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Helpless with happiness: A paradox

Saleema, living in a shack in a shantytown in Karachi, is 18-year old maid who has been working since she was 5-year old. It was 13 years ago when Samreen, the mother of Saleema and a maid herself, was asked by a lady to get her someone to take care of her two-year old child. Samreen saw an opportunity and instantly recommended her daughter’s services. Saleema was herself a child and was given a responsibility to take care of a toddler. Saleema’s elder sister named Shahla and her mother Samreen, 62 years of age, used to work from dawn to dusk in an apartment project in Karachi. All the families living in the apartment project knew them well and trusted them as well. Shahla was the mainstay of the family in those days and used to work as Saleema is working these days. Shahla was never happy and always groused that she had no life and worked all day long just to ensure that the family gets enough wherewithal to support the education of her two brothers: one studying in Raheem Yar Khan, Punjab and the other in Karachi, Sindh.

Shahla was married a couple of years ago and is now living in Raheem Yar Khan, Punjab, her native town. Income of her husband is volatile since he is a laborer so she has to work in the fields and graze cattle in order to keep body and soul together. Notwithstanding the current adversities, Shahla deems it a better life rather than working as a maid throughout the day. She is not willing to work as a maid for a meager amount of money and a deluge of scolding day in day out.

Having married Shahla off, Samreen’s entire dependence was on Saleema. Since nearly all families knew Saleema for so long, it was a cakewalk for Samreen to get Saleema work, which her elder sister used to do. The entire responsibility fell on the shoulders of Saleema and her parents compelled her to work so that there is enough wherewithal to support the entire family and to pay for the education of her two brothers.

Saleema works in ten houses currently. She commences her work at 8 in the morning and remains tied up till 10 in the evening everyday including Sundays. There is no holiday, no festivity, no celebration etc. Saleema has recently been engaged to an uneducated boy who is four years younger than her and is not inclined to do any work like the father of Saleema.


Saleema’s father is a painter and knows how to paint surfaces, such as walls and doors. However, he is unwilling to step out of his house at least six out of seven days a week on the pretext of non-availability of work. Whenever, he is asked by either Samreen or Saleema to explore any opportunity, he thrashes both of them. Moreover, at the beginning of every month, he has made it mandatory for both Samreen and Saleema to hand over to him the entire amount earned by them. In case, there is less amount as thought by him, he thrashes his wife to the hilt. Having performed her task as a maid every day, Samreen makes sure to buy a packet of cigarette for her husband since her husband makes is crystal clear that he would fleece Samreen in case she forgets to bring cigarettes for him. He lives off them. He spends his entire day with his neighbors and brags that his family members, particularly the bread winners i.e. Samreen and Saleema, cannot dare do anything without his consent. He proudly shares his experience of thrashing his daughter and spouse with his cronies and proclaims that he has stiff control over them. He is sheer shameless guy and does whatever he wants with impunity. Unfortunately, his family members are not willing to remonstrate against him. Rather, even after getting thrashed, his daughter and spouse stand by him and deem him an undeniable support in this patriarchal society.

Samreen, mother of six children: two sons and four daughters, is terribly scared of her spouse. She knows that his wishes are to be granted. Furthermore, there is not even a single day when her husband does not taunt her. He has got a suspicious nature. He alleges that she might be having illicit relations with the people she works for. Whenever she is back home after the grueling day, she listens to the same thing replicated by her husband everyday i.e. who did you meet today etc.? She divulges her adversities to the ladies she works for, however, she requests them not the share with anyone. She does show her bruises to the ladies and grouses that her husband is very cruel. At the same time, she is unwilling to bring him to justice since he is her husband. She does presume that it is a normal thing in our society and there is nothing wrong with it.

The above story is of a family which is from a downtrodden stratum of the society. Let alone the illiterate, even those who are educated and belong to bourgeois family background are indulged in mistreating the female.

Females constitute around half of the total population of 208 million in Pakistan. There are laws, claims, announcements, determinations however nothing seems to be on ground as far as the elimination of torture, injustice etc. is concerned against the females in Pakistan. It is hoped that the days ahead would bring good news in terms of equality of gender in our society.

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