Miraj Hamayun Khan

Do you all remember this rhyme from our school days about poor Solomon Grundy?

Solomon Grundy,
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday,
That was the tale of Solomon Grundy.

Well, Janaana’s story has some similarities with the tale of Solomon Grundy. She is still alive, thank God, suffering from joint pains and aches but well protected, respected, and loved in her new family.

It’s her matrimonial history that reminds me of the above rhyme. She was married off at the age of twelve, produced three babies by age fifteen, and was sent packing to her parent’s home when she was seventeen.

Her crime: her husband wanted to marry someone else, and her sister-in-law did not like her. All day long, she faced criticism and abuse from every family member even though she worked from sunrise till everyone went to sleep.

Her duties included, apart from the routine household chores, whitewashing the walls, the lime blistering her tender hands.

Everyone told her she was a woman and should become more responsible and work hard. She was puzzled by their accusatory tone, wondering what it meant and how she could become ‘grownup’ and more responsible for pleasing them.

At that time, when she was literally pushed out of her home, sorry, the home of her husband for a woman never seems to have a home of her own, a home is either the father’s, husband’s, or brother’s.

Janana was in shock, disturbed emotionally, and very weak physically. She had walked barefoot for thirty kilometers weeping for the children taken away from her.

For months she could not efface the image of her three children howling in distress after her. She collapsed at her parents’ home, emotionally drained and physically exhausted,WI with bleeding feet and swollen eyes.

They took her in and tended to her bruised body and feet. It became a home of mourning. Neighbors and relatives from far and near came to commiserate with the family.

That became another ordeal for Janaana because many were persuading her parents to send her back and some were openly blaming her for the breakup. Her parents were also poor and had several other daughters to marry off.

The only solution that the mother could think of was to beg a Khan family to take Janaana into their service believing that to be the lesser evil than sending her to the tortuous life with her husband’s family.

Ignorance cannot envisage or fathom the dangers and hardships of domestic labor. Janana’s mother did know what service in a feudal home is as she herself had grown up with an abusive life working from morning till night when it was time to sleep.

Mastura understood what life eating leftovers and wearing discarded clothes is. Memories of her longing for a comfortable bed were vivid and the roughness of her hands and her broken nails were a constant reminder of the harshness of her childhood.

She wanted to protect her daughter from further brutalities and bashing but her options were limited. They had no means to bear the burden of Janaana as there were too many mouths to feed and several other daughters to be married off.

In her new surroundings, Janaana adjusted herself with hard work. She was an intelligent and very creative girl. As a child – the woman she had acquired wisdom and could find solutions to any problem.

Her cooking soon became the talk of the whole Khan family. She cooked, cleaned and did all odd jobs entrusted to her without any complaints.

Besides her skills, she was/is morally a very upright person, never thinking of betraying her benefactors nor getting tempted to even minor monetary attractions.

When asked about her life she will always give a positive account of the comforts she has but I wonder whether her bruised soul is healed completely.

I doubt it! She may be living in peace and comfort of some sort but the loss of her children is something that she will never be able to come to terms with.

Though grown up they refuse to visit her because of the brainwashing in their childhood and the total controlling nature of their paternal grandparents.

Janaana might try hard to control her inner turmoil and not allow the dehumanized nature of hate and anger to show but one never knows when her inner ‘devils’ may take control as they did once when she gave in to extreme temper and violent behavior recoiling from everyone and everything.

Also read: Days of Darkness for Afghan Women

*The writer is the Ex MPA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and CE, De Laas Gul Welfare Programme

**The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these papers and articles are strictly those of the author(s). They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight and its team