It by author Muhammad Ali is inspired by the theme consent.
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 rights.
Arham got to know that he was “it” when he was shown the word in the dictionary by a school friend of his who hailed from America and knew the meanings of all those words which were not to be uttered in Arham’s country, or not to be uttered until destruction was at hand, and at times, even later than that. It was at that point in time that he realized that his “itness” was a fact and could be named. As a result, he unconsciously recalled all his activities related to “it” and put them under an umbrella in his mind, the label given to which was that word. However, he still didn’t know that although it was a fact, it was not accepted as one in his country. He didn’t know that he lived in a country where the forced was named as natural, and the natural was considered to be a self-invited wrath from God. He didn’t know that it was due to this very reason that advertisements of quacks and their skills were pasted on almost every tree of his country. Since things didn’t come naturally to people but were thrust upon them, quacks with their concocted medicines came in handy so that the forced could produce supposedly natural results. When concocted medicines couldn’t produce the desired, or “desired-by-the-society-and-not-the-individual-results,” divorces happened. But he didn’t know the cause of that even. Therefore, a small portion of his life, ranging from his school life to his first year at college was spent in bliss, the bliss having arrived as a result of his ignorance. The mist cleared to some extent when he noticed how the “itness” was always referred to as something shameful and always talked about in a mocking manner. The word was always hurled at others as an insult if the purpose was to make them realize that they were a disgrace to their gender. This attitude towards the phenomenon made him realize that he couldn’t express it openly, for what would come in lieu would be nothing but humiliation.
The real clarity came when Arham entered university and his family started to search for a suitable match for him. It was at this point that he got to know that what he was did not even exist as something in his society, for no one bothered to ask him whether he wanted to spend his entire life with a woman or not, whether he was attracted to women or not, whether kissing a woman sent a current through his body or not, or whether simply talking to a girl crush caused him an erection or not. These were valid yet unasked questions, with no guilt in the family members for not having asked them. It was a must that he had to get married to a woman, for the opposite couldn’t even be imagined. He himself couldn’t express it because all those religious
sermons which labeled “it” as a punishment were looked upon with deep veneration by his family members. They would kick him out of the house if he dared to say that he was “it” and not “him”. To half of his family, he would even have to explain what the word meant and how the phenomenon took place if it ever took place.
He was greatly disappointed in his father who he believed had played a major part in helping him know what his orientation was. His inclination towards the category of “daddy” in the websites related to “it” was a result of his father’s offhand manner of changing clothes, for which he did not always bother to go to the washroom, and his nakedness would make his own son go crazy after him, developing his sexual identity as well. When that very person showed excitement at his son’s wedding, Arham realized that his father had not been consciously developing his orientation, but was just being a man who could go naked at any time in front of anyone. The father didn’t know that the woman inside his own son would fall for his tight underwear that produced a juicy bulge that could seduce anyone. As much as it saddened him that he could not attain his father whose curves he was aware of but had to have a woman he had never seen, it also came as unjustified to him that it was “manly” for his father to go around naked but “unmanly” for his hormones to answer that “manliness.”
The month of Ramadan that came before Arham was quite happening. He fasted throughout the month, offered all his prayers regularly, and would stay awake after midnight to ask God to change his sexual orientation, for that was the only thing that he thought could be changed if not the mindsets. So, in the hope that like all other Muslims, his prayers too, the special ones said after midnight, would reach straight to God and make his life happier, Arham regularly said night prayers. But as soon as Ramadan and its routine came to an end, he felt that things had not changed much. He still fell for good-looking men and his snake would still ooze out its venom while thinking of being in bed with them. His prayers had not been answered, causing him to firmly believe that “it” was really a punishment from God and he did hate the executors of “it” to such an extent that he didn’t even listen to their prayers. And then it was said that “it” was their own fault and their own preference.
Arham then decided that if God hadn’t listened to him, he wouldn’t listen to him either. He would commit suicide without caring whether it was allowed or not because it was one of the three ways out. The other two included fleeing from the country for which he had no money or getting killed by coming out of the closet which he couldn’t afford either. If it was to be death, then why not a quiet and unchaotic one?
When a week before his wedding he left the house, his cheeks were sweltering with the hotness of his tears. He was leaving his house where he had grown up playing with his siblings only to turn out to be an undesired and filthy being for them. He had loved his parents, had wanted to stay with them and had prayed from the core of his heart when he had prayed to God
to miraculously turn him into a “forcetrosexual”, for he had sincerely desired to survive in his country and live with his family. If only they hadn’t forced him to marry. If only God had proven that he was God.
Arham walked on foot to the main road first, and then towards the bridge beneath which flowed one of the five rivers of his province. Since trucks loaded with goods used to come out on the roads after midnight, he did not deem it appropriate to climb onto the bridge’s parapet while the heavy traffic was moving about. He turned left and walked towards the bushes grown before the point where the bridge started and which led towards the bank of the river. At this time of night, the sky and the river, both black, seemed to have merged together, becoming one and making it look scarier than ever.
Standing on the bank of the river, Arham unbuttoned his shirt, unzipped his pants, and threw the clothes into the water first. He now hated any kind of social covering. He then took off his underwear and started walking towards the water, knowing that the shallowness on which he was yet walking won’t remain shallow soon, and he would slip into deep waters without having anything to hold onto. He kept on walking and in a few seconds, became one with water.
I don’t know what happened to his family, for we have been showing concern for families instead of individuals for a long time now. Think of what happened to Arham. Did he, who had never killed anyone, who had never raped anyone, who had never harassed anyone, who had never shouted at anyone, go to hell-fire just because of his sexuality which was not in his hands? Did all of his good deeds fail to convince God and suffice for his sexuality? Did he get punished by the same God for being “it” to whom he had prayed to change him from “it” into a “forcetrosexual”?