LISTEN, O FATHER! — Jaya Jadwani


 Most revered father,

          Today, I wish to devote my ‘little’
humble and heartfelt subservience to you. I would not have ever been what I am
today, if you had not been what you were then.

          Let me come to the main point, as you
strictly dislike dilly-dallying the dignity of time. Just a few months ago, I
happened to get a message from both of my brothers that I should legally acquiesce
to transfer my share of the paternal property to their names or else they will
withdraw any relationship with me and will ‘see’ me. I am well aware that they
can cross any limit to ‘see’ me. Perhaps, it seems that they too are inherent
of the so-called ‘patriarchal modus operandi’ that you cherished the most. It
was far beyond your likings that a woman should raise her voice to get her
rights or even think about it. You neither allowed such raisings to my mother,
nor did to me. It must have restored in your memory lane that how the entire
family used to pounce up on me all of a sudden whenever I tried to impugn on
anything,- “if you cross-examine in such an advocacy to your
mother-in-law, she, ‘the miserable’, will lament over her destiny to have
you.” Yet believe me father, my mother-in-law did not lament on my
advocacy but essentially because I continued my studies then. She, the
helpless, too couldn’t save herself from being the part of the same patriarchal
system where it is preconceived that girls go astray if they continue their
studies. Maybe, they think rightly, as it was the same point from where I too
went astray…

          It has been four years now that you left
us but I don’t remember I reminisce of you in such vehemence as I did today.
Rarely, when anyone reminded me of you asking that I look younger than my age
and so it is difficult to guess of it for them; I would humbly reply to them that
I belong to my father in this regard, as people always opined that you too
would seem in your sixties even in your nineties. Your legs were wooden framed
that were never meant to be jaded. You never stopped, father and kept moving to
the extent that swayed beyond our reach. For all of us, you were more than a
father, a powerful man descended from distant skies whom we were always afraid
of. Our tiny limbs never got the privilege to hold your hand. I was the sign of
our heightened fear when you would enter into the house. As soon as we heard of
your arrival into the house, we used to open any book and hide our heads behind
it to stay unnoticed by you. Whoever confronted you would have to be your
target of the day. But, our mother had to face you every single day. She
carried all the calamities on her heart as well as on the physical being. Both
must have been riddled off when she died. Being a woman, she was such drenched
in the hot waters of misfortune that all would have turned into rags. As Kabir,
an Indian mystic poet and saint, says Jyon ki tyon dhar deeni chadariya
(One should always keep every string of one’s Chadariya(body), the cover
in which soul resides, neat and not frayed) but can a woman do this? The strings
of her chadariya appear to be tattered from far distance that her soul feels
ashamed to reside there.

          Now look! The relatives too started
calling me after the brothers and trying to persuade me in their ‘tact’ that I
have all the amenities bestowed upon me by the Almighty and so I should neither
‘mess up’ with my brothers nor should I think about it; else I would lose all
the relations with that ‘house'(my paternal home). Hearing their petty excuses,
I couldn’t help laughing out loud contemplating that these are the same relatives
who feared to enter our house in your presence. Now see, how they are entering
reluctantly. And listen! As far as the bond with that ‘house’ is concerned, it
wasn’t ever mine even if you were alive, my father! You didn’t ever let it feel
mine. That ‘house’ could not belong to my seventy years old mother, so how the
same could belong to a sixteen-year-old girl. Father, that ‘house’ did belong
only to YOU. The only voice to be heard there was- “Go to your house (by
marrying someone) so that we may get rid of you.” The cows of the house were
better respected than the girls there but those too until milking to profit you,
as you would offer them in charity afterwards. Four of my buas (father’s
sister) and I too would try our best to compensate the expenses incurred on us
and used to work assiduously and you were too negligent to see that but it
doesn’t matter, father! As such, there was nothing worth to be seen for you.

          Somehow marrying all the buas
(father’s sisters), they were reluctantly sent to their so-called ‘that house’
(in-law’s place) and you tried all the feasible ways to entrench me in the four
walls of the house. The entire prison house was stocked with books so that I
keep raveled up reading them. I found wings in those books and would flee away
riding on the chariot of words. Really, father! You did such pious deed. Those
books bestowed me the life that you could never think of to gift me. As time
passed, I moved in transgression against you and that very day when my mother
was beaten up, I stood alarmed between both of you.

father, we used to love you very much. On every good thing of the house, you possessed
the first right and then your sons, be it the delicious food cooked by mother
or something else. As soon as the food was cooked, the mother would serve a
plate for you first and would keep it aside. Thereafter, she used to serve the
meal to us and at the end; she would eat cleaning the pan with her chapatti and
feel satiated to the extent that you would not feel having your unique plate especially
meant for you. I remember you used to keep a cotton ball of costly perfume (itra)
in your earlobes. As soon as you left home, we siblings used to rush for smelling
the fragrance from the cushion of your pillow. We also had deadly fights for
the cotton ball dropped from your ears. No matter how unworthy we were,
but what difference it would’ve made if you kept just one cotton ball in our
ears too. All through our life, we would whiff with the fragrance of your

I feel abashed for how carelessly I forgot those offerings that I acquired from
you viz. immense courage, sense of self-respect, sturdy power to combat by my own,
a sense of dignity and much more. Those struggling days crystallized me as an
individual. In fact, not only the struggle that I faced then  but also the one offered to me by that
so-called ‘that house'(in-law’s place) where you had sent me in the name of
marriage. How relaxed you must have felt while dissociating, “Go and never
turn back”, mustn’t you? You know father, at your ‘house’, seldom  had I bathed in the brackish water because my
mother was there to caress me but I was obliged to bath in the brackish waters
at ‘that house’ as there was a mother-in-law indeed.

the pitiable homeless girls often jeopardize our lives in search of ‘safe
house’ for us and believe it or not, what else do we have to gamble than our
physicality? But father, I never regretted before you nor did I sob any
jeremiads. It was my destiny, which I had to confront on my own. You forged me
as a ‘commodity’ and the in-laws pruned me to a ‘good commodity’.

were not among those children borne out of love yet just existed. I was born
before your very eyes, grew up young, fought contended at every step; but no
one in the family actually understood me; not even my mother. Well! She had to
bear the economic burden as well as the burden of protecting the children and
herself. Waking up at three early in the morning until eleven in the night, she
would hang up working hard. When I look around the women of today, I
feel no surprise that dancing amidst the bazaar, they are busy to make men
penniless and in quenching their lust, the bazaars are honestly returning to them.
Maybe, the women are being paid off for their bitter past. I used to get angry
with my mother as she was always vowed to some or other fasting and rituals for
you and your sons. She sometimes would whirl the auspicious red thread around
the trunk of Amla (emblica) tree and bake sweet-chapattis on the burning
charcoal during Holika Dahan (a ritual of fire burn on Holi festival) and
other occasions on the other. You have ruptured us into two halves: below the
waist and the other lying above that. Both fragmented parts were indulged in
serving you. Whenever the mind wished to revolt, the other fragmented part would
handle and if the lower fragment revolted, the head would handle. You could
never have imagined that my mother and I could be something beyond your awe-authority;
that we too possessed a mind and feelings. It was always you to decide up on
our belongings and you did well as per your mercy upon us.

were always vertical with your unworthy sons in sharing their sorrows or
happiness. It was a matter of great pleasure for you that your sons will be the
successors of your property worth of crore rupees. They were not interested to
continue their studies but you used to force them to continue. Contrary, I
wished to study but you didn’t let me do so. You were habitual to lavish upon
them extravagantly but whenever your ill-fortuned sisters asked you for petty
hundred rupees, you would excuse them pretending the paucity of funds with you.

had the deepest desire that your sons will put your name to ‘shine’, but alas! They
‘drowned’ it. But you don’t worry at all father, as the heaven might also be
congregated with people like you. There too, the presiding deities sing in
praise of each other. There, they have attuned the Goddesses as well. Therefore,
I am with high hopes that the flag of your name would have been floating in the
heavenly air too.

the way, please tell me one thing father, wasn’t your ‘name’ and ‘fame’ based
on trivial superficialities. I remember, whenever I forgot to veil my head with
the dupatta (shawl or scarf worn by girls around the head, neck and
shoulder and is considered a matter of keeping dignity), you would yell, “Look
Benazir Bhutto! She always presents herself in the lectures veiling her head
with the dupatta, and you! How will people react? Or look at Lata
Mangeshkar, how she has made her father’s name to ‘shine’ and compare you!
Father, every move of mine, in fact my appearance seemed to you with thousand

her ways, how she walks with constant thudding…who will marry her?”

at her inauspiciously growing height, only short girls suits the best.”

is the need to burst into laughter? Girls should not laugh out so loud.”

          Perhaps, you were right in your
assumptions, father! Girls do really look decent while crying because then one
can pity upon them and can offer their kind favours to her. You have crushed
sundry possibilities under the nasty feet of your words and it was altogether
better that you always remained unaware of it. You ruined our self-confidence.
We were ‘nothing’ and you could not even sense  how I felt tossed through years and passed
through the pains to be ‘something’ from ‘nothing’. How difficult it was for me
to eradicate the vestiges of the past from the soil; to turn the dead soil
fertile once again; to sow afresh, and then to wait for rain and harvest. I am
altogether thankful to you, father that you did not try to pamper me as your
pampered your sons exemplifying the results. They could not find their
respective paths on their own.

to be preyed by the disposed mentality of the people like you, Benazir Bhutto
too must have been wandering aloof but sadly! She too could not save her. Men
cannot bear with a strong woman in the houses and so it is out of question to
bear the one with legal powers and status. Moreover and suggestively, men
should not stand with such influential women to be feared by the fact, my
father, that if these women folk come out of the thresholds, who will take care
of your begotten children? And it is the need of the hour to show them their
status, isn’t it?

I adjure to you father! It is not the duty of a father to ‘make’ his children.
Please do desist from this! One can only ‘make’ what he himself owns. You
should only proffer them with love and a sense of respect so that they can give
it back to themselves and could stand up from their own raw soil. After all,
where do women perceive salubrious proximities in relationships? We are always
offered with piles of certain ‘objects’ that so-often we cling to them and
sustain our satisfactions. Unfortunately, we are never destined to meet a man who
could intuit us our whole-being and thus we often tend to waste our life in an
unfulfilled swerve.
yes! When occasionally a fearless, candid, dauntless and rugged woman raises
her voice against the male authority and shakes their hinges to proclaim
herself in her own voice and herald her existence,  what happens then? Ah! Then? Then these
so-called patriarchal seven-spots frown and eventually put her at the
deliberate destination.

          You had tried out to humiliate and
insult your sisters with all the possible ways that they all started tolerating
their future humiliations as their written fate. Anyway, now their husbands and
sons have restored your position. However, what could you do, father! As you
were not obliged to take all the reformed contracts, were you? Remained an
exception, I could not become the one like them. You had done well to keep us
‘faceless’ but I augmented a new face from the core. Of course, this fame owes
to you.
tell me, the books that you had stored to lock me up have ruined all for me. Certainly,
my mother must have understood this so that she would put fire on the books or
throw them on the roof. She would advice then, “Girls should not study
much, after all what is the efficacy of studies in managing the household.”
Better learn tailoring and embroidery, making papad (wafers made from
various flours) and badiyan (a dry dish made from pulse and lentil
flours, later to be used to make curry). Learn extracting Ghee (liquid
butter), making quilts-mattresses-bags, learn Sindhi embroidery, Gurmukhi
(a script in which Punjabi language is written.),
read religious scriptures, cognize
the virtues of becoming a good wife and good daughter-in-law- otherwise people
will spit on us and question what we have taught to you? Now let me tell you,
in our country people spit anywhere they want, what should be done to them? Then
marrying me forcibly she enlightened me further as, “Wake up early in the
morning and do all the household chores, touch the feet of the mother-in-law  and father-in law every day, whatever they
say, never dare answer them impudently. If at any moment, we happen to get
complaint from there, keep that you will be no more for us that very moment.”
Father, I do not know whether I would be able to state you in words how many
times a girl has to die to live until her last day. Whatever was told to me, I
tried to keep at my best but I couldn’t help much as very soon a new woman
emerged out of me who overtly murdered that former one.

          I could have never been convinced, my
mother that the one whose supremacy she always cursed and moaned over, in
reality she too cherished it. Father, my mother too hated you but she had a
bizarre kind of fidelity towards you. The meaningfulness of her life was attached
to her ‘master’ yet the master judged it as meaningless boundlessly.
She was always
irritable, angry and disturbed. Most of the times her neuter rebellion used to
thud and pinched up on us like a glass broken. It was not accidental that she
died of cardiac arrest and worms in the vagina. But mother, you are not to
blame as this is the destiny of every stupid woman. I remember you used to
keep loyalty to men only when they are beaten with a truncheon.”

          I was of the opinion that at certain
point women can get rid of all these cruelties but I was wrong. No matter they
have turned old; women cannot be free, only their ‘masters’ get metamorphosed. Living
amidst the fear of shielding themselves from male demesne keep loomed up on
conscience. To vindicate themselves, they have to struggle quadruple than men
I am still doing it.

          Father! You were such an erudite that
you did not like naive and boobyish husbands, as they might not be skilled
enough to subdue women. You kept a disliking towards your father, most
presumably, because he was not that much skilled enough to subdue your mother.
So as of now you might be poring your sons as who is being subduing upon whom?
Maybe, you have felt a little wounded and unhappy but time has come round a bit
now. You even used to dislike your foul-mouthed and illiterate mother, as you
always wanted women to be ‘prudent’ yet to be in her ‘limit’. She should keep ‘sanity’
and ‘willpower’ provided the qualities remain unapplied. Sorry to say father,
but now onwards, such women will be found in the books only.

          I deeply regret for all my insolence with
you, revered father! Whatever I am, I am your offspring. Neither do I refuse to
be born through you, nor do I want to erase you and bow down before me.
All I want today is to
talk at a level of equality. Look! You never gave me an opportunity to speak
but today I am speaking to my heart’s content. If you were alive, you would
undeniably hit me with your umbrella.
It never offended me to be beaten with
umbrella, father. That was just that the wounds of words pierce much injuriously.
But never mind! It was your birthright. You used to quote so often,” if I
had not been there, what would have happened to you all, you would have been
severely poverty-stricken?” I really do not know what would have happened
to us father, but if you had not been there, we would surely have rekindled the
lost conscience, courage and intuition within us.

          Today, standing afar, after so many
years I apologize to you father for shredding your extinguished mindset into
pieces. Though I know that this is not your choice but an adaptation that has
been cuddled now into your entire being. Men who cannot be free from this,
women like me get themselves free from their clutches.

          Servitude of a woman is the cry for
men’s existence yet the freedom of women is the need of their soul.

          You may be wondered why I am telling
you all this, today? I am sharing with you because my brothers are practising
the same what they have inherited from your set traditions. We, the women can
lay upon your properties but cannot use it, why? They want me to withdraw and
without buying their time for ‘free of cost’, I should keep my limits, walk
bare hands on different path, silently and should get out of their lives.
Father! I have already been out of your lives long ago. I may not be alive in
any one of you but everyone is still alive within me. Now, they would have to
sweat a lot to divest me from my property right. I have your pious blood
running in my veins and so I will never give you a chance to be ashamed by
losing the battle.

          I overtly take all my apologies back,
if I’d rendered you any in this regard.


                   Your Indocile Daughter

I ‘m not writing the name as I have left the name far behind that I was
baptized with. And what will you do knowing the new one?]


Translated by Deepa Kumawat from Hindi original Suno O Pita! into English

Edited by: Dr. B.K. Anjana

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