we know of her is what we see.
Her name is Patakhi.
At least that’s what everyone calls her. Her parents were always fighting because her mother was in love with another man. Her parents fought with each other, and she fought with them. Her biological dad was dead and her stepdad was abusive. He molested her and her sister. Her younger sister bore his child for 6 months. She couldn’t any longer.
Patakhi never wanted to get married. She swore she wouldn’t. But she had to. Her mother sold her for 21,000 rupees. This was just a fresh wound to add to her bruised past.
At first her husband was kind. He would buy her clothes and shoes and food. It was a comfortable couple years. It all changed when she finally made up with her parents. Her husband turned rotten. Patakhi was no longer welcome at the dinner table. She sat by the shoes and ate the food she herself had spent hours cooking for the family. Her husband told the household they could hit her. She was beaten and blue, but there was something that was making her hold on.
This sick, twisted love she had for her husband made her stay.
She claimed he loved her, and for that she loved him too.
This love though, did not last long enough. She learned she was pregnant and he didn’t want her child. She begged him to give her money, to give her love, to give her something but he didn’t. Four months into pregnancy they mustered up some cash to have an abortion. And this abortion changed her.
Patakhi fell ill. She fell so, so ill that she did not think she would make it out alive. At this point her husband could deal with her no more so she was sold again. This time to prostitution.
She became a slave to the streets. Her body no longer belongs to her. It belongs to those who pay to make her theirs.
One day a man picks her up. He pays her 2000 rupees. He says there’s another man waiting for her at home. She takes a deep breath and then his hand. When they get home, he opens the door and lets her in. She looks up to see nine other pairs of hungry eyes. The man who brought her smiles and says, “welcome to the party!” Laughter fills the room.
This account of Patakhi is based on a true story. The name and details have been altered to protect the identity of the people.
We should not be so quick to judge people we do not know. No matter who you are or what your means of income are, you are still human. Open your eyes and your mind and try to empathise. Always remember to treat people with kindness.