At 17, the only dream that Shaheerah carried was that of becoming a writer. Someday I would be as famous as Chetan Bhagat is, she would think. But, her life was restricted to helping her mother in cooking and cleaning their home. During free time, she would sit with an English dictionary and learn new words. With the help of phonetics she would ensure that she got the pronunciation right. Whenever the television was free, she would watch English news channels and imitate the anchors.
On a sunny afternoon while cleaning the fish, she conceived a story. She started developing that idea. After a few months of seclusion and imagination coupled with long hours spent in front of her personal laptop, she finished with her first book.
But, how to get the book published? She did not know that.
During such a miserable phase in her life, she watched a program in television that talked about bloggers evolving as successful writers. After debating with herself, she created a blog named “awriter”
She started writing regularly. She wrote poems, essays, stories, haiku, personal experience and thought provoking prose. She tried her hand on all kinds of writing. Her ability to write differently and regularly made her famous in the blogosphere. She made many blog friends and one of them suggested that she should start participating in blog contests too. That friend also added that Shaheerah would give tough competition to the contenders.
Shaheerah enjoyed to challenge herself because it helped her to think beyond the nasty smell of fishes and the nastier fights between her Umma and her Uppa’s other wives.
Then, she came across a contest which required the participants to write anything that contains “I wish I/she had opted for my/her hair removal”
She read and reread the caption. It looked odd. What would she write about a contest like that? She was born and brought up in a small village where wearing a pair of jeans is viewed as to be too modern. All her life she had worn a bhurka. If her brother was not in Saudi Arabia, they would not have had any laptop or internet connection either.
Though she had scored 93% in her tenth standard, her Uppa did not let her pursue further studies. “You are a girl. Be at home and help your Umma. Girls in our family need not study. They need to learn cooking and cleaning”, her Uppa had said. He sounded menacing and his eyes blazed with disapproval. When Shaheerah objected, Uppa hit Umma and said, “You bitch, don’t you know how to bring up daughters? Your Uppa cheated me. He made me marry a stupid like you.” He hit her until she cried aloud and Shaheerah promised Uppa that she will never go against his wishes.
From that day, Uppa had started his search for a suitable groom for her. But, the twin daughters of her father through his second wife who were a year older than she was were not yet to be married away. Hence, she was spared from marriage and was unwillingly granted freedom for few more days. Her Uppa had four wives, her Umma being the third. Her Umma was fourteen years old when she got married.
She sighed and closed her eyes. She repeated the topic title in the hope that she would get some inspiration or the other. May be she could write the story of a Bride who was forbidden from hair removal. She may further elaborate that on account of hair, she faced huge difficulty in removing the Mehandhi that was drawn till elbows. The process of removing Mehandhi pricked her hands in the same way as the stringent rules and injustice against women of her community pricked their hearts.
But, she didn’t know how to write. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She was scared that she would end up in a kitchen too like her Umma. She may be cleaning fishes and running behind children. She may also end up picking fights with her husband’s other wives if he chooses to remarry like her father did or if he is already married.
She closed her laptop and freed the tears from the constraints of her eyes. May be she could never become a writer. May be she is just not worthy enough to become one, she concluded. After all, a writer should be capable of writing something out of everything. And she couldn’t do that. Was that lack of exposure or experience? She didn’t know.
She opened her laptop and started reading the draft of her fiction again. Then, she prayed God that she will certainly become a writer someday. She will not let her life be limited to the walls of kitchen and bedroom.
She opened a fresh MS-Word document and started writing on the given topic. She tried to convince herself that a good writer is someone who can successfully write on any topic. She decided that she was not born to lose. Her name Shaheerah meant “Well known” and someday, she will be a well known writer, she thought with optimism.
Slowly a smile creaked in her face. She had an idea now. She started typing it. Each letter further emphasizing that she is born to be a writer, not to be a mere daughter, wife and mother. She knew she is born to make an identity of her own, an identity that is beyond her father, husband and children.