The Hydrogen // Mahwish Taalib
In the dark night, she was running so fast that if she were to stop for an instance, she would have lost her balance and then ultimately her life.
Her violet faded shawl slid off her shoulders; curled, long hair turned to a bush, barefooted, she felt her throat bone dried; still she was trying to escape, unaware of the fact that death was still chasing her…
An element has two types of peculiarities, intensive and extensive. The first one is predetermined, whereas the second one varies with size and amount.
Likewise, a woman possesses two types of properties.
Naturally, one property resides in her, while the second property is oriented
by the events that occur from time to time in her life. Indeed, both
wrongdoings as well as good doings of a woman depend upon the people she is
confronted with most frequently in her daily life, and the environment she is
provided with. It is not herself who decides which of her traits dominates;
it’s the society who provokes her for both her wrongdoings and right doings.
Sunny was the day, the sky was hung high and pale blue. Through the open window, the sun rays were scorching me as if they would burn me. I was in my room, alone; my stomach was yelling at my sad life, asking me for food.
I looked around, stood up, went to wash my mouth. While doing that, I remembered that I had to complete the draft. I washed my mouth, turned off the basin faucet, and cleaned my face with a towel. Well, I hadn’t completed the draft yet, although I had no other responsibilities except for preparing breakfast (and have it soon after, of course). After doing this only job, all the time I had, I always spent it in writing the novel I have presently been working on for last three years.
I would have completed this novel a lot earlier if that terrifying incident hadn’t happened to me; the one which changed my life altogether…I discovered, with severe pain and morose, that its tart impressions still pinch me.
Not willing to get entangled in the same feelings of intense sorrow anymore, I picked up some blank papers from the pile, placed them in front of me on the table and started writing down the sorrow. No sooner had I completed a paragraph when the doorbell rang. I couldn’t help getting annoyed.
“Who’s there?” I yelled, still sitting on my chair. “It’s Nasima here,” the visitor responded. I managed myself to stay normal, stood up, opened the door, and welcomed her inside in the next thirty seconds. Nasima is the girl who lives in the backyard of our society. Fouzia (old maid), her mother, had got her married when she was just fifteen, to a man who was neither of her age, nor her compatibility. Unfortunately, she was not the only woman to follow such illogical practices.
Many other parents do the same with their young girls as soon as they reached puberty.. Actually, this is our whole female community who is suffering in any of the various ways that applies only to women forced by our awful social customs..
Letting her in, I sat down beside her on the velvety grayish black couch. “How did you come Nasima? How is Auntie?” I asked politely. She looked more timid and bony than I had seen her when she last visited with her mother. Her lips were cracked and cheeks were bulged inward. She had black circles and a permanent bizarreness in her eyes.
“She is not well baaji, she is a very big torment for me…”
Nasima wrenched her fingers pensively. I could sense that she wanted me to help her, support her, both financially and emotionally.
I could understand the main problem of these people, how much they strive to survive quietly, but the miseries of their life force them to knock on other people’s doors.
I felt sad for her, even though I did not know her whole narrative yet. I got up and brought her a glass of mango juice. Even though I was in the mood of sheer completing my novel, it now seemed impossible. It was anyway half past 12 in the afternoon. I put the whole bundle of papers together, put the cover back on the pen and came back in the living room. I advised Nasima to make herself comfortable, either on the floor or the sofa.
“How about your husband Nasima, does he take good care of you?” I asked her a usual question, in a matter-of-fact manner. After releasing a cold sigh she started…
“My life turned topsy-turvy when I got married to Akbar. My husband is a petulant, conservative man; and he doesn’t love me at all.” She murmured, as if she did not want anyone else to know about her miserable life. “Didn’t you involve anybody else in your matter?” I showed a little concern. “How could I?” she replied. She was very nervous. She mustered up some courage, and after a minute, she added, “Once I discussed his routine with his mother, that he smokes and drinks. His mother didn’t bother me at all at the moment, but you wouldn’t believe what happened that night. He came into the room squeezing his palms and furrowing his brows…” Shedding her tears, she continued, “He simply slapped my face so forcefully, that without knowing I could have confessed to any crime. He didn’t say anything to me.” She started crying, tears rolled down from her eyes. Her eyes clearly showed the pain she was bearing; the grief she had been honored with.
I gave her a handkerchief to clean her face and her tears, and asked her not to cry anymore for what she has not done..
She started saying again, “After two days I came to my mother and told her the whole story. I was hoping that after listening to my ordeal, she would soothe me with her swift words of consolation and a warm hug; but how mistaken I was!!”
“My mother gave me the negative result of my expectations, ordering me to keep my mouth shut, and appreciate what I had in my life. I obeyed her, but after that day, he started to beat me frequently…” She was staring her nails.
She was only eighteen now, but looked despondent and disappointed with life. I felt some burden in my heart. Her narration brought a lump to my throat. Her story was not new to me. It was an often repeated one in our society. But the point that drew my attention towards her was her innocence and her youth.
She was in a faded two-piece lawn dress, wearing shine-less plastic slippers. To a stranger she would appear to be a virgin at first sight. With some effort, I averted my eyes, and intentionally asked her, “So Nasima what do you plan to do now?” I wanted to know her perception of marital status.
“All my plans fail in front of my mother’s will. She wants me to live happily in that Tophet…” She was looking at the floor like she was dead from inside, unsure of her fate. “No.. There is no will over God’s will; we just need to trust in Him.” I corrected her, even though I knew, it was not enough.
She started sobbing again. I could sense that there was something else she wanted to tell me, something even bigger than what she had already divulged. I felt a strong feeling of dismay growing like a tumor residing in her. I fumbled her. She started again, wiping her tears.
“One day I was in the yard. After watering the plants, I sat on one of the two stools placed in the open yard. My mother in law wasn’t at home, so I was feeling better, carefree.”
“Later in the afternoon it started raining heavily. Remembering my childhood rains, the clay toys, hide and seek with my friends, damp clothes… I couldn’t help taking a shower in the open rain. A few moments later, it so happened that a neighboring young boy appeared on one of the roof borders at the front of my house. Without paying any heed to him, I continued to twirl with joy. I continued to find the girl inside me that still wanted to live with freedom, I continued to find myself.” And there comes the hellfire. “Suddenly Akbar appeared on the wooden door and pushed it open. I opened my eyes shockingly… as if I had woken up from a dream” She took a while to continue…
“He dragged me in, and started striking me blindly. ‘Harlot! I cannot tolerate your evil doings in my house,’ he had quirked. Then he grabbed me by my hair, and holding a scissor in one hand, cut them in one fell swoop. I screamed at the top of my voice, but there was no one to help me. Even if there had been someone, I doubt any human would have come forward to help me.”
A flood of tears again started rolling out of her eyes. All of a sudden, she parted her dupatta; her hair was short, reaching only till her neck.
I felt my breath stop. I was left unspeakable, my lips skimming off each other. But she was akin to a balloon, filled completely with air, waiting for its mouth to be opened by removing all obstructions (knot).
“I might regret my words, but I have to say that I didn’t get the marital life that I had yearned for, or dreamt it to be. I can’t stand it anymore. I hate to see pity in the eyes of people when they look at me. I hate the charitable expression that comes out of their eyes when they look at me.”
I gave her the courage to fight this sorrow, gave her the help she needed. I had nothing else to give to her, except these small words of encouragement. She said “I shouldn’t ask for help, but this was the only option I had.” She stood up, looking a little relieved, said bye, and took her leave.
I walked along with her till the exit. As I saw her, I was very sad, confused, angry; but also one more thing… happy to help her.
I found her brave. Her eyes were sparkling now. I gave her a warm hug, unconsciously making a promise to myself that I will rescue her from all the pains she has been suffering through. I made a promise to myself that I will not allow a new victim to be born, another me, a new Shumaima…
“No, not again… Not at all…” I kept muttering unconsciously.
I spent that night half inclined on my bed with past memories… that past which still breathes in my present. Mama was attending a close relative’s marriage ceremony in our village. I had been enjoying this loneliness for the past three years. The Moon was surrounded by a pale yellowish haze. The atmosphere was balmy, yet my inside was showered with deep excruciations.
Despite my all success, this emptiness had been gifted to me by a person whom I had loved the most in my life. But he was a player, and so he played a game with me too.
I then accepted it as a challenge. I don’t know where he is currently, but for my inner peace, this is enough that he is well aware of me. He had to.
Tall, with curled hair scattered on his forehead, black deep eyes, dimpled cheeks on the left side, a sober personality, with a killing smile; he was a gentleman…
The first time I met him was at my work place. He was a part of the management there, and one of the closer friends of my CO. Most of my female colleagues held their breath when he used to pass by them in the office, whereas I was nonchalant towards his aura.
One day I was mightily engrossed in writing a report regarding our last visit to some underdeveloped territory in Balochistan. To my utter surprise, Sadaam came into my office for the first time in that period of five months since I had been there. Usually he only examined the performance of the lower staff. He had least to do with the faculty members.
He was looking more handsome than before; or might be it was because I was in such close proximity to him for the first time that I felt that. My heart skipped a beat…
“What are you doing? It’s getting dark outside. You should leave now.” He said softly, with great concern. “I was about to leave. Just had to send an email to Mr. Luqman.” I lied spontaneously, although the truth was that I had written only two pages yet, and about two were still left.
“All right, send the email then,” he said while crossing his arms over his chest. I got puzzled and looked at him questioningly. “I’m waiting outside,” he said in an orderly manner and walked away. I chuckled and wound up my work.
When I came out, it dawned upon me that he was in the mood of giving me a lift to my home, whereas I had no intention of letting him get close to me by this odd practice. As my driver was already waiting for me, I passed by his car without giving him any soft look. I knew he must have frowned, but I didn’t care about it at all.
Next day I told about that incident to Naila, my friend-cum-colleague. Her jaw dropped, and in the next moment she showed her resentment to me. “How could you be so cruel?” she said and I giggled.
After two days, when Sadaam was on his usual round of the workplace, he fully ignored me as if I was not present there. During a meeting, he talked to the other members present there, but didn’t bother me. And when he was leaving the office, just before sitting in his car, he gave me a perplexed look. I shrugged my shoulders and walked away.
Later in the evening, I was watching ‘X-Factor’ on the LED in my home, holding a coffee mug in one hand. During commercials, I inadvertently started recalling that day’s incidents. ‘He is so weird’, I murmured with a sarcastic smile.
But Sadaam was very firm, perhaps. Next day he came to me again and ordered me to compose a letter as soon as possible. I had to obey him. After that, as I was expecting, Naila coaxed me towards him, but I gave her a artificial resentful look.
One cracking dawn, when birds were chirping, plants
were blossoming and the sun was coming up, I imagined him; recalled the scene
when he gazed at me with utter attention during a meeting. I blushed at that
And that was not the end. Soon after that, he offered me to have a coffee together so confidently and charmingly that I could not refuse him. That was a beautiful evening I spent in his company for the first time.
But then soon I deliberately managed to engage myself more in my job. Being a verdant member of the organization, it was not a big task for me. But he didn’t want me to have extra workload on my shoulders, so he talked to Mr. Luqman. I felt a little embarrassed, but Sadaam didn’t allow me to feel guilty.
I then unconsciously, unintentionally, fell in desire for him. I started to admire him and…. ultimately fell in love with him. Love, which nobody has any control on; Love that carries you with its own course; leaving no way around to escape!! Love that can lead you to the heights of mountains; and Love that can dump in the depths of despair with all its ugliness.
We had not exchanged any words or odes of love yet. But
the emotions that beamed out of our eyes were unmistakable.
We had a few dinners together. Also he used to bring me so many gifts. Some of which I accepted by owing him, and many of them I refused to take. He had begun to understand my nature, so he didn’t mind that anymore.
We had been together for months, without a defined relationship. Sensing that uneasiness, I questioned him that this relationship now demands a name. He then said to me vividly. “You’re mine, what else do you want?” I blushed and felt ashamed; I believed that no more words were needed from him.
Days were passing by; I was feeling awesome and enjoying my life with another perspective. With Love.
And finally the day came, when he took me to a special dinner. I dressed up well, and dashed to the restaurant. My heartbeats were racing inside. After ordering the meal, he asked me to keep my eyes closed till he told me to open them.
I held my breath for a while. “Will you marry me?” I opened
my eyes. He was presenting an alluring diamond ring in an elegant case to me.
My cheeks turned crimson; even without looking at myself, I could feel that.
Whereas, he was viewing my facial expressions interestingly, waiting for my
answer; as if he was sure that I could never refuse him.
And so right he was. But now I wish, if only, he had been wrong!
Subsequently, after discussing all the incidents with Mama that I had confronted so far, I accepted his proposal.
We got married and lived a blissful marital life for two years. During those two years, he had opened up to me like an old carton revealed hilarious facts, uncovered after years.
He used to spend his money on me like water, but I began to sense the absence of the element of tutelage in that flow, which had been present earlier. He used to take me for shopping, dinner; but as time passed by, I found his eyes shine-less, losing that spark which I died for. I felt the darkness of his heart orbiting my life, rusting it gradually.
He didn’t let me enjoy my motherhood, didn’t allow me to conceive. I wondered why? And then it dawned upon me after about two years of our marriage. He was already married to his college-mate, had two babies with her.
And I wasn’t the last girl who he had craved for. Besides marrying me, he had been simultaneously involved with many other girls. He attempted to seduce every girl who he had ever desired for in his heart.
Once I inquired him of his late night arrivals, he suddenly got furious. “Please don’t get on my nerves, go and do some other important work,” he said in a bitter tone. “What else could be more important to me than watching my husband?” I tried to embarrass him, but as usual, he walked out.
One night, when he returned later than usual, he was stinking. I felt downhearted, but soon I composed myself and rushed to receive him lovingly. But he was lost. “You are the one who seduced me. I made a plan to marry you in a hurry. It is a decision that I always regret…” It was revealed to me that night that he was badly addicted to heavy drugs.
“Stop bullying me, how can you blame me for your own
weaknesses? You had so many affairs. You never opened up to me, but I knew, I
knew it from the very first day.” My voice was loud, but I could feel the
fragility of my tone.
“So, what are you going to do about this now? You can’t do anything, actually you are nothing without me.” He despised me. “You all women are too clever to be respected.” His eyes were bulging out. “I spit on you and all other girls like you… worthless and poor! As lightweight as air…huunn!!” He gave me a cloudy look. I narrowed my eyes, unable to believe the malice that was coming forth from his mouth. “It was a woman who betrayed Adam from the righteous path,” he continued to blabber. I looked at him shockingly. I could have made an argument with him, presented my case and prove him wrong, but he wasn’t in his senses at all. Also he had such illogical information that I could have said nothing but hue..
Later, within a week, amid tears and agony, I left him… forever…
Even after separation, I continued to lookout for him for some months; tried to keep myself abreast of his condition. But he was a man with the lowest mentality, as shallow as the oil surface in a frying pan. He had nothing to do with relations, love and sincerity. He was passing his time by killing me. He had been engulfing my youth, freedom and joy. No doubt, he was lusty; his feelings towards me were purely carnal.
My story might not be new for you. Men dodge, men cheat. They do this again and again, sometimes for money, sometimes for their parents, and mostly for other women. But the most disastrous element in my story was his perception about women. The same Woman, whom he desired for repeatedly… And still he said such awful things about her. For one of the most magnificent creations of God, the Merciful… How mean he was!
And this is where my stance for a woman and Hydrogen merged.
Hydrogen holds a spectacular position amongst all the elements. Although many of the other elements have dominating and rare properties; but the power provided to hydrogen, no other element has been provided with. Likewise, a woman has a distinct grace and rank, which men are deprived of. By envying this, they neither accept this fact, nor let the women living under their custody become aware of it. They do not take the broader view. They want to treat women like third level citizens, living in a third world country. Unfortunately, in most of our regions, this is an oft repeated practice.
Water is the product of the combination of two elements, Hydrogen and Oxygen. Why don’t we think likewise for an embryo, an infant? No matter how much a man may consider himself to be superior, without hydrogen, he can never enjoy his fatherhood. So how then could men say and think such ill of a woman, who is their mother, sister, wife and daughter. They restrict her when she is a sister, disobey her when she is a mother, hate her when she is a daughter, and find doubt in her when she is a wife. How can they close their eyes from the fact that even the wind would be like still air if water droplets are filtered from it? And how are those water droplets formed?? Again Oxygen, with the collaboration and interaction of Hydrogen. Though the chemistry of the two elements is different, but the phenomenon behind a child and water formation is same. But men do not realize it; they do not recognize the worth of a woman. How could they do so… indeed, how poor they are!! Even most of the women do not recognize their own worth themselves, but that is not their fault.
And amidst all their worse perceptions, men neglect one thing, just one thing… they remain oblivious to the real power of a woman. She can explode… Can’t she??
Just like Hydrogen, when a woman bursts, ruining all that is left behind her…then only ashes, emptiness, whirl, are all that remain.
But it is the nurture, not nature, which makes a man insane, insensitive and inhumane towards a woman; the nurture which is brought forth both by the mother and the father. Again it depends upon that parent who dominates. If both mother and father make an alliance in the upbringing of their baby by teaching him to give respect to all girls and women around then, then nothing could be better than this. But if the parents themselves have the concept of discrimination between their own girl and boy, then nothing could be worse than this.
After two weeks, as I was planning to visit Nasima’s place, I got a bad news; one that left me gasping.
She had died… She had exploded… Leaving behind ashes, tears and hollowness… The impressions of which I later observed in Akbar’s eyes, when I went for bewailing. It was revealed that she was expecting; and also suffering from throat cancer. Almost everyone present on the occasion was yowling. I couldn’t keep my words to myself, but I had to. What happened to Nasima was God’s will. It saved a new Shumaima from being born. In fact, another hydrogen had dissolved in air, spraying its droplets on others to keep this in their minds: not to produce a new one like Nasima.
After leaving Sadaam, I had returned to Mama; she takes good care of me and bucks me up as well. I’m now working as a well-known freelance writer. I have been interviewed by a few TV channels and magazines many times.
And now, sitting in my balcony, inhaling fresh breeze, but amid pain and morose, I am thinking, who knows that by mixing with Oxygen, this Hydrogen may form water, or like Nasima, another Hydrogen might explode. Not by dissolving this time, but by sustaining itself and living its life fully??!!
“As life is a process that accomplished by several uncertainties , how could I be so insincere to myself, that I let my once God-gifted life ruin for a person who was not even able to live with..I decided to take separation from him through court, as Sadaam has descended from the throne of my heart. Nothing is left between us.
Meanwhile I am ready to explode as well, but neither by smashing anything nor by leaving ashes behind…
My utter intention is to educate our youth,to make them strongly realize that without respect of each other (either it’s a girl or boy) they can never be able to touch peaks of success… they wouldn’t be good parents.. Shortly , they can never be a good human being…
I along with my mother recently joined an organization named “DHANAK RANG ZINDAGI”
The youth which is getting wilder day by day, much needs to get educated with love, with peace..
On the other hand, every Nascent Hydrogen of our society needs a dissolved hydrogen
(it could be her mother, her sister, her teacher) who can open her doors of enlightenment for their younger ones…