Kishwar likes more men of declining age. She says that these people are not dangerous. Their talk is soaked and soft, hearing which a person does not burn, but ignites. These people invent big beautiful metaphors and descending into the mine within themselves slowly, stealthily bring forth treasures of ideas in a heap at my feet. These people do not demand anything. They do not feel jealous from others, are afraid, and scandal makes their life disappear. But they know Kishwar’s bad habits. As evidence of their humility, they tell their most precious secrets, then leave to drink whisky; then Kishwar well-maligns them, but in her heart there are piles of reproach for them, she never tires of their emotional upbringing, just like she never tires of making fun of them behind their back.
Young men indeed keep afar from her, they fear her open talk. Kishwar’s treatment with them is like an elder sister but she well knows which younger brother’s blood pressure will go up with which conversation. She treats them with affection so that they are released from her influence but do not leave her protection. She greatly respects human feelings. When those feelings mount an assault towards her, then she increases her height. She wants to keep warming herself in the sunlight of whatever forms of love there are. She is very kind towards young girls. She knows the journey of the destinations upon which new girls still have to embark. Young and raw girls keep surrounding her, she pinpricks them, too, but with the expertise of a nurse, so that their fever breaks in intensity or changes colour. She says “Bastards, you never came to ask me at the time when you started to fall in love, had you indeed wanted to die the death of love, you should have searched for some old man. The mean man who you are talking about is a twenty- year old fool; now he has tricked you so what can I do. Well I will think of something!” then tells them all those tricks of exiting the trap or to make it thicker – which could not be of any use to herself – with great assertion and details.
She herself has never seen the face of truth. Had she been able to, she would have abandoned the search for truth but this search is the center of her life. What truth she has found, she has refused to accept it. She has made an apparition out of truth which has no relation to truth. She is spending her whole life singing a hymn of praise to this very apparition. Her life revolves around a single experience; she was rejected in love. And she views every experience of life by putting it in the mould of that one experience, but she refuses her own self, because of which she was deprived of the private property of love. She does not belong to anyone, therefore she belongs to all. So she belongs to nobody. She is a Zulaikha, who in the imagination of Yusuf was born to cut her fingers and spin yarn. If she could participate in the beauty of Yusuf, she would have abandoned him to run away. She wants to light illuminated lamps. She is a sickle which cannot cut its crop. She is a branch of rose with which whoever wishes can entangle to rip one’s hem. She is an alone, sad and depressed woman; but is a wholesome measure of femininity, which is emptying by dripping away from within the hair ensconced in the glass rather than being emptied by overflowing. She boils, bounces but it is ineffective. She is like a bundle lying on a platform, the traveller who left it there does not even remember that he came away leaving so many different coloured dreams within it.
I had written till here when my friend alongwith his wife reached my home. I put down the paper. My friend asked out of politeness, “What are you writing?” I said with indifference, “It is a six-page essay on Kishwar Naheed, say how are you?” In response his wife said irritably, “Kishwar Naheed? What is there to write about her?” Then she said softly, “Bastard, goon, a plaything of boys.” And I began to think, “Really after all what is there to write about Kishwar Naheed?”
I began reading the essay, the hall became utterly silent. The audience stopped breathing. Then suddenly I heard a slight sound of a sob. I looked there with distress. Kishwar Naheed was weeping unstoppably. Safdar Mir who was presiding over the session was looking at the table with head down.
I lost my wits. I could not understand whether I should conclude the essay or proceed further.
I had not insulted Kishwar Naheed; had not accused her of anything. I had tried to present her exactly as she was, cheerful and clever. Before reading, I had requested Yusuf Kamran to read it. He was a generous man and with respect to being a husband he was also oppressed at Kishwar’s hands. He had said that there is no need to show me the essay beforehand. You write what you wish. And I wrote what I wished but I took caution lest Kishwar Naheed is insulted. I respected her from the heart. So there was no possibility of being insulted but my writing was indeed frank. It was not possible to write about Kishwar without being frank. After all she was no saint indeed. I concluded the essay somehow but I wished that the earth tear so I could fit in. After reading the essay I left the hall without looking into anyone’s eyes.
By the time evening set in, it became known that I had treated Kishwar Naheed with excess. Then I began to receive phone calls that I had called a noble woman a slut. I responded that it was Yusuf Kamran rather than me who had called her a slut. I have only repeated what he said. I have romanced the feminism of Kishwar Naheed in the essay. She is a brave and outspoken woman. You and I cannot stand before her. She is confident. She is not a woman to come under anybody. I have indeed praised her a lot. The next day I found out that Yusuf Kamran and Kishwar Naheed had quarrelled over this essay and both spent their night crying. A great calamity befell me upon hearing this news. I did not want that the peace of Kishwar Naheed’s home be ruined because of my foolishness.
(to be continued)
Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and award-winning translator and dramatic reader currently based in Lahore, where he is also the president of the Progressive Writers Association. He has previously written on, and translated the selected work of Kishwar Naheed. His most recent work is a contribution to the edited volume ‘Salt in Wounds: Poems of Kishwar Naheed’ (Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore, 2020). He can be reached at: email@example.com.