From the looks of it, this article may sound like some highly controversial agenda of some Zionist lobby. But here I assure you it’s none what so ever. The following write up is entirely based on the facts and actual happenings of my life. It may have some depressing sad ending but my reason to put in down on the paper is not primarily to depress you.
When I was a kid and this I am talking about back in early 80s, the first memory of a good picnic that I enjoyed was in a forest park outside in the suburbs of the city. The forest had a small canal passing by it. All of my cousins and uncles and aunts were part of the picnic. We had buckets and buckets of mangoes. Four or five cars were in the convoy of our picnic. We all had our shorts and t-shirts for swim in the canal. These picnics were usually arranged on Fridays because in those days the weekend holiday was not Sunday, but it was Friday. Since it used to be a weekend so a lot of families and even just boys groups would be there as well. I remember all the uncles and all the aunts, all my male as well as female cousins would right away jump into the canal. The canal in which many other families and many other “boy groups” were swimming as well. All the ladies in the canal would be in their shalwar qameez and all the males would be in their shorts and t-shirts. Some wouldn’t even bother wearing any underwear. Old people of family would sit outside the canal handing us the bags of mangoes to be hung them into the canal to cool them up. The boys groups passing by would stare at the ladies and pass by. The ladies never bothered. In other words I would say it was a very desi version of Miami beach, with clearly a lot more clothes on.
Once in a month all of my cousins would gather at some uncle’s house, and we would play flood light cricket all night. This includes the female cousins as well. The all night event had guests from the neighborhood as well. At the least five boys from the neighborhood would be invited to the match as well. The girls would play even without their dupattas on their head or on their breasts for that matter.
If we were not playing cricket then we would be playing cards or ludo all night. Being up all night and screaming out over victories and losses makes you tired, so at times you do wanna put your head on some-one’s shoulder and take some rest in between the next deal of cards round. No male or female ever bothered to look for a same sex shoulder. Anyone who was sitting next to you, be it a guy or a girl, you could put your head on their lap and take a power nap to get ready for the next round of cards or ludo.
Early morning everyone would go out to have halva puri and lassi. A very standard breakfast on weekends in Punjab. On the return everyone would be so tired that no one knows where they are sleeping. I remember I guess the max was 12 people sleeping in the same room, and there was no gender bifurcation.
I don’t remember any scandal that took place amongst any of my cousins. They were all enjoying their time with each other. No parents would object any of their kids to stay away from a certain kid. My mom was usually up all night with us too, in the midst of night if someone felt like having Parathaas, she would happily go to the kitchen with some male/female cousin of mine and make them for everyone.
It all seems like a la la land to me now. With so many laughter flying across the winds. A grand dinner at some of my relative every weekend, where almost all the family would gather. And when I say all the family, it means at least 100 people. Back in those times when cars were not leased, the car porch and even the front lawns were filled with cars only if the immediate family was invited to the dinner. There was no segregation amongst male and female members of the family. We hardly used to have any aftari at our own house in 30 days of Ramadan.
Times changed, the talibaans came. There were two cousins of mine who turned mullahs because of some influence in their maternal extended family. When they got to the age of coming into their father’s business which he was already in partnership with his brother who was also my uncle, the mullah cousins kicked my other uncle from the business. Took over his assets and made him very poor and almost out on the streets. Whereas they themselves are now ridding all the luxury cars and living in the bungalows of hundreds of millions.
This business partnership breakage, divided the whole family into two. No one would dare blame the mullah cousins because they had beards and they used to pray probably 30 times a day. They would carry a tasbeeh in their hands all the time and a praying cap on their heads. Sometimes when you walk in to their house they wouldn’t even be wearing a shirt over the lousy white shalwaar. They would rush to get a cap to put on their head but never bothered wearing a shirt, even if there were women sitting in the same place. However they would want their own wives and sisters to wear complete hijab all the time, even if that was a problem for them to eat. Because every time they have to take a bite, they would have to remove the hijab from their mouth, move their faces away from the people where no one could see their faces, put the bite in their mouth, cover it back with hijab and turn back to public.
Also came the grand project of Al-Huda islamic study classes. All the women of the family started going there to kill their free time, and yet another social activity to see what other women of the community are wearing and what jewelry do they own. How pretty their new daughter in law is and whose husband is turning dirt to gold. God knows what were they teaching over there in those classes. But my very own cousins who were once swimming with me in that canal, danced with me on the song “ajj kal tere meray pyar ke charchay her zubaan per” started doing parda from me and all other male cousins. They would walk out of the room as soon as some na-mehram walks in. The only discussion that was left in the very few family gatherings was how much Muslim they have gotten, and how important it is for those who have yet to keep a beard to look up to those who have already grown their beards.
The weddings started happening in the segregation. No dholki no dances. Women would send their 3 or 4 year daughters to the male section to find their fathers and get the salami money from them, and later to tell them that mommy is saying that we should go home now. Ever imagined that you are not allowed to be in your own sister’s wedding hall where you own sister is sitting as a bride?
I am a person who as adapted to every situation and a very strong believer of “do in Rome as the Romans do” but I was just not ready for this. The sanctity of those happy family gatherings, the purity of that love amongst the cousins without any sexual demands, the joys of watching horror movies under the blanket amongst all cousins, betting breakfasts over a game of cards was way too much for me to give up and digest its transformation. Transformation to; watching porn with my mullah cousins, segregation of males and females of the family while the males were discussing which female cousin is hot and which is not, recognizing which cousin is who under the veil of burqa, driving a female cousin back home while she would sit on the back seat and her two year old daughter would sit on the front seat like I am some paid chauffer. This was just not acceptable for me.
All of the sudden from a very jolly person of my family who used to cheer up the crowd I had become an alien for them. I was the infidel of the family who simply was not ready to buy in to any of the new arrangements of the family setup. My opinions about anything and everything were being rejected and overlooked. I had no standing amongst all my movli cousin because they had beards on their faces and a tasbeeh in their hands.
Without a suicide bomb or without manslaughter the talibaans killed the whole institution of my family for me, and I feel it was worse than that. It could have been better if there was a bomb blast. We might be able to win this battle of terrorism with drones and carpet bombings. But what about those extremists which we are producing in our own homes? How will we get rid of them? When will we even accept that there is some problem with that? Will education be a solution to that? But all my family was fairly educated then how can we say that education is the solution for this kind of talibanization? Isn’t this a bigger problem than load shedding of electricity and natural gas? Isn’t this a bigger problem than the corruption of politicians? Isn’t this a bigger problem than non availability of enough food for the people of this country? Whereas while in the streets I hardly find men/women who do not have pot bellies fairly visible from the burqas made out of probably 50 yards of cloth. Isn’t this a bigger problem that I am told that I should not call myself a muslim?
I think it is. You may not think like that! In that case, beware and make the most out of your family gatherings while you can because sooner or later, you will be trying to recognize your family members from their voices (or may be their shoes) and NOT their faces.