Monday, 19 March 2012


Sughra opened her eyes in a poor house which was already packed to capacity. That was why no one welcomed her warmly. Her age seemed to be directly proportional to the increase in the sufferings she faced. Now 30, Sughra’s face illustrated the life she led- like a fading Rose beaten by Storms. She barely Spring throughout her life. The only season she saw was Autumn. She was a tree that shed the leaves of all her happiness of life.         

Sughra works as a Housemaid in the house of landowners and whatever she earns barely keeps the wolf from the door. She is the mother of four daughters. From her appearance she looks like a woman of 50. Sughra was married off in her early age when she was just 14 years old. Marriage is a gala event in everyone’s life, especially women, who dream of it. Sughra knew nothing about marriage - as it was her age to play with her friends. Sughra’s father cursed the day when she was born, causing her to be psychologically obsessed. It is common to marry off girls as children, for affording lives is far too difficult. In Sughra’s case, apparently it was marriage, though in reality it was a trade-off. Sughra’s husband gave off his younger sister to Sughra’s father in exchange for Sughra, who was married to the man - three times older than she was.            

To whom she could share her feelings? Her mother passed away long ago and she was worried about serving her step mother like a daughter- this girl was old enough for Sughra to play with.
Feeling lonely amid this hard toil she gazed in the sky, perhaps hoping to find God, and wiped away her tears. With a wistful sigh she thought to herself, “These things are a matter of fate. Why should I rebel against the will of God!” Sughra was torn between Scylla and Charybdis. On the one hand she was taunted by her father. On the other hand she had to face a life which she never dreamt of. Like other women Sughra considered it as written in the wind. She labors hard from dawn to dusk. She wakes up in the morning prepares breakfast for her husband and children. Her husband is illiterate and spends much time in gambling, betting and cock fighting.

Last week when he lost a bet and had no money to pay off, he was going to sell off daughter.
“Sughra!” He yelled at her the moment he entered the house. “What happened, father of   Sassi?” she asked. Sughra was   frightened as her husband was loaded and whenever he drank he misbehaved with Sughra and beat her a lot. “I have lost all the money I received from the land owner in a bet. I have lost money and honor among the friends.” He tumbled as he tried proceeding towards Sughra.  Sughra knew he was going to sell off her little daughter this time, as he had already sold off her 8 year old daughter Shama to gamblers on the condition that the small girl will remain at home until she attains puberty. “It’s all about you, rascal, you ill-fated bitch. The moment you have entered into my life I have seen no happiness.”

Sughra tried to give him support when he fell down but he forcefully hit her on her face.  
“But what happened?   What have I done now? I have always done your bidding”. Sughra cried and reminded him of her loyalty. “What you have done? You nasty bitch, you asking me what have you done?”
He continued, pointing at the daughters clinching to the apron of their 

Mother. “You have whelped puppies in my house! Now I am going to sell you off to compensate my loss.”
“No! Master of my fate , don’t do this to me ! I will pay for you loss. I will labour Day and Night to write off your loss… See? I have some money which I had saved,” Sughra implored her husband. She hurriedly brought a bag of plastic, wrapped in a velvet scarf. She showed him the money which she earned by sewing quilts. Her husband speedily untied the bag and flashed a monstrous smile when he saw money and went out of the house.
The next day she went to the house of the land owner The land owner was waiting for her anxiously since she came after week. “Where had you been Sughra? I wasn’t able to sleep all night. I was so keyed up without you.” Sughra didn’t reply him and went into the room of her Mistress. She had fallen prey to the evil eyes of the Land owner and was sexually harassed the moment she entered into his house. She complained of adulterous behavior of the land owner to her husband several times, but to no avail since the Landowner was doing all this with the consent of her Husband. Sughra’s husband kept extracting money and other incentives for this favor and Sughra had to pay price for it. “You dumb woman! Try to lure him as much as possible. The landowner is our Lord. He has given us land to work and we get crops every year so that you and your herds eat it!”

One day Sughra fell ill and sent her 13 year old daughter Sassi in her place to work in the house of land owner. Sassi was a cute girl and innocence spilt out of her face. She wrapped herself in a long scarf  given by her mother. Sassi knew she was going to the house of the land owner, the house of predator who always cast ravenous eye on the prey. “My mother is ill. She sent me here to do the housework.” Sassi, knuckling her fingers, told the land owner at the door of house in one breath.

The following day, when Sughra resumed charge of work, the Landowner asked her of Sassi. This time he was pretending to be nice with Sughra. “Sughra! You better take rest! Look how pale your skin is! Why don’t you go to the city for a check up? I will give you money. Don’t you worry about the work. Sassi is good at work and she has managed well to handle the affairs. Your husband always quarrels with you. You ought to give him time and serve him at home.”

Sughra sensed the odious intent of the landowner and reprimanded him severely to keep away from Sassi “You are such a shameless creature. For God sake, spare that little girl. You male creatures have nothing to do except this. You have a one-track mind! Don’t you feed with this ever!”

The Landowner smiled cunningly and said “The thing is that I am fed up with you and your body smell. You stink like stale meat!” 

The words of the Land owner echoed all the time in Sughra’s ears. She apprised her husband of the cunning intention of the landowner. Her husband was perplexed after knowing this. He was not worried of their daughter’s honour being disgraced, but wondered how best he could strike deals with the Landowner. He had already agreed to give Sassi off to a relative’s son for a high price... what more could he offer the Landowner?

The story of Sughra is the true story of women leading a miserable life under the influence of a male chauvinist society, of poor classes, where women are dehumanized and treated like objects. The daughter of eve has always been in state of wretchedness but behind every clouds there is silver lining. We want to see women like a “Marvi”, the Heroin of Sindhi folklore who resisted the tyrant ruler of Sindh, Umer. She was unshaken in her resolve.
“I have survived with the hope that one day the prison walls around me will crumble and I shall again be free.”

By Ashfaq Siyal

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