When I was born, my Abba (father) bewailed my birth because I was not a son, I was a daughter. My Ammi (mother) was rebuked because she gave birth to a girl, neighbours taunted our family. I was given a rather common name, ‘Aliya’.

When I attained schooling age, I was admitted to a public girl’s school unlike my brother who went to a private school. Hardly was I a teen and started going to high school, when I was wrapped in a burqa. The burqa covered my eyes, nose and mouth in which I could not freely breathe nor could I see clearly. My world was made blurred before my eyes. My face was covered and my identity was taken from me. The burqa forced me to join the worthless herd of women around. I did not utter a single word. No, I couldn’t go out before the world without a burqa. My mother reprimanded me, “Cover your face, people are staring at you.” Let alone late-night parties, social media, holiday-outings; I was not even allowed to wear jeans and crop tops which my girl-friends at school used to wear when going out; I had to wear plain salwaar-kameez and drape my face in burqa or dupatta. My friends at school called me ‘prehistoric dino’ and they jeered at me when I didn’t go for outing with them. I remained silent, as I understood that becoming ‘modern’ for me was least important when I’m not even given basic freedom and if I disobeyed my family, they might discontinue my schooling. I had seen my cousin elder sister. She was married away to a man who was double her age, just at the age of sixteen. 

I considered myself luckier when I got to give my matriculation examinations at the age of sixteen. I passed out with good marks, even the highest in our school with 100 percent marks in mathematics and physics. Headmistress of our school personally asked my Abba to admit me in science stream in high school. My father just nodded. I understood at that point of time that now schooling was end for me, they’ll marry me and reduce their greatest burden from their shoulder. Back at home, I cried and begged of them to continue my studies. My Ammi was not happy at all with my going to school. She argued, “You should stay at home, what use of going to school? You will soon get married and then serve your husband.” She was partially right. Even if, I am allowed to pursue higher education, but I won’t be allowed to do job and settle for myself. I had to obey my mother. I had to comply with their orders and they were quite satisfied with my imprisoned life. I was held back at home where I felt a kind of housemaid, serving my parents, brothers and sisters. I shrank into myself. I did not say a single word for myself.

Today is my ‘nikah’ or wedding. The men are sitting around the groom and women are sitting around me. The Maulvi is reciting prayers from the Quran. Everyone is happy except me. I have never seen the man to whom I am being married to. I just know his name. We are behind a hijab that is separating us from each other. The Maulvi is asking both of us to consent, he replies, “Qubool Hai” and I do too. I have no other option. I sigh and wait for another grim fate.