On a day when Kisan Bapat Baburav Hazare threatens to take on Mumbai, on a day when Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar threatens to strike the hundredth hundred, I am moved enough to remember all those eyes that peer out of darkness of veils.
You feel the impetus is seriously misplaced? With half the women in Saudi Arabia having thrown their femininity to winds driving cars, a neighbourhood incensed with Veena Malik for having shed her clothes and arguably, her modesty, to a rival nation and; Anita, a budding, merciful belle, writing to Nicolas Sarkozy to reconsider the ban on burqa, my little brain here is a whirlwind of emotions.
A face from childhood quickly reduced to a pair of eyes returns to haunt me. She was my sister’s friend from school, Nazia. Being close to and having accompanied my sister to her home a few times where we were promptly stopped at the door where Nazia would come to meet us, I was witness to the brief meetings for a couple of years or so. They would talk in hushed tones, exchange a book or a box of watercolours, while I would stay at a distance. The occasional glances that fell my way had a devastating effect on me and I had my first childhood crush. Then out of the blue came that last meeting when our father got transferred to a new destination. Everything was packed off and time was scarce. We found our way for the last time to the stairs that ended at the door. We were gruffly told to wait. Nazia took an unduly long time coming and when she did it was not her. We met a girl covered from top to toe in black with a sliver that revealed a mere pair of eyes. Yes, those eyes were certainly the same but they had none of their old twinkle. They wore a sad, brooding look about them and they didn’t dance around anymore. She will have to don the hijab now on, she said under her breath and that was all that would be said. I remember I was holding hands with my sister as we just stood in an awkward silence, my heart burning with a desire to yank open the old familiar face. Soon she was struggling to suppress the moistness in her eyes. I am sure if it was for losing an old friend, a part of it was also for earning the new companion in her life, the shroud. My sister cried the way back.
Since then, My encounters with burqa have been limited to veiled figurines flitting across the streets. Few other Muslim girls that I got acquainted with never covered their faces. Thus, it is probably preposterous on my part to start imagining that all Muslim girls hate burqa just as it is gratuitous on Anita’s part to imagine that all Muslim girls are yearning to exercise their democratic right of donning one. I am sure she is a well meaning girl, mature for her years, and eventually she will write to the Saudi authorities requesting them to allow their women to drive cars and crack their whips on the men who practice homosexuality instead, which is as un-Islamic as one can imagine. She would write to the Muslim Tyohar Committee also requesting them not to outcast any Pakistani girl shedding everything she has, as it would tantamount to suppressing the democratic spirit of this nation. Finally, she would write to the Taliban too, who are undoubtedly headed to be the rulers of Afghanistan, thanking them for allowing their women to don the one-eyed burqa that majestically protects them from prying eyes even as they are trampled, trudged and ravaged at the cusp of childhood and adolescence by their legalised rapists.