Poverty: it’s a terrible thing
Some people will sell anything if it isn’t bolted to the floor, even their mother, and it looks as though a certain hapless mother in Hafizabad wasn’t bolted to the floor, because two of her sons sold her, for a mere Rs30,000 just recently.
It’s a lowering thought. You’d think a lady would fetch a higher price than that. After all, what can you do with a paltry thirty thousand these days? A cook, a decent one, doesn’t come for less than eight or nine thousand a month, generally more. So given that Pakistani males aren’t about to do any cooking in a hurry, the motherless duo would have to employ a cook, which is thirty thousand gone in three months or so, and no more mother to sell. They’d also have to send their laundry out, which isn’t cheap, so that’s thirty thousand gone in less than three months. Plus the shopping, the mending… nope, they’ll go for the marriage option, which should cost them several times that sum, and serve them right too, but that is another story. Selling mom wasn’t a good bargain whichever way you look at it. No wonder Pakistan is where it is. Its men have no head for business.
Deals such as these are not uncommon in Pakistan, particularly in the remote (and not-so-remote) areas of the country. Illiterate and downtrodden, women there are far, far away from a world where their sisters agonize over which major to choose, biology, engineering, or the law. Their choices tend to hover around the highest bidder mark. It’s either that or stay at ‘home’ and be hounded to death by a draconian sister/daughter-in-law or two, but that, like above, is another story.
In this hapless lady’s case, she was sold to a man who kept her tied for three days, during which time he raped and tortured her before she escaped. Staying at home with sons who were always sizing up her market value couldn’t have been much better. The other choice of course was to move out and support herself, but by doing what? Women’s literacy or the lack of it is a major issue in this country. Without the ability to support herself, a woman will always be at the mercy of men who take advantage of her. Word Bank figures place Pakistan’s female literacy rate at an appalling 42 percent, and the ratio of basically literate females to males (in the 15-24 group) at 74.85 percent.
The going rate for the prettier, taller girls of nomadic tribes is said to be rather higher than 30,000. They’re apparently quite chuffed the higher it is, and it is often upwards of Rs 300,000 (or else a hundred sheep).
I can honestly not remember the last time I evaluated my worth against a single, much less a hundred sheep, and I hope my husband never did either, but that sounds like quite a smart exchange, much better than being exchanged for a cow, anyway. I just checked, and three hundred thousand is equivalent to only about four fully grown cows; a heifer on the other hand would cost about what mom did, around thirty to forty thousand, but that would be with a life time of fecundity ahead of the cow/heifer. Mom, unfortunately, had outlived her use-by date with nine sons and daughters to her credit…or discredit, as far as the two who sold her are concerned.
I’d just like to stop at this point, and ask the mother of nine a rather delicate question: ‘Ma’am, you aren’t Catholic by any chance, are you?’ But come to think of it, even the Pope has conceded a point there (although only just recently, and quite grudgingly) and conferred his pontifical blessings on certain prophylactics, outstripping our mullahs by a score of a few million in that respect (going by the number of souls saved a life of misery in the process)…Gloria in excelsis Deo! Of course women hereabouts don’t have a choice, which is the real problem. Interviewing some young people a few months ago, I discovered that almost to a man (or woman, in their case) none of them had less than six to seven siblings.
What choice do people in such families have except to sell their mothers?
The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at http://rabia-ahmed.blogspot.com