Today, I am wearing my grandmother’s bigger and droopier shalwaar. It is white, and white is the colour of the shalwaar kameez women wear to court. White, pure, virgin-like.
This morning I went to the Sessions Court with my colleague, Sajjad. He rides a motorbike. He drove, and I sat behind him, enjoying the cool March breeze on my face, through my hair, as we whizzed through the Mall Road. Past Anarkali, Tollington, and my favourite building – the old, beautiful Punjab University Campus. Lahore is grand.
The Mall is shaded with peepal trees. The oldest ones are labelled neatly. The labels tell me that the peepal belongs to the Ficus Relgiosa species, sacred Fig. The same sacred shade under which Buddha attained enlightenment.
On our way back we stopped at a traffic light. It feels strange when Lahori traffic halts all of a sudden. More so when you are on a motorbike. You are exposed and vulnerable, especially when sitting with both legs on the same side, floating unsafely with the city reeling in front of you. But today I was sitting normally. The way men sit behind other men, with my legs apart. I was scared my big, droopy shalwaar would get caught in the bike and I would fall on my face.
So here we are waiting and talking. Suddenly another man on a bike stops parallel to us. He is a lawyer too.
Man: Mein aap ko aik baat keh sakta hoon?
[ Sajjad and I stare at his face ]
Man: Aap ko iss tarhaan bethna nahi chahiyay.
Man: Iss tarhaan bachay bethtay hein. Aap toh advocate hein. Acha nahi lagta.
Me: Mein iss tarhaan apni safety kay liyay bethi hoon. Doosri tarhaan bethna khatarnaak hota hai.
Man: Laikin aap meri baat nahi samajh raheen…is tarhaan bachay bethtay hein.
Me: Aap meri baat nahi samajh rahay. Mein jiss tarhaan bethna chahoon beth saktee hoon. Aap na dekhein.
Man: Burra lagta hai.
Sajjad [interrupting]: …nahi asal mein inn ko “sahhi” bethnay say dar lagta hai.
Me: [feeling even more furious]: Nahi mujhe bilkul uss tarhaan bethnay say dar nahi lagta, yay normal tareeqa hai bethnay ka. Aur zyada mehfooz bhee. Sabh aurton ko iss tarhaan bethna chahiyay.
Man: Aap ko Allah ta’la say dar nahi lagta? Aap ko allah say khof nahi aata?
Me: Aap ko iss say kya? Agar mujhe Allah say dar lagta hai ya nahi? Aap Allah ko beech mein kyoun la rahay hein?
Man: [Rides away].
And suddenly, I notice how dirty the road is. The shade of the peepal is not enough. I am sweating and it is hot.
My Story is shared by Noor Naina Zafar on Girls at Dhabas