Updated: Jun 24
| This is the 483rd story of Our Life Logs |
I used to ask, “What is the purpose of educating young girls? What are they good for? Why would I ever want a daughter when I could have a son?”
I was born in 1966 in Sahiwal, Pakistan. It is a small city that sits away from the hustle and bustle. Its uniqueness lies in its natural beauty. People here live just like a family, making it a wonderful place to grow. I was the youngest of six. My father owned a small business while my mother was a housewife, as most women were at that time. Even now, that’s largely true.
I got married at the age of 27. Like every newly married couple, we cherished every slant of life to its zenith. Everything was magical.
After some time, I came to know that I was going to be a father. Hearing this I felt like I was flying in the seventh sky. Everyone expected that it was going to be a baby boy and so did I. Having a son meant that you have someone to share your responsibilities, take care of you when you’re old and pass your name and legacy on to next generations. On the contrary, if you have a daughter, not only you will have to take care of her until she’s old enough to get married, but after marriage, she’ll move to her new house and leave her parents.
So, I always dreamt of a son. All my brothers were blessed with a boy as their first child, and I was ready for the very same good fortune.
February of 1994. I sat in the waiting room, desperately waiting for when I would hold my son in my hands. Finally, I saw the nurse walk out of the labor room who then congratulated me on becoming a father. Oh, how my heart swelled. But, when I went inside the room, I came to know that my first child was a girl.
Deep down, my heart broke. I thought of all that I had been robbed of. Still, I accepted Allah’s will and determined that our next child would be a boy. As life continued, that was not in my stars.
After my first, I was given another daughter. Now, being the only man in a family of four, I had to fulfill all the responsibilities on my own as the sole source of income for my family. But in Sahiwal, work was sparse and I couldn’t make enough on my own. I decided to try my luck in the Middle East. The economy of the said area was growing at that time, so it had many opportunities. So, I went to Saudi Arabia to work.
They say beginnings are always the hardest. Mine was no exception. I lived in Saudi Arabia alone, far from any of my family, and I was not able to find a job for a few months. Unemployment, growing responsibilities back home, suburban issues, and having no one to share the burden of my responsibilities, all added up to my anxiety. I tried hard, but it was all in vain.
I had lost hope and was planning to fly back to Pakistan when my wife gave me hope and courage to withstand the circumstances. She just kept saying that “this too shall pass.” Her words soothed me to some extent and I got the courage to fight against poverty for my family. Each morning, I woke up more hopeful and focused than the day before.
Over time, things got better. After a few months, I found a job and I achieved a financially-peaceful life. I went to Pakistan to visit my family and enjoyed my time. It looked like my wife had been right. Everything was good until things came to a head when my third daughter was born in 1998.
I lost complete faith. I started to believe that happiness was not something for me. I began to accept that I would die without honor and legacy. Whenever I looked at other people holding their sons, it broke my heart and reminded me that I was deprived of this blessing.
My eternal desire for having a son couldn’t be fulfilled, and I was so sad and heartbroken that it led me to a state of depression. I lost my ability to think and concentrate on the future. I couldn’t focus on anything, neither on work nor on my family. My heart was shattered. I couldn’t gather enough strength and spirit to face reality. It took me a couple of years to admit it. Meanwhile, the resentment I had was displaced on my poor daughters.
As my daughters grew up, my wife insisted on educating them. I believed that this would be fruitless. Girls couldn’t do any of the things that a boy was capable of doing. They wouldn’t do anything for society or even themselves. But since I was so far away, I let my frustrations go. Eventually, I agreed for my wife’s sake.
I kept on asking my wife about my daughter’s progress in academics, but I did so with the intent that she begged for something that was worth nothing. However, reality proved me wrong. Each time, my wife happily relayed my daughters’ high marks in school. Even so, I let this news fell on my deaf ears. I had no hope about their future.
All the while, I did my best to provide for every possible opportunity for my daughters. I believed wholeheartedly that this was my duty as a father. I wanted to give my children the very best, even if I thought my life would have been better if I had had a son.
The years continued and my daughters expressed their passion for getting a higher education. I thought that this passion will last no longer. Again, my wife pleaded and I gave them a chance (albeit, reluctantly). This is when things took a turn.
My frayed mindset was changed when my eldest daughter, Iqra, passed her MBA in 2016. She insisted that I should join the convocation. I conceded. I remember watching her from afar when she received her degree. She introduced me to her fellows and said, “What I’m today is just because of the tireless efforts of my father and the support of my mother. I’m blessed to have such parents that people always dream about.”
My heart dropped just as it had the moment when I was sad about her birth. But at that moment, my eldest child—my flesh and blood—was proudly introducing me to the room. Tears of joy and guilt rolled down of my eyes. From then, I watched her grow into an accomplished professional. In fact, the happiest day of my life was when she got appointed as an executive officer of the human resource department in a multinational company.
After her, my second daughter became a doctor in 2018. She made me proud because there was no one in my family whose daughter—or even whose son—was a doctor. She uses her brain and her compassion to provide services to the nation. Her resolve is gratifying.
Bushra, my third, is teaching at a school after completing her bachelor’s degree. It was her interest to teach. And that’s not all. She spends her days as a teacher, but she too is continuing her study. She is preparing for her master’s degree with such purpose. Again, the girls have blown me away.
In 2002, my fourth daughter was born. And guess what? I celebrated her birth and thanked Allah Almighty. Today, she is studying in high school and I have such high expectations for her. I returned to Pakistan (for good) a few years ago and now I am living a happy and satisfied life with my family.
My daughters have made my efforts worthy. It was quite challenging for me and everyone in my family to believe because no one envisioned that. Time made me realize that I had such a pessimistic mind for my daughters. I have got the answer to the question that everyone used to ask, “What is the purpose of educating your girls?” I have apprehended that my wife’s insistence on educating our daughters was quite worthy. I thanked Allah that I agreed on my wife’s emphasis because if I had refused at that time, my girls would have lost their future, and I would have lost such wonderful relationships.
Oh—and I must add—my eldest daughter, Iqra, got married to a boy who never forced her to quit her job. He believes that women should work in abeam to men. Thankfully the world is changing!
This is the story Ghulam Sarwar
Ghulam Sarwar is a businessman and runs a construction company that he founded in his hometown, Sahiwal, when he returned from the Middle East after living and working there for 15 years. He is a proud father of four girls who are highly educated contrary to the ancient culture of the area. His journey from backwardness of the mind to enlightenment represents the positively changing culture of South Asian societies. Not only did he educate his daughters, he also allowed them to work in a male dominant society. He’s hopeful that one day they’ll create a society free of gender discrimination.
This story first touched our hearts on January 9, 2020.
| Writer: Afifa Sarwar | Editor: Colleen Walker |