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Plight of women in Pakistan

By Dr Amjad Parvez

Thandi Aurat

By Neelma Naheed Durrani

Classic, Lahore; Pp 128; Rs 125

Dedicated to Hawwa, Aqleema, Zulekha, Seeta, Maryam and all those women who were blamed for one reason or the other (though it is a different story whether they were blamed rightly or wrongly), the book titled ‘Thandi Aurat’ by Neelma Naheed Durrani comprises short stories on the plights of womenfolk in our society. It is an exposure of all the psychological and physical torture they go through in this male dominated society.

Had Neelma touched the bold themes five decades ago, she would have probably met the same treatment as was given to Saadat Hasan Manto by some sections of the society. Manto was often compared with D. H. Lawrence as like Lawrence he had dared write about the topics considered social taboos in the sub-continental Society. Neelma has followed suit now as probably she was not even born in Manto’s era. Her short story of the same title as that of the book under review exposes the degeneration of male gender who always boasts of their love affairs while quenching the thirst of their male chauvinism. Naghma was barely married four days that her husband, Jamal started talking about the beauty and physical charms of his ex-girl friends while lying next to his wife in bed. Gradually Naghama became so fed up that she started rejecting advances of her husband and became cold towards him till she went into a total recluse and accepted her husband’s taunt of she being ‘thanda gosht’ (cold meat). If Manto’s topics ranged from the socio-economic injustice prevailing in pre-colonial and post-colonial era, to the more controversial topics of love, sex, incest, prostitution and the typical hypocrisy of a traditional male, Neelma writes more or less on the same burning issues but with the difference that the sentiments offered are those of a representative female gender.

Neelma’s stories are devoid of sense of humour that was often exhibited by Manto while dealing with these topics. He did not conceal the true state of the affairs and dared expressed these with dramatic satire and a good sense of humour. Neelma being a poet also writes a poem in retaliation, titled ‘Ussey To Sattar Hoorein Milein Gi’ (He shall get seventy virgins) saying ‘Ussey To Sattar Hoorein Milein Gi/ Mein Tanha Reh Jaaun Gi/ Allah Teri Is Jannat Mein/ Mein To Kabhi Na Jaaun Gi’ (He shall get seventy virgins. I shall be left alone, so I refuse to go to your Heavens, O! God).

In another story titled ‘second hand’; a satire, Neelma speak of passion of Roma for second hand things. She would often roam around for window shopping and buy second hand things as her precious collection in her room, may these be furniture, pots, books or clothes. Her thesis was that all the imported things were available as second hand things in her country at much cheaper prices. She was in love with her fiancé, Ahmad who had gone to UK for higher studies and was due to return in three years time. After anxious waiting he returned. Roma wore best of her clothes and did make up to look beautiful in front of her fiancé. To her horror he introduced a young child as his son and asked Roma to look after him as he had divorced his English wife now. Roma was so taken aback for getting a second hand man that she started breaking all the second hand things she had piled in her room. Neelma writes a poem titled ‘Pyar, Wafa, Rishte Naate’ (love, sincerity and relations) to give vent to her feelings. She writes ‘Pyar, Wafa, Rishte, Naate/Duniya Kei Bazaron Mein/Her Shei Ki Ik Qeemat Hei/Laikin Merey Haath Bhi Khaali/Jaib Bhi Khaali, Daman Khali/Mein To Gahak Hun Jo/Har Showcase Kei Samney Ruk Kar/Aahein Bharta Hei/Khud Sei Larta Hei’ (love, sincerity, relations; each thing has a price in the world market but my hands are empty. I am that type of buyer who stops in front of every showcase, sighs and fights with himself). Neelma thus by writing stories such as ‘showcase’ exposes the darker side of our human society.

Neelma now diverts to the theme of love. In her short story ‘Ishq Na Puchey Zaat’ (love is not bothered of cast), she talks about infatuation of sixteen year old girls for any boy that comes across them. Zuni was somewhat different. She did not like this non-sense. Her dream-prince was however nowhere to be seen. Waiting for her idol made her advance in age, complete her studies from university. Now in a job, her colleagues Taimur and Ahmad were no more that beautiful men. She would sip coffee with them and enter into conversation till she met a bald, black man namely Yousuf. She became attracted to his intelligence rather than his physical deficiencies. Love therefore is blind; love without any greed, a blind faith, a love with soul. It is the love which sees only positive aspects in the beloved. This reminds this reviewer of the famous story of Laila-Majnu. Laila was known to be dark in complexion. Majnu means a mad person, a diwana because of his love for Laila. His actual name was Qais, a Bedouin poet. He fell in love with Laila Al-Aamiriya from the same tribe. When he asked for her hand in marriage, her father refused as this would mean a scandal for Laila according to local traditions. Soon after, Laila was forced to marry somebody else. It is a tragic story of undying love, a type of love known in Arabic culture as ‘Virgin Love’ as the lovers never married or made love.

Neelma has included nineteen short stories in the book under review. She has written on all types of love, the unfulfilled ones, the satisfying ones with affiliated physical and psychological connotations and the social taboos. The first story titled ‘Yaadein Aur Barsaatein’ relates to the inherent of female gender to open up with their first love till they lose it and they regret as time passes. In the story titled ‘Nai Aurat Naya Mard’ Neelma speaks of a Nazo’s love for Ahmar who leaves her for another woman till she finds solace in Jameel. In a story titled ‘Footpath Ka Bacha’ Neelma talks about a woman giving birth to an illegitimate child on a footpath of Landa Bazar. It is a very bitter realisation of vinegary in our society. Neelma has therefore written stories on the subjects that we generally refrain to talk about openly or perhaps shut our eyes towards them.

Source: Daily Times