Side Effects

Featured Image: Hanifa Abdul Hameed

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Over the sewing machine

Among the steady hum 

Of the needle gliding into the fabric

I hear 

Ladkiyon ko zyaada nahi parhaana chahiye

Unki soch badal jaati hai.

Ladkiyaan zyaada parh leti hain

Toh bahu banna bhool jati hain.

 

Girls shouldn’t study too much

Their way of thinking changes

If they study too much

They forget how to be a daughter-in-law.

 

And I thought, perhaps that is so.

Perhaps

When girls step out

They learn to step up

They learn their rights

They learn to refuse servitude 

In the guise of a marriage 

 

Mothers, be warned

If you educate your girls, they

will stand taller

will ask for equal rights

will be harder to oppress.

They will not accept the yoke their in-laws might offer

 

Fathers, take care

If you give your girls equal chances, they

Might start thinking for themselves

Might become independent and confident

Might be more aware

They will learn to recognize slavery when they see it

 

Daughters, be warned

Education is a pill

Read the side effects before you swallow

It might cure you

Make you more able than they desire

Open up new pathways

That they do not want you to tread

You may no longer be the daughter-in-law

That they dreamed of

You won’t be able to take things lying down

No more kicks to the shin

Or slaps to the face

You may have to compromise on their approval

Their praise, their pleasure

 

Maybe you won’t be a good daughter-in-law

Because you weren’t meant to be fettered 

Marriage is all about compromise

Whether you choose it or not

And it will make all the difference you never dared to think of.