Artwork by Fatima Tanvir
By Rohab Aamir
What did the journey to behenchara look like?/What behenchara looks like for me and why did it take so long?
A solemn sisterhood of three, a safe collective of feminine energy. My small family of women taught me everything about sisterhood. About behenchara. A collective that embraces women, that has muddled through life without men in a society about men. I am, through no small feat, an expert on the healing powers of behenchara.
And yet when it came down to it, I was perhaps most unaware of my desire for such safety, such relationships. Advocating for women, standing by girlfriends, being connected with other women, they were all natural instincts that we never suppressed in my home. As far as I knew, behenchara was a natural part of life.
Until it wasn’t. The more I met the world, the more I realized how few women were truly cognizant of behenchara. From poorly constructed, negative saas/bahu/phuphi narratives to witnessing teenage drama at school, 13 year old me was completely flabbergasted at the way the world worked. Female principals to female teachers, I was witness to the worst kind of workplace sabotage. And it filtered into the conflicts and relationships we had as young girls.
The more I witnessed the roles women played out in society, the more normal it felt, and the lonelier I did. Relationships were not meant to last, adult women were not safe spaces, men weren’t even part of the problem yet and, in the outside world, I was meant to figure out everything by myself.
This was, until I graduated college and entered university. It was then that it hit me like a flipping truck. Adults. Had. Failed me. Adults had fucking failed me. And I was pissed. I was pissed beyond belief.
In one last, desperate attempt to find solidarity, I ravaged the offices of my professors, counselors, advisors. I went to every department, every person, I talked and discussed and hoped with all my heart for any guidance, any kinship, any solidarity. None came.
I wreaked havoc upon myself trying to find this support. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. I just knew something was missing, something that I needed. And when none came, I lost hope. I well and truly felt that relationships were a lost cause, that nothing was ever-lasting and therefore, what’s the point.
And right when I was at my darkest, the healing powers of behenchara entered my life. One beautiful soul after another, these young women entered my life, showing me kindness, grace, humility, love, and enveloping me in support.
Not every interaction blossomed into a relationship, not every relationship panned out to a forever. But to the ones that sat with me through my darkest moments, they held my hands, they gave me hugs, they watched me cry, they laughed with me, made fun of me, supported me, validated me, didn’t shame me, and kept the love flowing.
They re-introduced me to the power of women together. To their grace, their compassion, kindness, humility, their strength. These women showed me what it meant to be supported, safe, seen and loved. I had not, until then, ever felt the safety of female support in such strong and meaningful ways. From simple things like walking alongside me on an empty road, staying connected on suspicious uber rides to deep, heavy, healing conversations. You name it, these women showed up for it and stood with me.
They also showed me there are an infinite number of ways to practice sisterhood.it may be small acts of solidarity with the women you meet everyday, or deep, meaningful acts of love with the women you’re bonded to. I had not, until then, fully comprehended the need for behenchara. I had not allowed myself to require the reliance of sisterhood, I was going to be a strong independent woman… but now, I am one who needs the loving support of other strong independent women.
To the women and girls who read this, behenchara may not always rise forth in our relationships with ease. For the most part, it is a conscious act of commitment and love. To the women who taught me behenchara, I am forever indebted for reminding me of the grace and power that women have. For showing me what true behenchara looks like. For allowing me to learn and practice it myself.
I am truly a better person through the power of behenchara. I hope you can cultivate yours.
Rohab is a fourth-year psychology student. Her academic work and personal writing focus on the themes of emotional well-being, decolonizing mental health, trauma, healing, and recovery. Find her @rohabaamir_ on Instagram