It is true in its proper place that the peace of Kishwar Naheed’s home indeed used to be ruined. Yusuf Kamran deeply loved that oppressor and used to be vexed by her frank manner. She was a sharp woman, she used to burst in laughter while slapping the knees of male friends and Yusuf Kamran used to be enraged at this.
But I was very ashamed. Why did I become a cause for dispute? Why did I even write the essay? I do not write with courtesy and Kishwar knew this well. Then why did she ask me to write her sketch – and even if she had, then why did I agree?
I was in the Musavat office writing the editorial when suddenly the phone rang.
A woman said, “I am speaking from Model Town. I want to ask you that why did you abuse a noble woman? What right do you have to this ill-manneredness?”
I apologized, sought forgiveness. Now my saying that I did not slander Kishwar Naheed and that I respect her greatly was useless.
She said. “I want to meet you to ask directly. How dare you do this?”
I submitted, “Ji whatever you have to say, do it on the telephone. There is a world of a distance from Model Town to the Musavat office. I am all ears.”
“No ji”she said. “Grace my house with your presence tomorrow. A road appears on the left hand from the letterbox in block C. The third house there whose gate is of yellow colour is my house. You cannot forget it. Come at 2 pm. My husband does not come home before 4 pm.”
I did not go the third house with the yellow gate from the letterbox of Model Town C block but suffering women called me many times in which apart from rebuke and curses upon me the wish also emerged “O deadly man, just show us your face.”
The statements of respectable women were also published in some newspapers. Although they had not heard of the essay. In this respect, this sketch became a great hit.
Kishwar Naheed quarrelled with me. She stopped talking to me but I knew that at heart she is not upset because I had not written anything in the sketch at which she should be upset. I had stirred up precisely those conjectures about herself which she used to insist upon.
I had given this essay to an eminent journal to be published. Kishwar Naheed lifted it away from there. She did not want to enrage Yusuf Kamran further.
For two years she remained apparently upset with me. Two years later, she told me over the telephone, “Come leave it, now let bygones be bygones. I, too, have let go of the matter. Don’t publish this essay in Pakistan. Yes send it to any journal in India.”
I did not send the sketch to any journal in India. My relations with Kishwar became normal but as the months and years went on, Kishwar began to change. After the death of Yusuf Kamran at a young age, she had to learn the art of being alive alone. For a woman whose youth is declining, the body and soul becomes speechless, it is very difficult to live alone. Kishwar Naheed had no solution except to rebel; screaming, pouncing and giving proof of her being. She is a rebel woman. She is proud of being a woman but she is not prepared to be locked in any cage. Flowers of ideas do not bloom in her mind; crackers and fireworks burn, whose flames are seen from afar. She has found out that without personal relations with people in power it is difficult to remain alive in Pakistan. And she knows how to establish personal relations with people in power. She can establish personal relations simultaneously with Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Begum Shafiqa Zia. She keeps relations of equality with General Mujeeb-ul-Rahman and Aitzaz Ahsan. If there is any difference anywhere, it would be of an inch or a half; which only she can know about.
She is the mother of insignificant, emerging writers. She has access to the king and court. She is a kind-hearted woman and for those who are dependent on her for assistance, she does not hesitate to help them. But she is a sensitive woman and does not permit reproach to be incurred upon herself. Earlier she used to frequently visit the Pak Tea House. Now she frequently does not come; because nothing is indeed left there.
She lives alone. She has separated from her sons after marrying them off. And in her loneliness she keeps creating the splendors of her choice. Now a dinner, then a mushaira, sometimes another provision for amusement, which can while away some of her time in happiness and intoxication. Now she has become worldly-wise and does not waste her time and relations. She does not accept this society in which she has to compromise just because she is a woman. She wants to destroy this society and change the conditions of living. That is why she battles on every front. Her greatest issue is to remain alive herself and this is her continuous war.
Because now she does not care about me and you so those who are her old friends have been left very far behind. She is advancing swiftly but there is no destination in her view. She lives for the moment and lives every single moment. She lives the most in that moment when she attacks.
Kishwar Naheed is Chhappan Chhuri for the officers of grade 21 and 22. She signals at their past youths; awakens the sleepers with the clinking of her laughter. Then she cuts their necks with her finger. She sees blood, as well as its edge. She has no interest in young men.
(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.