‘Our lives have been ruined, we cannot show our face in polite society, your sister’s marriage prospects were ruined, and your brother has been forever lost. Why did you do this to us? All to have fun roaming around with tight t-shirts and short red hair? To flaunt yourself?’
‘We gave you everything. We fed you, clothed you, taught you all we could, educated you, yet you turned your back on Allah, on your family, and now you are reaping what you sowed. When you hurt people and their lives, it comes back to you. The fires consume you here on earth.’
Fires have consumed me for decades, in my mind, in my heart. I wake most nights lying in a damp pool, the ever-present heat of those flames. The words of the Imams, the family, the friends, the communities, all ripping through every layer of me, showing me the wrongs of my life.
I cry silent tears for my children who never got the chance to run with cousins, climb apple, tamarind and mango trees, to meet the people who began the fabric of their lives. To feel the Bengali, and Persian, sun on their faces; to dance, laugh and sing around a roaring fire under the vast blanket of stars. The light of all of those who danced in those very places shining down to illuminate them.
My heart spills out with sadness that they never sat on the knees of their elders to hear the stories and the glory filled songs; the words they should have heard whilst tasting the sweet nectar of such love.
To hear the that they came from queens, that their backs are strong like no other. They are the children of an ancient lineage who roamed this earth in times or true knowing.
They believed that the lure of drugs, alcohol, men, orgies, late night roaming would be the only thing to take me away, the only thing to make me leave. It would be the thing to make me try to take my own life, to slip away in silence from every being I loved, and knew, at such a young childlike age.
Those would be the things that would make me fight, and scream as you tried to drag me back, as I begged and pleaded to be left alone to my choices. I spent years crying, hiding, running, fighting with everyone declaring me a rebel. A wash-out, someone who had let her life, her talents and her potential wash away with her tears. I chose to burn every day. All for the lure of drugs, alcohol, men and tight shirts.
Did any of you ever know me? My family, my friends, my Imams, my communities? Did you ever see me? Hear the words I was saying? Hear the silences of what I did not say? Did you see me as I was vanishing? Did any of you see the light in my eyes extinguish? Anyone?
But it was me, I bought shame, dishonour, and degradation to me and our Izaat.
Now I will voice those silences with words, I will decipher the words you did not listen to, I will show you the bones of the girl you did not see, light up those eyes you all saw dim.
‘Do not bring darkness to this family, do not destroy your parents. Run if you have to, but do not stay and expect everyone to deal with your pain out of selfishness.’ The final words of my auntie who I repeatedly went to for help. Whilst she roams around her estate by the sea today, surrounded by her growing children I wonder if she remembers the sentence she passed on me.
‘These things happen. Our cultures are different, our purpose is higher, we don’t bang drums announcing things like western people, that is selfish and unjust.’ My cousin, whilst walking in your tea gardens flying back and forth to your various mini empires, I wonder if you remember turning me away.
‘Stop crying, don’t make a fuss, they’ll end up taking your passport, you will be stuck in this god forsaken country. You runaway and there are plenty of men who will force you to marry them for your passport, or burn you with acid if you turn them away.’ My eldest aunt, whilst you sobbed over the shame your children had made you feel, I wonder if you remember the terror you installed in me.
‘Stop flirting so much and making men behave that way.’ The words that sting as you slapped me, pulled my hair – ‘you are ugly, people react that way as they feel sorry for you.’ My parents, I wonder if when your shame and rage at me is not soaring, in the dead of night if you remember the words and acts that left me being the girl who never deserved any good in life.
Let that be my sentence, let that be the judgement, my punishment which you all passed.
As I have my own to pass on you.
I slipped away, silently with hardly any possessions to my name, I lived a life running, hiding, trying to earn love, earn my own way, find people who did not think less of me, to learn, to find ways to be my own person, where no one could hurt me again.
Where were you all? Where were you when the youngest amongst your midst took my childhood away? Where were you when he spent a year emptying me of all my dreams, my laughter, my light?
How did you turn those eyes away? How did reputation, so called devout living make you so cruel?
So I hand you now my judgement my family, my friends, my Imams, my communities.
You all failed me. You failed me as a child, and you failed me again as my children and I are dragged through flames by a monster you sentenced me to.
The shame. The shame is on you.