In Watan the girls were never allowed to grow up. One day you were a child playing with your friends from the village, the next day you were wedded off and expected to live as someone’s wife, look after your in-laws, and become a family’s honor. The men, the old men, would sit together and make all the decisions.
Your auntie Aabay Naeem was a child, only 12 or 13, when they came to ask for her hand in marriage. I saw the men exchanging smiles, and I knew what it meant. It made me very upset. Her husband-to-be, Nabi, was twice her age. Your other aunties had been wedded off young. I decided that I had to confront your grandfather this time; even if it meant having to endure a beating. I stood up to him:
They aren’t all your daughters. They are mine too. You can’t just give them away like this.
He stared at me. He didn’t say a word, and walked out. He paid no attention to what I thought. Consulting your auntie, the people whose lives were in question, was absolutely out of question.
A few days later, I was occupied with cooking when your grandfather walked in with Nabi’s older brother. They stayed for a meal. He pleaded with us to approve of this arrangement. I stayed lull, but your grandfather nodded. It was an approval, and the decision was made. My young child was to be someone’s wife.
Your auntie was too young to even understand what a wedding meant. She was happy to have new clothes and jewellery. She knew little else, yet she was wedded away. That’s how it was done in the past. The parents would just give away their daughters to whoever they wished. It wasn’t that the parents didn’t love their children; the truth is that it had always been like that. People were bound by traditions. No one bothered to think differently; no one changed anything.
Watan = Homeland
Aabay = Mother; Aabay Naeem = Naeem’s Mother