I Died and No One Even Noticed by author Obien Mayo is inspired by the theme silence.
This story is one of six winning stories of the #WeToo competition, a
collaboration between Stories To Action and Dastaan, where young people shared inspired by COVID-19’s impact on sexual and reproductive health and
I Died and No One Even Noticed
That was no ordinary pain. I don’t know how many diseases came and matured in my delicate body and then went away. I had consistently been suffering agony. My routine, as well as that of other women in the house, included: Getting up early in the morning earlier to all the men in the house. Arranging water for their bath while sweeping at the same time. Preparing Hubble-Bubble. Making breakfast. Preparing children for school. Then seeing animals tied in the backyard while we had already milked them before breakfast. Then wrapping up other household chores and then going to the fields. Working there side by side with men. Then coming back to home in the afternoon. Feeding the children and delivering food to the fields. Meanwhile, friends used to come home. Sitting with them under a tree; talking as well as clearing wheat or sewing clothes. Then in the evening, there would be men’s parties in the monastery where sometimes there would be dance parties as well but the women were not allowed to go there. But yes, we had to prepare tea and tasty dishes for those parties. And then waking up until all the men had come home. Massaging their feet until they slept. And then it was our turn to go to sleep. We had to take care of the work as well as our men. I, despite everything, recall today that I used to be jealous of animals in our house. How lucky they were that they were dealt with more care than we were. What’s more, at times I wished to turn into that dancing young lady from the gathering at the monastery. How fortunate those young ladies were; being appreciated by men; being given cash; being dealt with care yet doing nothing but dancing. For a long time, I dreamed to become that dancing lady so that I would live a prosperous life without getting myself fatigued and would acquire a man’s love that I could never felt.
And what else could we do? In the end, we were so-called insane. We were the weak castes. We were born to serve men and to bring them sexual satisfaction. It was our obligation to do all this. Now whether we could find rest or not, whether we could find time for ourselves or not, whether we could be imbued with the loving gaze of men or not, we had to do it. In the end, it was our destiny. For us, to get heaven in return for this silent hardship was our booty. Even in
matters of heaven, we could not compete with men. Obviously, we were lower castes; lower intellects; lower creatures; so with those so many evils, how could we easily stare at heaven. Although those evils were not our own choice; we inherited them from our mothers. I did not know for what crime we had to bear that punishment. Sometimes when the mental anguish had crossed its limits, we wanted to jump into a well and die. But then there was the fear that due to that sin, heaven would be lost. Just under the shadow of an unknown fear, we spent all our lives and a small piece of heaven, which, according to our ancestors, we deserve; the fear of losing it had been with us all our lives. In that trade of fear, we had to endure every misery in silence. All the pain; all the suffering was exhausted by that fear.
The few stories of prince and princess that I heard were my hope that one day a prince would come and I would be lost in a magic place where there would be no sorrow and no weariness. This hope never allowed all my troubles to overwhelm me. Even after enduring everything, “The Uff” never came out of my mouth. Probably it was a factor of my upbringing. And then I got married. Oh my God. It seemed like it was the result of lifetime ingratitude prevailed my life until that day. It was another hell that I was sold to. And my mother-in-law was its watchwoman. I had had never seen any man or woman crueler than her?
So far I had given birth to seven children. The first five were daughters; beautiful and angel-looking that I didn’t even want to touch them so that they won’t get dirty. And the storm in the house at the birth of every single daughter made me mentally ill. My mother-in-law was trying to get me divorce because I did not have the means to conceive a son. It was a different matter that she also gave birth to eighteen children. The first four died at birth. Then four daughters were born and then there were ten sons.
One day one of the women from my neighborhood told me that she suffered the same situation which she was making sure to make me suffer too. “Alas! The poor woman could not get the love of her husband. All her life she had been a child-producing machine who had to take care of the fields as well as the domestic chores. Now she finds in her sons the void of unrequited love from her late husband and wants them to be subservient to her and not let any daughter-in-law to snatch that mastery from her.”
And I got to know that if the voice of any son crying was heard in the house, a slap would come straight to her face.
“I don’t remember how many times the late husband would have made her body bleed. Just disregard her behavior, Gul. Be patient! She is psychologically ill. Selfishly she tries to prove herself wise. Otherwise, we know that she’s not. Admittedly, she was a genius girl but then things got worse and worse. Hey Gul, take care of yourself. Don’t let this all drive you crazy either,” said my neighbor.
That story made me feel sorry for my mother-in-law. But this compassion vanished on the day when I gave birth to my fifth daughter.
“I am telling you Saqib. Push her out of the house now and find another girl. She hasn’t given comfort to this house. I told you before that I didn’t see any gems in her.”
“But why are you blaming me? It’s not in my hands. These are all decisions of God. It is by the grace of our Lord that He has decorated this house with blessings five times.” I replied to my mother-in-law. This was my second mistake in that house. The first mistake was to produce daughters and the second was to open my mouth that day.
“You bitch!”Saqib, who was sitting holding a plate full of rice in his hands, suddenly got up in a rage and threw the plate full of hot rice towards my face. The corner of the plate came straight to my nose and the hot rice scorched my face. “How dare you talk to my mother in such a tone?” He slobbered.
I screamed but my voice was suppressed so that the people in the neighborhood could not hear. How I bore that pain inside, it is beyond my power to describe in words. My soul kept beating all night, while my newborn daughter was sleeping beside. I wanted to die, but like life, death was probably angry.
Though I had to get beaten by Saqib hundreds of times but that day for the first time I felt too much insult. Every time I looked at my face in the mirror, the reflection of my nose broken in the middle tormented my soul. But there came out a benefit of that insult. After that, I gave birth to two sons but still, that did not bring happiness to the house because five daughters were stinging everyone. As soon as those five began to gain consciousness, they too began to hate their existence. Maybe I was their culprit. I shouldn’t have let them born. I wished I had already given my life. At least five innocent lives had been saved. They would not have had to burn in that hell. But a mistake had been made. Now they had to endure what I endured. They had never known why my nose was broken. Nor did I think it necessary to tell them, being afraid that another fear might be their shadow.
Just like I never had the chance to go to school, so did my daughters. Most of all, we were told that a woman ought to live within four walls. With the freedom of a woman, immorality will be born in the society. We were the honor of our fathers, brothers, and husbands so it was permissible for us not to stay in a veil. But then I also thought why this principle did not apply in the fields. While working in the blazing heat, our scarves were not even conscious. Sweat-soaked clothes clung to the body were enough to highlight the features of our bodies. At that moment no one talked about the veil. While coming back home after cutting the fodder from the fields, our clothes flew around in the wind. The boys standing in the way used to stare at us
greedily. I used to think who was more responsible for the obscenity when, at night, dance parties took place in the monastery? All those questions drove me crazy. But there was no one to answer them.
It was the harvest season when I gave birth to my second son and seventh child. Everyone was gone to work in the fields, including the children. But I stayed at home as my gestational period was completing its ninth month. The midwife had said that I would have another son. In favor of my expected son, I was given some days off from work in the fields. But yes, I was handling the household chores. It was noon when I had a severe ache. I was about to get up and go out of the room when my foot hit the corner of the cot and I fell there. And then I couldn’t get up. My screams ripped through the skies, but maybe everyone in the neighborhood was at work.
That was no ordinary pain. I did not know how much it would hurt when the soul would leave the body. But the pain was as if the soul was leaving the body. It felt like someone was dragging my body on a rough floor. The bones expanded and then contracted. I had heard that that pain was more than the pain that a human body could resist. But I don’t know how we women survived even after bearing that pain. Were we really weak creatures or were we labeled in envy to our hidden power, so that our power would die before it could emerge? That day I felt my power immensely. I had given birth to six children while fighting with my mental anguish but still, the pain could not beat me down. But on the birth of the seventh child, the pain overwhelmed me. Perhaps many pains together forced my body to surrender to that pain. So the body lost its battle against all the sufferings. On the floor, there was a narrow stream of blood making its way out of the room. The voice of a little angel crying had made the room even more mournful. His body was still attached to mine. And my soul flew away.
We are the stories untold
We are the weapons unfired
We are the power underrated
We are the wisdom undesired
We are the realities
Have been made fictions
We are the butterflies
Have been captured in bottles
We are the strength
Have been neglected
We are the echo
Have been made silent
We are the human,
Have not been acknowledged.