She wakes up at 4 in the morning, lying or rather sandwiched in-between her daughter on one side and mother-in-law on the other side. Rubbing her eyes gently, she stares at the fan on the ceiling that is moving at a snail's pace, "even demeaning for a snail to be compared with", she cracks a joke in her head, hoping nobody heard her.
With a smile on her face she carefully manages to sit up straight. No matter how unimaginably small the space was for mere movements, very strategically she moves her body, twisting and turning, then finally landing both of her feet right on top of her slippers. Calmly, she stands up from her mother-in-law's side, trying hard not to make the mistake of disturbing the old woman. She wished she could jump out of the bed from her daughter's side, but her husband and her son were sleeping on a tightly fixed single sized mattress in the little space from the bed's left side till the small window of the room.
She stands up, turning her face towards the window, placing both of her hands on her waist, as if posing for a picture. Instantly, she starts to brim with pride for making through the task of getting out of bed. Without further ado, she starts her ritual of examining every single person before stepping out of the room. Her gaze at last was fixed on her youngest daughter, fast asleep on a small grey couch that her father had given her as a wedding gift, exactly 23 years ago. Time, she thinks, can play with one's soul.
She steps inside a dimly lit room, closes her eyes, taking a long breath in, lightly sniffling through the scent of rose petals floating in a round golden colored bowl, just as they rested 23 years ago when she stepped in this room for the first time in her life. She opens her eyes and gets hit by the reality of working all day long, not having a second for herself. She recklessly enters the restroom, not letting the boat of her 'me time' sail. Within five minutes, she pulls out her velvet blue prayer mat, embroidered with floral designs of maroon thread by her mother as a gift for her.
She steps in front of her empty dressing table, looking at the cracked mirror giving her the reflection of her broken soul. She struggles to look at herself because this cracked mirror is a harsh reminder of when she dodged a small marble vase that her husband had tried throwing at her. It was a reminder of when she immediately bowed down but got up and looked straight into his eyes, in turn making him uncomfortable. Not saying anything but saying everything with that one fierce look. She felt empowered by just giving that look. Smiling, she realizes she has come a long way, walking right on top of the thorns that her life had to offer her, and there still is a lot that is left to survive through.
She steps out of that memory and looks at her dark brown sunken eyes desperate for sleep, she lightly places the index finger of her right hand on her lips and sways it around acknowledging the fact that she has stopped looking after herself. Tears well up in her eyes, but not one tear drops down her cheek.
She goes downstairs and steps inside the kitchen, turning the light on, she opens the refrigerator to see what she can cook for her children for breakfast. Luckily, there was a hand sized flatbread dough, which reminds her of last night when she had to fight the urge to have dinner, in order to save the dough for the next day. She takes out the box and starts making lightly butter-glazed parathas.
She bends down and softly whispers in her eldest daughter's ear to wake up for college, instantly telling her that she made paratha. Her daughter jumps up, with closed eyes she whispers "I'm up". Lightly dabbing onto her son’s shoulder she wakes him up, moving on towards her youngest she kisses her fore head and within the blink of an eye, her youngest daughter wakes up, with a wide smile she says "Good Morning, Mama".
She enters the kitchen again, step by step preparing the breakfast in a way that proves that you only need a big heart to cherish each blessing that you have. She constantly thanks her Creator for giving her the strength and courage that not many people posses. With very little food to present to her children, she still manages to prepare delicious 'andda paratha'. Her eldest remarks, 'Amma this is by far the most delicious breakfast you've made'. With a spark in her eyes she replies, 'You say that every day, honey', to which her daughter flashes the most wining smile and says 'And I mean it everyday'.
She sends off her daughter to college when the van comes, opens the tap water in her small garage and waters the four flower pots that she bought a week ago. Immediately after her son and her daughter run towards their van, she waves goodbye and then locks the door before going in. Just when she thinks she can rest now, her mother-in-law wakes up, and she then has to look after her and survive through the constant taunts and remarks the old woman would make. She multitasks while serving breakfast to her husband and the old lady, by washing the clothes, washing dishes, cleaning the house and asking her husband to help her in bringing some eggs, flour, milk and yogurt. He looks at her in dismay and she knows that this man who has nothing but love to offer (and even that too is now fading away), is the man she is in love with.
She assures him that she has 3000 rupees from the tuition that she gives to a bunch of kids every evening, but that is the only money she has for this month and it's just the beginning of this month. She gives him 1000 and puts the rest back in her drawer, in hope of getting a decent meal for a while.
She finishes serving lunch to her mother-in-law who constantly nags and curses this woman who is ready to do all she can to assist this old woman, not saying anything harsh in return. She silently works all day long, stitching some clothes for her kids, gardening to make her small house her own small heaven, planting vegetables that would cut her costs as well, but she also worries about the future of her children.
She brushes all of her tensions away like she brushes dust after every dust storm, not forgetting a single speck. She gears herself up for the students that come by 4 p.m and stay till almost 6 p.m. This time also requires a lot of courage for her to get past it, despite the constant nagging of her mother-in-law. She wonders how many times she is told that she is a woman and that she should not be earning money this way. She wonders how many times other women rub it in her face that their working life and office job is so tiring that she can not even relate. She wonders what is the definition of an empowered woman. She wonders if she really requires an office job to be an empowered woman. She wonders, who defines what an empowered woman is?
Later in the evening, she sits on a chair in her kitchen facing the window, looking at the tree swaying just as a bird sits on top of it. It moves and shakes from the core of its roots, as if jolted by an earthquake, but she notices, it's still standing tall, with a bark so strong that no matter how rough the weather is, no matter how many birds sit on it, it will stay where it is. ‘I am this tree’, she tells herself.
Slightly smiling and appreciating her own thoughts. Again a voice yells 'Oh you have no idea how much I work all day, you're a housewife, always free, how would you know', this voice is of all the women that are her neighbors and are working women. She thinks, no doubt they might work hard, and may face many struggles along their way, and it might also be tiring for them, but they have no right to demean what life has to offer to the women who choose to work or earn from home, who choose to be at-home mothers.
She looks at her eldest daughter intently as she asks, “Mama, what is an empowered woman?”. She continues, “A girl told me that her mother has an office job and she is an empowered woman. She said ‘working women are the only empowered women’, Mama I was confused.'
Her daughter said nothing after this, but the look in her eyes dealt with a confusion proclaiming 'I see my mother empowered with every passing day.'
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this page incorrectly listed the author’s location as India. She is located in Pakistan. We apologize for the error and any inconvenience caused.
Currently doing my Bachelors in Applied Psychology, I would describe myself as a person who likes being poetic, I think this is that one thing that makes us human. Reading a lot of books and trying to scribble words that help me in understanding my self has helped me in focusing on things that I like, writing being one of them. I started writing a personal blog about a year ago, since then I have realized the true power of simple yet accurate words in creating a difference. I plan on becoming a Clinical Psychologist one day, and help people in need, help those yearning for a ray of hope to heal the open wounds embedded on their souls. I have also been considering writing a novel side by side; as I complete my studies. It helps me in understanding the intricately tangled relationship of this life with our soul.
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