And this, this post is not meant to be here. Perhaps in the pages of my journal, or the back of my poetry book, but there, I feel as if it will rot away till it becomes a fossil, dug up and left to be decipher, but sadly, not understood, by the man of a billion years ago. I’m still where I was a day before, on the drenched stairs underneath the roof, and the rain is getting harder. My little brother is out there, playing in the murky water that has gathered in our balcony. He’s so happy that he won’t agree on the dangers of acid rain (I am adamant that this pour must have a handful of H2SO4, but he won’t agree).
I have never written a post about my life and my problems. It feels strangely wrong, not everyone will be keen on them, anyways. But whatever. This is a new series which I’m classifying as “A Muslim Girls Diary.” And if you want to have a closer look at our way of life, then, welcome, stranger. How do you do? How do you indeed? (I insist you don’t answer that)
I am Zainab Junaid, eighteen years and counting, and I have rain in my eyes.
And that is way more than a metaphor.
See, I’m sitting here, on the fourth step from the ground, which is just perfect (one higher and people would see me, one lower and the balcony walls will rise above the sea view), and thinking. There is so much to be bothered by, but ny mind is currently occupied by a message, a one line request on instagram. And fir that, I’d like to thank the way my mind works on little things that need to be overlooked, things that only I find to be critical. Anyways.
I have this hobby for editing photos, and I’m not that bad at it. People ask me to edit theirs all the time, and I go at one picture per day. Making it artistic, bringing out the colours, the blending, I love it. It takes me 2-3 hours, my back aches from being hunched, my eyes burn from the screen, but at the end, when the colours turn just right, I get that relief, that sigh of a contented ending which I crave so much in real, non virtual life. (You can get me on Insta under zainabjuanid101 for examples and requests)
I want to talk about a recent dm that I got from a friend of mine. She had send me a picture of her along with a request to ▪thin her face ▪in fact, thin up her body ▪make her “gora” (fair) ▪smaller eyes ▪no eye bags ▪no pimples ▪full lips and well ▪perfection.
That was when I decided that I needed a break from this editing.
You see, here, in our society, all of that above is “perfect”. It’s not just in school or college, but in every walk of life. The rishta aunties (ie the women who come to propose you for their sons) want it, the mothers want it, even the friends want someone beautiful. And let me tell you: we Pakistanis are beautiful. Yes, trust me on that. You know that colour of beach sand on the early morning skin, the brown shades of honey eyes, and that killer smile? That tan the characters of the books I read want? That chocolate hair? We have that, all of that. Let me flaunt ourselves for a while.
But all of this isn’t perfect.
You’ll hear the rishta aunties grumbling how they want the perfect doctor who is six feet tall, has fair pimple-free skin, has got the degree from the best college (and is yet willing to leave all of her jobs after marriage), with skin as fair as snow and who knows how to cook almost everything known to mankind. You’ll see the mothers forcing fifty creams titled “fair and lovely” on their daughters. Perfectly fair celebs on the morning shows, telling how to become as thin and lean as them, models with the ideal glimmering body telling you to be “yourself” and then the secrets of a perfect self. All of this stupid care, just to give you something which is not even in your genes.
I have Afghan blood in my veins (from wayyyy old ancestors of my mother’s side) which gives me a whiter, “pathan” look, ie fairer skin, lighter eyes, you know (and a Godsavethepoorvictim anger). Girls tell me how lucky I am for it, and I feel like slapping them hard. No, being fair is not being lovely. I wasn’t given the option to choose how I look, no one else was. Then why tf does our society judge us over that?
One of the shackles which the British gave the subcontinent was this biased judgement of beauty. It’s ingrained in our memories that the whiter you are, the prettier, the more boys like you, the more you’ll have chances of being wed to a good family, the greater chances of a good job, the more you’ll be respected. And this is beyond sick. I have a cousin who is dark and 22, stilling waiting to get engaged (22 is high time for engagement). She is a wonderful soul, the kind which makes you feel happy by just being near her. I swear her eyes never loose their sparkle and her lips never get tired of her smile. She’s always the life of every family gathering, she’s got the best stories, the funniest jokes and the truest words. A person who’d never hold grudges, despite the harshness she gets from the surroundings. But she’s still waiting, just because of the demands of our way of life.
If I were given an option, I’d take a bat and knock some sense into those rishta aunties, knock down the rows upon rows of supermarket shelves which advertise “fair and lovely” and the related creams. I’d introduce a new one, a one called “unfair and lovely”, sadly not a bottle will be sold. But I have hope. On this, I have hope.
It’s been an hour, and the sun’s peeking out. I’m starting to feel uncomfortable, my clothes are clinging to a skin whose colour I didn’t decide. There’s still rain in my eyes- i love this is a metaphor as well as a sentence. I do actually have rain water in my eyes, and their turning foggy (ah, I knew there was H2SO4 in this!)- but then, I mean it as a metaphor as well. My future becomes more uncertain by the day, I wake up at every sun rise contemplating. Medical or International Relations? Doctor or a Foreign Ambassador? Myself or my Family? A university in Islamabad or Karachi? And then, their are friends which keep on hanging me at a straw, and a family which demands competition. A novel to complete and pictures that I do not want to make fair and lovely.
And then it’s these minor issues which we never speak of that keep on fogging my vision. Take this colour issue, there are billions more which I will gradually discuss. But For these issues, I have hope. One day, my cousin will get married to a man who will give her heaven, and one day, all these people will stop asking me to make them fair using photoshop and lovely by shedding off some of their weight.
What good will an ideal picture do? A mirror of who you want to be, an image of what you can’t ever have. You’ll still have your fat, you’ll still be dark. And guess what? That is beautiful. Being yourself is beautiful, for there are so less people left who really want to be real. Realness is perfection. And the rishta aunties are stupid judging *******. I admire the people who love the way the look. They know the key to happiness. They know the secrets of a real life.
Loog bare ajjeb hote haan na?. (And yes, that’s urdu.)
I’m glad I know the secret.
I’m glad my cousin does, as well.
And for those who don’t- I can tell it from the way you ask me for a full makeover- which I won’t give you. I’m sorry, but I am not eager to send anyone into the throes of depression and self doubt.
No more photo editing to make anyone perfect.
I’ll just make you an abstract art (if interested then contact).
But I know that people will wake up. It takes years, life times even, but everyone does realise their worth, eventually. We all learn to respect ourselves. Some do it immediately, some take time. But all end up here, contend with what they have. I’m waiting for many of my friends to reach this lovely place, have to admit that it’s kinda lonely.
Till then, I’ll wait. Rains good for the eyes, anyways.