Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Doll

In 2 days, he will be in his home. The women in his family will be planning the cooking already – for though they have limited means, it’s only once in 2 years they can indulge the breadwinner of the family. It’s only once in 2 years that he can sleep and wake at leisure, not following a clock determined by construction timelines and investor stakes. It’s only once in 2 years that his employers give him a return ticket on the cheapest airline to go home for a month.

Right now, he is standing in a shiny mall. His ill-fitting, rarely used, casual clothes hang awkwardly on the lean frame. They were bought for a healthier body, when he was packing to come away to this land of opportunity. He had thought that in return for his farmland he would be a rich man. But he only creates houses for the rich, remaining on the outside. Even in this mall, he is the outsider. He smells a little – of perspiration, cement and sparingly used soap. People don’t stand too close to him. He doesn’t notice. He is looking at a doll.

She has black hair, bright eyes, and chubby limbs. Her frock is usually stained and ends too high above her knees. Her mother makes her wear an ugly pair of thick, too-loose pantyhose to cover the limbs that will offend the radical Islamic group that is in control of his village. She has asked her father, 2 years ago, to bring him a doll next time. She whispered it in his ear when he hugged her one last time as his wife looked on.

She has blonde hair, blue eyes, and skinny limbs. A plastic purse dangles from her shoulder. Her plastic pink heels arch her foot at an unnatural angle. She has a pet plastic dog. And 2 changes of wardrobe. The whole package is pleasing pink. He knows she will love the doll.

But the price. He could eat a week's meals for this cost. Should he? Perhaps she’s too grown up to like the doll anymore. He could pretend he’s forgotten and put it off till next time. 2 years later. By then she would certainly be too grown up to ask for a doll, if not to want one.

He walks out. Glad that he did not spend those dirhams. As he walks towards the exit, a young family enters. And again, he is looking at a doll.

She has black hair, bright eyes, and chubby limbs. She clings to her father’s hand, knee-high as he slows his step to match hers. She is laughing – a pure, happy sound - and her father is ruffling her hair with his free hand.

He turns around and goes back to the shop. The doll is waiting for him.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


What is a woman?

At times a comfortable cliché. At times an unruly rebel.

Now a simple stereotype. Now a dynamic daredevil.

Shape-shifting like her life depends on it.

Over-achieving to break all barriers.

Yesterday a girl. Tomorrow a girl.

And today?

A heart. A passion. A dream. A hope. A bubble. A wall.

Love. Ambition. Forgiveness. Endurance. Patience.

Vanity. Envy. Anger. Rage. Hate.

A woman is all or nothing.

But when this happens, they reduce her to exactly one thing.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Wind your body...

It seems I’m terrible at following instructions. There’s this svelte, gorgeous woman in front of me telling me to raise my hand, turn this way, look that way, shimmy shimmy shimmy and shake, and stop! And instead of copying her moves, I am mirroring them, turning left when she turns right, raising the left foot when she says right, and that too, a few seconds late each time. Ands I’m not even supposed to be here. My place is on the treadmill, in the other corner. In my sneakers. Sweating off that morning donut. Not on this lovely parquet floor. Barefoot. Shaking the belly I should be working off. After all, this is a belly-dancing class.

Yeah, it’s my slot at the gym and although I have about forty thousand left feet I couldn’t resist abandoning the treadmill and joining the circle of multi-shaped women aged anywhere between 17 and 40 who’d converged on the gym for a free belly-dancing class that happens twice a week. “I can make a fool of myself for free,” I thought. Yeah, I can totally do that. I’m doing it. So I scurried off to join them.

It was tough, it was fun, it was pointless. But that was the point.