September 19, 2010

My maid, Tazeen, is an interesting woman. When you call her, you listen to religious tones for an interminably long time, but when she gets a phone call a soppy English love song plays at her end. I wonder sometimes if she understands what an ironic microcosm of reality this dichotomy indicates. Then I figure it probably happened by accident and she didn't bother to change the arrangement.

Tazeen works, as I sometimes do, seven days a week, but her work is labor intensive and exceedingly difficult. She has a husband who she does not live with. I forget who has left whom (the stories are generally garbled) but it seems that ultimately she thinks she's happier without the nuisance. She has a daughter, Maliha, who goes to school. Tazeen is determined that Maliha should have a better chance at life than she had. Tazeen, herself, is completely illiterate. One of her biggest fears is that Maliha will be taken away by the erstwhile husband's family. She is determined to stop that from happening, because she is convinced that her child will be ill-used by the mother-in-law who is, I am told, quite the bitch.

Tazeen has a large family, down in the village. She tends to ignore them (as best she can) because she does not approve of their lifestyle. Also, she thinks harvesting rice is too much hard work. In Islamabad, she used to live with her sister, who worked for a household two blocks down. Eventually, as all siblings will, they had a fight and Tazeen had to move out. She moved to a small, slumm-y locality not too far away from where we live. She has a one-room shack with an open stove and a leaky roof where she and Maliha now reside.

Whereas she misses the comforts of her sisters quarters, she appreciates the independence. One of the things that makes Tazeen happiest, perhaps, is that there is no one to impose curfews on when she can come and go, as her sister's employers used to do. Gradually, with some input from the people she works for, she built up a house for herself and her daughter. It took her time, and effort. Although the shack comes with an indoor toilet, there is no running water and arrangements had to be made for water tanks. A stove was purchased with help from A, and pots-and-pans were scrounged up from here and there. Mattresses were donated, and gladly accepted, since Tazeen doesn't really appreciate the joys of sleeping on the floor. When it began to rain, the roof leaked and Tazeen learned how to thatch, repair, and waterproof it.

Tazeen tends to three houses, mine, A's and S's and thinks of all of us as slightly wacky, but ultimately harmless children. She puts up with the vagaries of our lifestyle: catering to my, and A's, diet related eccentricities, cleaning up after Saturday night craziness at S's, adjusting her work hours to suit our sleep schedules. From her vantage point, I often wonder what she makes of us. After all, our lives - in a completely different way - are as removed from average Pakistani reality as hers is.


Lonely Perverted Soul said...

Its Really nice to think about others :)

I said...

In real, it may seem that we lead cut-and-dried lives, but we all end up doing the same thing at some point in life. In your own way, I'm sure you have also learnt, and later mastered, to 'fix the roof'.

A lovely read for a Sunday afternoon. :)

Ubaid said...

I usually don't read such things, per it was a nice read :)

p.s. yeshh you are especiall ;)

sharbet said...

Sounds like an independent, modern woman to me. I'm impressed. Her issues are so typically contemporary but timeless as well, wanting one's own space, making one's own decisions without the unnecessay meddling of others. It just grinds at me when people think such individualism is the evil of the West and that women are better off in the East where they are 'protected'. Never mind, going off on a tangent rant here. Anyway kudos to her and the way you described her she is completely relatable and utterly human - just like the rest of us.

kay-without-a-tee said...

thumbs up for Tazeen! I love women who dare to stake it out....its not as impossible to survive on your own in this country, as its made out to be!

I hate women who go crawling back to their men because iss society may sir ka taaj na ho tu aurat khuli tajori ki tarah ho jati hai! *pukes*

And I think a major plus for Tazeen is that she's away from her own family as well as her in-laws! Immediate families can be really negatively influential when it comes to independence of women!

*Yayyy to Proactive Divorces and Separations*

ghazalpirzada said...

i am proud of you AND tazeen or being who she is :)