Fathima Shihabudeen

February 22, 2004 - Thrissur
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She looked into the mirror but she couldn’t see herself
The tears in her eyes blurred the black
The black of her kohl which streamed down her face
And the black of the hijab they made her wear
The exultant purdah won again; they let him win, again
Why didn’t they understand when she told them
That it smothered her and made her feel small
That she didn’t want to be different or be the same
That God wouldn’t want her to be so troubled
Just because of a black piece of cloth and he would
anyway receive her in three white pieces of cloth
They taught her to look at women differently
They would whisper, “Look at that woman walking shamelessly. Wearing nothing to cover her chest, her hair or her legs.”
The woman was wearing a T-shirt and jeans; her chest was covered, not with a purdah but with a T-shirt. Her hair did not need to be covered for it was her hair after all. Her legs were covered, did you not see that she was wearing jeans?
Why do they look so hard at women?
They say it is because women are beautiful and precious
And the beauty of women must not be enjoyed by strangers
So why not teach boys and men how to look at women?
To look straight into their eyes and see their goodness
And not look at them like they are merely beautiful objects but living, breathing, surviving miracles
Because they had to fight their way to clothe, vote and even live
She wiped her tears, removed her niqab and got out of the purdah
She broke open the door and walked out
Wearing a white gown, pearl earrings and her hair let loose
Her gown turned red but she walked out
She didn’t want to live inside a cage made by someone else
She knew how to make a cage herself and she knew that not all cages are bad
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