Fostering the Eastern Empire

by Aanya F Niaz

A triumph or two, this one has me wooed

Estranged from one’s own land, only a portrait that the mirror reflects can speak louder than the noise of demise. Society is holding you by the neck, one falls into deep, resonating sleep. Once awake, you can breathe again and here’s a worthless tale of  how she found her lungs again. It’s rather overwhelming, returning to one’s soil and identifying with the past since those are the only elements with which one can acquire solace through familiarity. The familiar is no longer familiar, however, other than the promising sincerity of family and dusty roads that lead to the structure of our houses. The serene sound of the Azaan and questionable legitimacy of the food street hold us tight. Above and beyond there has been chaotic change; men trying to acknowledge the empowering sensibility of females and females trying to identify with their own newly-found freedom. Smoking in public and never being caught in eastern attire is no longer condoned, but in fact encouraged. Alcohol, which was rarely available openly at weddings is now being served at open bars here and there. Life has been garnished with scattered thoughts of liberalization and many, those who return from abroad, are caught in a temporary glee of sorts. Fleeing the suffocating eastern empire has become an option less cultivated – or at least it appears that the society has devoured the ancient inculcated values and stepped out to meet the modern world, with a torch of the west in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. But the truth is very different, my friend – and there’s far too much than what meets the eye.

What is an average woman to think or do with herself? Should she hastily make her way to the modern horizon or still think thrice before wearing a cropped shirt because even though her friends won’t judge, their friends will. Should she not care at all or should she care a little? Well if you only care a little around here, it counts for nothing so the glass must be measured appropriately, and with a microscope in hand because if she chooses to surrender to societal modes of life, then she must pursue her dreams of domesticated existence, otherwise she can be rebel and scream out loud in the open and claim the world to be her oyster. The trouble is, you see, that even though there has been change, there hasn’t been enough to change the mentalities and mind sets of the people. Well not enough people, any way.

You see, even though not everyone will stare you down, some will and those still host murderous intentions and that’s enough to kill a woman’s stride in our society. There’s no middle ground any longer; no place between the east and the west essentially. Either you’re with them or you’re not and there’s a clear distinction, sadly. Let me explain this further. If a girl wants to wrap up in a shawl, sit on a terrace restaurant and occasionally sip a glass of wine, she is no longer part of the decent crowd; she has been eyed with vino in hand, and that’s that and will not be forgotten. Her taste for life or eastern traditions along with her sturdy familial relations will be forgotten and only the silhouette of the wine glass and her face will sharply be recalled. There is no peace, you see, in being who you want to be or who you need to be. Even though Pakistan has began to expand its horizons, the mentalities compel women to remain in the shadow, or else the light will ruin their dreams. It’s not a sexist approach, really but more of a realistic one where the patriarchal system of equity and justice in the homeland has been too deeply ingrained to be diluted, even slightly. Men will share their dreams and miseries with you and promise to host futuristic aspirations but in the end, a woman will emerge of no consequence and that will be the gruesome consequence for the poor girl who befriended the male first, but her sin was occasional drinking and cropped shirt-wearing. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone thinks this way but again, not enough think otherwise.

I must commend the efforts of the society, though. Love marriages have surely been on the rise but so have arranged and irrespective of status and socioeconomic backgrounds, respect and honor in their essence is preferably offered to those that have settled in quiet arranged relationships and have not seen the madness of life yet. Women silently burn in their own dreams of liberalization, and when they attempt to host ideas of revolutionary extents, such as dancing with their beaus at a get together, or walking down the street holding hands – their egos are crushed and they are left alone to reep what they have sown.

Change will only come from within; when educated minds will begin to differentiate between extremism and balance and recognize that an ‘in-between’ woman can exist. Speaking of balance, it is a very fine balance indeed; where a woman is afforded her right to hold political views, opinions and assumptions and express them at her leisure. When her craving to smoke a cigarette in public and sip on something illegal will not be categorized as indecent, but simply as a choice of life for her. A choice she has a right to.

Lets remember what change means. And then claim we’ve achieved it – or not.