| This is the 537th story of Our Life Logs® |
There is light at the end of the tunnel, sure. It lingers there; it begs you to move. And unless you pass through the shivering passage of darkness, you will never hold the glow of day in your hands.
Where to begin? My name is Samina Abid, I was born in 1983 in Kasur, Pakistan. My father owned a small shop, my mother was a simple housewife, and I had four younger sisters, so there was nothing lavish about my childhood. We got by with the basics, as did many. Still, raising five daughters was never easy for my parents. They loved us all equally, but I could see the exhaustion that my father held in his eyes. No matter how hard he worked, it seemed that he could never to give his daughters the kind of life he thought we deserved.
I loved my father and all he sacrificed, so, as the eldest daughter, I decided to give up on the idea of education and get married as soon as I could to make things easier for family. No matter what.
I was just 19 when my aunt approached my father with the good news, and I remember when my father relayed their conversation to me. His eyes were bright and he couldn’t hold back his grin when he said that my aunt’s son, Saleem, would be the perfect match for me.
Parents do all that they can to protect their children; little do they know that fate is all that matters. I was happy that there was something that made my father happy. And even though Saleem was 12 years older than me, I agreed to the marriage. I was certain that my life would be better. I would be provided for, I would relieve my parents, I would be content. Only if I knew. If only I knew.
Our marriage ceremony was a very small one since neither of us could really afford to hold a grand party. Saleem was a rickshaw driver in Lahore, which is where I moved with him as soon as we could.
Saleem was a very dry and moody person, I was not, but I figured that this had to do with our age gap. I gave him time to settle, but he was not getting any happier. I love our little home, but it was too small to let me ignore his behavior. I began overcompensating for the awkward pauses and harsh tones. I tried everything to make him happy.
I had my first son just a year after our marriage, and for a moment, my life felt perfect and whole. But that was when Saleem began beating me.
I was astounded, as I’m sure you are now. He had never been violent before, but it was as if our new life had awoken something fierce in his bones. He began yelling at me. He began grabbing me. He did not touch our baby, which I was thankful for, so I did not reach out for help. Any truly, it is very common for a man to beat his wife where I am from. Our silence is welcomed. Our cries are not. Moreover, my father who was getting weak day by day and struggling to wed my other sisters; to make my father worry was the last thing I wanted. I thought that I needed to stay so I could make the best life for me and my son.
I had my second son a year and a half after the first one. It got really hard for me to work and look after them and at night, satisfy Saleem. He never cared, he left his job and spent all his money on drugs and liquor. It was then that I found out that he was an addict. Still, I endured it all. What was I to do? I was 25 with two children, no education, and the frowning eyes of society waiting for me.
Eventually, the money for food began to disappear. I decided to find a job so that I could feed my kids. I wasn’t educated, so the only thing I could do was clean people’s houses. I didn’t earn much, and from that even Saleem would snatch half the money.
Years went by. I put up with my husband. I worked until I came home sticky with the sweat of the day. I paid for my sons to go to school so that they could become the people this world needs. I paid my husband so that he would keep from beating me and throwing me out of the house. We tried to manage with what we had, although it killed me to see how I can’t get my kids everything they asked for. I felt like my father, all those years before.
Life became a monotony—isn’t that how it goes? You blink and before you know it, you are approaching 40. The exhaustion will creep up on you if you let it.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Lahore. I lost everything. I was fired from three of the four houses that I cleaned because of the threat of the coronavirus. Overnight, I didn’t know how I would feed my kids or pay the bills. For years, I had worked day and night for my sons to get the education they needed so that they could get away from their abusive father. It all blew away in the wind.
Nobody knew for how long the pandemic would last, and my sons slept hungry at night. The second month that followed after the COVID-19 hit us, I did get my salary from the one house that didn’t fire me. I decided to save some money for emergencies and use the rest for food and medicines. Saleem knew I had been paid, so he asked for his share. It was all I had in me to utter that simple, yet powerful word.
It hung in the air like smoke from a pipe and as I saw the anger in Saleem’s eyes, I knew I could never pull it back. I did not want to. Enough was enough.
Saleem did not back down, however, if that’s the cinematic picture that you were expecting. Instead, he slapped me and told me and my sons to leave his house. We spent the night on the street near our home. I figured that this was the alcohol talking, but that was not the case either. He was just as angry and stubborn when the sun rose. Soon after, he changed the locks on our doors and ignored us entirely.
My younger son was burning with fever and there was nothing that I could do. I had no money or roof over my head to help him. I cried while sitting outside the house, but nobody came to help me. My elder son begged passersby, but there wasn’t even a single person who would come to our rescue.
I picked him up and ran to Mehreen Baji, the lady I worked for. I knew she would help me as she was the only person who didn’t fire me. I told her what happened and she took my son to the hospital. We were confirmed that my son had gotten the virus and that is why he was burning with fever. The hospital didn’t let us go in but admitted my son. By evening it was told to us that he didn’t have the virus and it was just fever because of weakness. Thank God!
I went back to Mehreen Baji’s place, as I had nowhere else to go.
The next day, my husband showed up there and was totally drunk. He abused me and tried to beat me and take my sons away. He also said that he was divorcing me and getting married to a younger girl who is more attractive than I ever was. His words fell on my wounded ears, and the next thing I know, Mehreen Baji shooed Saleem off her property. The pain lingered, but at least we were safe.
Mehreen Baji has living quarters at the back of her house where I’m staying with some of her other house and groundskeepers. She has allowed me to stay here until I find more work and a permanent residence. No matter how much I earn, I will try to make things work for us, and I will get my sons the education they so need. I want this pandemic to end as soon as possible so that I can find more work and my sons could go to school again.
My life is not perfect, but it is not one to look down on, either. I am making my way through the dark tunnel, so to speak, and have never before seen such powerful light at the end of these sufferings. Now, I can start anew. Now, I am rid of the man who never deserved me and my sons. My father always used to say that a woman is stronger than she looks. A divorce cannot bring me down. I am more alive than I ever was.
This is the story of Samina
Samina, 37, is from Lahore, Pakistan. Samina watched her father and mother struggle to provide a good life for her and her sisters. So, when Samina came of age, she agreed to an arranged marriage to relieve some of the burden. Unfortunately, Samina found that her new husband was abusive—and yet, she could not leave him. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 that she was forced to leave her husband, due to her little earnings to fuel his lifestyle. Now that she is divorced, she is rather happy. She is looking forward to the end of this pandemic so that she can give her sons the life they deserve. She wants them to be successful. She looks forward to a thriving life.
This story first touched our hearts on August 18, 2020.
| Writer: Noor Pasha | Editor: Colleen Walker |