Bari Baat


Artwork by: Badtameez Bahu

By: Shafaq Javaid

Junior asks me if I want a king-sized joint or a small one. Small; kal roza rakhna hai,yaar, zyada nasha kar kay kaam nai hota, I tell him. I go to Zarah auntie’s after iftar every day. “Zarah auntie tumhari doosri Ma hai jo roz shaam ko chali jaati ho?” Ma says. She enjoys Zarah auntie’s company way more than I do. They have a lot in common, I suppose. Too much, if you really think about it. If they were to marry, they’d be the perfect couple. Besides, junior and I get along, too. What a wonderful life the four of us could have. Could being the key word because she would never do it. Marrying a woman is out of the question. For her and for me, too.

I came out to Ma when I was 19. Unfazed, she said she knew already. How could she not? She had raised me. To her, it was only a matter of time. We’re all bi, she said. Women are beautiful creatures; how can you not be attracted to them, she said. It was okay to look at women, it was natural to fall in love with them, but to transgress the boundaries established by Islam would result in a lot of unpleasantness, she said. I was instructed not to pursue a relationship of any kind. Yet we talked about our crushes, pretty girls I went to university with, etc. It was beautiful. To a nineteen-year-old me, her acceptance was enough. I was happy to be acknowledged, to be loved, to have had nothing change.

“We’re all bi.” Bohat bari baat kar di meri Ma nay. The literature enthusiast in me wants to analyze this statement for at least 7 pages or so. The sociologist in me wonders how many womxn, specifically mothers, have had to repress themselves because to them, the idea of being with someone of the same gender is akin to godlessness. When I tell Ma of love that doesn’t revolve around conditions and surrender and clean dishes and fresh laundry, she looks away. It makes me very sad. I tell her she stopped being her own person when she got married. More so when she had me. It’s the same with Zarah auntie; her life revolves around junior, like Ma’s around mine.

I don’t know my mother’s favorite color. It’s peach, I think. I don’t know because she’s Ma, she’s my mother; to me, she’s everything but herself. To her, I think she’s only my mother, too. Shabana Amin stopped existing a long ago. Had she been allowed to exist a little longer, in a world a little less intolerant, she could have been so much happier.

Shafaq Javaid is an academic, part-time cat enthusiast, and full-time badtameez feminist.

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