A Shadow of Myself
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
| This is the 316th story of Our Life Logs |
A life without its own identity is nothing but a shadow. It clings to another and hides from the sun.
I was born in Dubai in 1983 to my father, a wealthy businessman, and my mother, a party animal. No doubt they loved me, but they loved all the other things more. Because my mother spent most of her time dancing with friends, and my father was always away for meetings and networking, I was left with caretakers and nannies throughout my entire childhood.
I would look at kids of my age and envy them because they always had their parents watching out for them. I don’t remember my parents attending my parent teacher meeting even once. I tried telling them how I felt and how much I wanted to be happy in life, but I was always snubbed for some reason. Either they were too busy or they were just too tired. Eventually, I began to see my life for what it was. Maybe my parents never wanted me; maybe I was a mistake.
When I was 14, my family moved when my father decided to shift his business as a merchant to Pakistan. I still remember how much I resented my new home and how I cursed my parents for bringing me, for in Pakistan, I spent more and more time alone. My parents both were always busy in their lives and used money to coddle me into happiness. Unfortunately, this never worked. I lived a very lonely and depressing life.
After some time in Pakistan, I made peace with my situation, I mean, I was alone no matter where I lived. My parents got me admitted into one of the most expensive and prestigious schools of Lahore, but, little did they know, it mattered absolutely nothing to me. I never liked studying or going to school. Perhaps because I never had any friends. Nobody liked talking to me because I always had a frown on my face and I never smiled. There was nothing to smile about.
One day during my recess period while I was resting on a bench, a boy—a complete stranger—walked up to where I was and sat beside me.
His smirk was charming, and his eyes were dreamy and sparkling. I couldn’t help but to stare at him for a good period of few seconds, and before I could remember to speak, he said, “It’s okay to be alone sometimes you know, but what’s not okay is the fact that you keep your thoughts to yourself. Talking always helps.” His words pierced the walls of my heart and made a house inside. Nobody had ever talked to me like that. I was too shy to say anything so I kept silent.
I thought about him all day long. My heart told me that we will see each other again, so I dressed up extra nicely the next day and waited at the same place we met. Guess my heart wasn’t wrong after all. He showed up, this time carrying extra charm. “Someone looks pretty today.” I think that was the first time in 15 years that I smiled. His voice was so angelic and considerate that I nearly lost myself into him for a while. I was surely under his spell.
We introduced ourselves and talked for a long time. Bilal was a 21-year-old university student who was taking courses at the building close by. His demeanor was pretty sensible, and I felt as if he understood me.
I started skipping my classes for Bilal and he did the same for me. I was too young to ever consider why he was taking so much in interest in me. He was handsome, charming, and very rich, whereas I, on the other hand, was weird and an introvert. We started spending almost all our time together and my fondness for him kept increasing. My very dramatic, very romantic spirit told me that he was the one. He was the one I’d love for the rest of eternity. It’s crazy how young girls think such foolish things.
I was irrevocably in love with him, and I won’t deny it but I really did become obsessed. I thought that he would give me the love I had been deprived of for so long. This continued for few months until one day out of nowhere, he asked me if I would marry him right away. As Bilal proposed, my entire body began shaking. It was too early for both of us, but he was adamant that he would make sure I had everything. Finally, I said yes!
We both knew our parents would never agree to our marriage, so we secretly married in a court. On that day, I abandoned my parents and my education just to be with him, and he brought me to a small house far, far away from the city.
Bilal said that he couldn’t tell his parents until he’s done with college, and that my parents should never discover where I was or where I ran to. I agreed, and for that matter, I never really cared about them. Bilal the man I married was everything to me. I thought our life together would end happily, just like all the fairy tales. Unfortunately, fairy tales are not real.
• • •
During this whole time, Bilal would not show up for weeks because he had college and his parents were unaware of the situation. I was just 16, alone in an empty house with no one to talk to but the walls. Perhaps the thought of having him one day all to myself was mesmerizing and kept me going.
Each time Bilal would visit our home, we would have a great time. I always tried to make him happy and he tried his best to comfort me. Soon enough, I found that I was pregnant. When I told Bilal, he looked at me with a charming smile and told me he was going to be a doting father. I could not have asked for more. My life was going to be so happy and joyful. Or so I thought.
One day, out of nowhere, Bilal’s sister showed up at my door. I had not been expecting anyone, let alone Bilal’s sibling whom I had never met. But what she said turned my world upside down.
She told me Bilal was married to a girl who was five years older than him, and was expecting her first child too. I was devastated. She showed me pictures to support her argument and answered my questions. I felt betrayed and used by the only and first ever man I loved. I abandoned everything for him and he had lied to me.
I left that house and went over to my parents’ home, hoping that they might forgive me and welcome me with open arms. When I told them, they could not believe me. They were upset and extremely disappointed. While they offered a room for me, my father refused to see my face. I kept silent because I was the only person to be blamed.
During this time, Bilal came many times to apologize and take me with him, but I refused every time. My mother tried to make me understand that I have no other option but to go back to him because I didn’t have an identity of my own. She said that I was 16 and pregnant, and that people would judge me and suck the life out of me.
I was disheartened by their behavior all over again. Had they not abandoned me in the first place? Had my life not turned into a living hell? These questions only made my tears fall harder, so I stopped asking them. I went back to Bilal and gave birth to our daughter. I thought things might change after her arrival, but he was still the same.
When the daughter of Bilal’s other wife was born two months after mine, and Bilal preferred to spend more time with her and ignored our daughter. He would not show up for weeks and just send us money. I told him many times that money was not his daughter needed, but a father’s love. Though his cruelty crushed me, I decided that I would never let my daughter live the kind of life I lived. I tried to be a doting mother. I gave her all the love and attention that I could muster, despite my broken heart.
I was 25 when I got pregnant with my second baby. Things were still the same. I could have left Bilal and started a new life, but I did not want my children to live without a father. Their life would not have been any different than mine If I did that.
And still, I was tired of living a monotonous life. I wanted to change it and make it worthwhile. I wanted to do something for myself, I wanted to create an identity of my own. For my whole life, I had drowned in the shadows of hurt and pain. I wanted to show Bilal that his betrayal did not make me weak but instead made me a stronger person. So, I thought of resuming my education. I knew it would be hard to manage with two kids, but it was not impossible. I talked to Bilal but he laughed it away and snubbed me. “You’re too old for going back to school now,” he said. That’s when I decided that I will complete my education no matter what.
Before I could make a strategy, I got pregnant with my third baby at 29 years old. But the thought of education and completing degree never escaped my mind. I talked to Bilal again after our son was born. but he refused again. This time, very harshly.
But since I was adamant, I submitted forms for my college exams as a private candidate and started studying. It was not easy at all to manage with three kids, but I was determined, and after a semester of studying behind closed doors, I appeared for my school exams and passed.
The news of my success was the wind in my sails. In that moment, I knew I had the strength to continue learning and growing as a student and as a person. Nothing would bring me to despair again.
When Bilal found out about my studies, he beat bruises and cuts into my skin. Unfortunately for him, he could not beat my new spirit. As soon as I could leave safely, I went to the police station and filed a case against him for assault, domestic violence, and harassment. The authorities took him into custody and taught him a lesson which he learned very well.
In the days of Bilal’s absence, our children asked me where their father was. I could not lie to them for long. I saw the same look in their eyes that had been in mine years ago. While Bilal did not show them much love and affection, perhaps his time in jail might change that. I knew how much they longed for it, and I did not want my kids to suffer. They soon set him free on my appeal.
Bilal never hit me after that, and never stopped me from studying. As I turned 34 years old, I appeared for my bachelor exams privately and cleared them all.
It’s true that I cannot look past my regrets, but those are what will stay in my shadow. Now, I look to the light and keep getting stronger.
This is the story of Rania Mukhtar
Rania grew up with parents who were too busy and disinterested to show her love. This loneliness persisted until she turned 15 years old and met the love of her life. After eloping and leaving home, Rania found out many lies that stripped her of her identity. After years of living for others, Rania is now 36 years old preparing for her master’s exams. She wishes to continue studying till the time she can. She kept psychology as her major because she thinks it will help her help other people. She wants her children to have a perfect life unlike hers. She no more looks back at the past and instead focuses on herself to make her future better.
This story first touched our hearts on May 2, 2019.
| Writer: Noor Pasha | Editor: Colleen Walker |
#infidelity #physicalabuse #India #relationships #younglove #Pakistan #identity #college