By Shambhavee Sharma
Pain. Pain. Pain.
Scribble. Scribble. Scribble.
Pain. Scribble. Pain. Scribble. Pain. Scribble.
Sometimes, when life has been painful and hard, the simple physical act of writing provides relief. The churning of blood in one’s heart finds comfort through the modelling of ink on paper in acts of etching, sketching, scribbling, cutting and drying up, conjuring words that carry some of the pain felt inside. Such a recourse was taken to by Aabida Rahman, whose life of pulverising terror, shared with her sister Aabroo, resulted in her perusal of scores of books and her penning down of even more beautiful, lucid poems.
Aabida is the younger one of the sibling pair, who at the time of writing this is 17 years old. Her elder sister Aabroo is at the heart of a tale of horror and courage that takes birth in Afghanistan when she is five, and rears its menacing and ugly head years later, traversing across countries and threatening to crush dreams and incarcerate lives. A love for literature on one hand, and computer science on the other (as in the case of Aabroo), came together in this case to form an amalgamated blanket to protect the girls and help deal with cruelties of life imposed on them.
This life narrative weaves through painful recollections, traumatic events and physical struggles, and starts in a village in Afghanistan. Aabida and Aabroo’s eldest sister died soon after her marriage, and left a note for Aabroo categorically asking her to not marry into her husband’s family. However, Aabroo was engaged to her brother-in-law’s brother when she was five, a disregard of the family’s elder daughter’s warning that blew to catastrophic proportions as years added on.
Being an ambitious and intelligent girl, Aabroo was encouraged by Zainab, a common friend of her and her sister’s, to come to India and study. She nurtured dreams of mastering Computer Science, and found a place at a college in Gujarat. It was at this time that her fiance, along with his father, hunted her down and forced her to go back with him to Afghanistan. Once there, they coerced her to marry him, and her husband even sexually assaulted her. Her family reached the scene, and things got murkier. Besides this, Taliban’s influence was spreading, and Zainab reasoned that no good could come of staying there. By Herculean efforts and unfathomable means- which included quick thinking and zest on the part of Zainab and almost reckless bravado on the part of Aabroo- she wound her way back to India to continue her education and keep the wick of her dreams aflame.
However, she was not to be left alone so soon. Her fiance and father-in-law stalked her and threatened her, leading her to an edge one can only imagine. She moved homes- first staying with a friend of Zainab’s (with whom it did not work out), then with another contact, and finally with an Indian family with whom she stayed for quite some time to come. Yet the threat of the patriarchs lurked. As if this wasn’t enough, she heard from back in Afghanistan, and it was news that might make anyone’s ears fall off.
Aabroo was told that her family had been kidnapped by Al-Qaeda and, in all possibility, murdered. She did not know which members of her family had been taken in and who all hadn’t, and in the most painful stroke of it all, ensuing news told her that the bodies of her father and one brother had been found- which meant that there was no knowing where and how her mother and one other brother were. Aabroo was now left all alone, in a country neither her own nor worse than her ‘own’, with stalkers on one side, and a vulnerable sister on the other- miles away from her.
Aabroo was in a state of dispossession. Dispossessed of her family, of her right to safety and comfort, of her freedom to pursue what she wanted. She was dispossessed on account of her nationality, her familial status, her religion and, at the bottom of it all but with the most far-reaching consequences, she was dispossessed on account of her gender. This dispossession placed her in a situation of precarity- of being at the edge, where she was bereft of even the most obvious and basic rights and constantly under threat.
Being a woman, Aabroo was treated like a property. However, she seems to have been endowed with a metal-like strength that makes her an unbelievably special person. This harbour of strength is what her younger sister, Aabida, was anchored into when she reached India. Having just lived through the trauma of looking at the dead bodies of her family members, and a loss so sudden and crippling that it must’ve left an asphyxiating black hole of wounds, she was in a pitiable condition. She had herself escaped Taliban by hiding up on a tree in a thicket behind her house, where she stayed for about three whole days. However, while herself saved, she had to endure the knowledge that her family had been kidnapped in front of her eyes. She was fainting repeatedly, and back in Afghanistan had apparently attempted to kill herself twice .
To get Aabida to India Aabroo had to pull some strings. Again her friend Zainab showed how valuable and indispensable friendship can be, as she worked hard from that side of the divide- while Aabroo did from this side, in India- to enable Aabida’s safe travel to her elder sister. Aabroo sold her laptop, and put together money she had got from working with the family she stayed with, to provide for the expenses of this delicately important trip. Finally, Aabida- a debilitated, messed-up bundle of nerves- was with her.
Aabida and Aabroo moved places, traversing the path of Aabroo’s cherished dream of educating herself. This led her to portals of education, and she was staying in the hostel of one such institution when her father-in-law again barged in. The chilling terror of this filmic knack of tracing and stalking the girls aside, Aabida and Aabroo ran for their lives and managed to evade him. Yet again. They contacted Organisation XYZ, which decided to give them a more certain safe space. That is how the girls reached Shakti Shalini. A new phase of their lives had begun.
Aabroo extended her passion for Computers to those around her by starting computer classes at Shakti Shalini. Aabida read and read, and polished off many books within a few months, also writing her own poetry. The trauma of her immediate past was, of course, overbearing, and was added to by the present threat of Aabroo’s fiance. But she coped. She struggled, cried, fell and fainted, laughed and wrote, pored over books and did chores, and she coped. And thus the sisters spelled a tale of extreme resilience and courage, of pain and beauty; a narrative of an aggressive sisterhood of courage and dependency, but also of a gentleness that made its way through Aabida’s young mind to the edge of her nib, carrying the weight of her pain, and of a calm but volcanic gutsiness that melted all of Abroo’s obstacles in its wake, leaving a crater-cradle in this world for herself and her sister.
Sure, the lurking threat wasn’t over. Wasn’t non- threatening. But for the time-being, for a while at least- they were safe.
*All names in this life narrative have been changed.
*We will soon bring Part 2 of this narrative to let you know how Aabida and Aabroo have progressed with their lives.
*To support Shakti Shalini please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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