Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part story. In part one, the protagonist, Zohra, a new mother living in her in-laws’ abusive home, feels alone. She goes to work and comes home to a harsh household where her earnings are taken from her and she is beaten by her husband.
Zohra would cry night after night, hoping things would get better, but each day was worse.
She was, however, an independent and caring young woman. She tried not to think about the darkness in her life and told herself she had to be patient. She felt that the small hands of her sweet daughter could help her have a good life. But she wondered why her husband would let her work outside the home, yet be so cruel to her.
She shared her stories with her colleagues at work, who would ask, “How can he let you come to the office?” Zohra began to wonder if there was something going on. Was it her husband’s love?
One day she had a bad argument with her husband and she left the house in shame. He had sneered and slammed the door. Outside in the road, she remembered her daughter was still upstairs sleeping, but she wiped the tears from her face, raised her arm for a taxi, and told the driver to drop her at her mother’s house.
Weeping, she hugged her mother. Her mother asked what had happened. Zohra told the whole story. She stayed there all day, imagining what her daughter might be doing. She hoped her husband would come and take her back home. No one came for six hours until her younger brother-in-law arrived. He gave her a smile that said they did not want to lose her.
Zohra’s sister’s husband went with her to her in-laws’ house. When they arrived she found that the money that was in her bag was gone. She now knew the secret, that the family allowed her to work because they wanted her earnings. She felt scattered, but she knew that her office was one place where she could be comforted and feel independent.
As the days went by, Zohra had good days and bad days, but always prayed to her Allah for patience and kindness towards others.
When her daughter was nearly three, Zohra’s younger brother-in-law got engaged and a month later was married. She thought that now she would have someone who would understand and support her; another wife in the house.
There is a saying in Dari: Zanhai ewar hech waqtai jor na mai ayand—”Two wedded brothers’ wives never manage to stay in one house and live a comfortable life.”
The new wife, Mariam, did not follow Afghan cultural customs of hospitality and greetings. Zohra always did what her in-laws told her to do, but Mariam never bothered. Zohra would welcome guests and be kind to them, while Mariam stayed in her room until the guests left. Zohra always behaved the way her in-laws and husband wanted her to behave. Mariam did what she wanted.
As time passed Zohra noticed changes in her own husband. Had he begun to realize that his brother didn’t beat Mariam, even though she was at fault? Zohra’s husband shouted at Zohra, but the younger brother didn’t say a single rude word to Mariam. The small things took on meaning for Zohra’s husband. He loved Zohra. They married because they loved each other.
He was disappointed that their life wasn’t what they had dreamed of or had promised each other. Zohra was an essential part of his life. He saw that he couldn’t just be rude and selfish. His parents were rude but she treated them kindly because of her husband. Zohra was his life partner. She was the sweetest person in his life. His behavior completely changed. He stopped beating her.
Now Zohra is happy because they are planning their life together. Her husband even allows her to raise her voice if she gets upset about something. Although he expects Zohra to respect his parents, she feels that if she has the support of her husband, she can cope with all the cruel and harsh people on earth, including her in-laws. What she needs is the shoulder of her husband. Zohra is happy that her patience won and life is now as sweet as it should be.
Zohra and her husband want to separate from his family and raise their daughter in peace. It is possible that they might be able to gain support from her family to leave the region or country, or move to India. Instead of crying tears of sorrow, now Zohra cries tears of joy.
Very interesting story Pakiza! Thanks for writing.
Zohra’s story, although beginning with sadness, has ended with understanding. Although it seems that the situation still, for American women, is not an ideal, for Zohra, she has found happiness and most importantly, understanding.
This story was unlike many that I read in that there was promise and hope at the end of this story. My prayers are with Zohra in that she finds continued happiness and a life that makes her smile with her husband and her daughter.
Unlike many storys, this one ended on a a better note. I am greatful to hear by the end of the story the husband began to respect her. He grew to understand that she is a person and deserved more then she was recieving. I hope as the brother influenced Zohras husband that it continues to rub off. Great story!
It is so refreshing to read an essay like this, one full of hope and triumph. Thank you for sharing; hopefully others will learn from this and it will eventually become the rule, rather than an exception.
Thank you for Zohra’s story. It is always lovely to read a story that seems to be headed in one direction, and then surprises with its ending. Your note of hope at the end leaves a pleasant taste for the reader.
Thank you for sharing it.
I realized when I got to the end that I had been holding my breath, expecting something dreadful. Nicely structured story, even nicer to know that it is real and that it ended with such hope. Zohra is a saint!
I am glad Zohra now has the support of her husband. Although it still makes me sad that her in-laws treat her badly, I’m glad her husband finally realized he needed to respect her. I’m glad Zohra and her husband finally reached an understanding and that her husband was able to learn from how his brother treated his wife. Hopefully the promise and hope of this story will inspire other women in difficult situations to hold on and not lose hope for themselves. Thank you for sharing Zohra’s story and the hope it inspires. I hope the understanding and respect between Zohra and her husband continues to grow in the future!