Rizwan Ahmed’s short film, The Long Goodbye, got me thinking about my own ‘long goodbye.’ I feel as if I’ve been losing bits of my heritage, willingly and unwillingly, over the last few decades. The journey is bitter sweet, it is empowering but also heartbreaking. As a child of two worlds, at times, it feels as if I have become a woman of neither.
The British part of my identity has allowed me to question the things that the Pakistani part of my heritage had expected of me. For this I am grateful.
I am still a work in progress. This is still a work in progress. Here are my thoughts:
I Talked Myself into My Own Oppression
I talked myself into my own oppression. I took my young life and put it in chains.
I didn’t even realise it until it was too late.
There are worse things than death, in this life. There is the delayed strangulation of ambition, the struggle for equality, and the fight to not be shamed at every turn.
I wasn’t forced, I chose this life. My parents had done the same, as had theirs. It never occurred to us that it wouldn’t work out.
And when it didn’t, I was left broken-hearted and scarred with shame, and groundless.
I was not raised to be me. I was raised to belong to someone else, cater to someone else’s needs, help build his dreams, and live in his shadow, where the sun would not burn me.
But, it was no life, it was cold, and I was suffocating.
The alternative to it, that I could be free and make my own choices was an alien concept. I didn’t even know where to begin. But, begin, I did. Brick by brick, I pulled that edifice down.
I’ve been piecing myself back together since then. Unlearning everything that culture told me ‘good’ women should be. Because being good isn’t enough, life should be about being happy. We are born to thrive.
There is no roadmap for women who quit the patriarchy, no guide to light the way.
For years, I wished I could hear the voice of someone like me, the opinion of an ordinary British Pakistani woman, not someone who has been honour-killed, or who has turned to terrorism, but someone like me. Someone who wants to go for a run, in leggings and a hoodie, without being slut shamed. Someone who has refused to carry the family honour, but still keeps the faith, a woman who refuses to let tradition break her back. A woman who stands steadfast, her face turned towards the sun.
But I heard no voice other than mine. So, I spoke my truth to their power, so that those who came after me, had a voice to comfort them on this path. Soon, my voice became a chorus.
I am tired of being judged, by men and women from the land of my ancestors, and by the brown men who should stand by me, but who have internalised racism to the point that they see me as less able than my white sisters. Can I blame them for trying to survive? After all, we are all victims of the same animal?
As I lock the trunk of my trousseau, say goodbye to shalwars and brocade shirts, as I wash my hands clean of the henna of expectation, as I unpick the threads that have kept me tied to my heritage, I realise that I have been my own executioner.
I am the one who talked myself into my own oppression, it never occurred to me that there was any other way.