Reflection: ‘Fear and the City’ by Sadia Khatri

This story received a special citation in the Zeenat Haroon Rashid Writing Prize for Women, and was published in the Dawn EOS on January 5, 2020.

The story is about a girl who had to endure certain restrictions from her own family that were in stark contrast with what the boy/ boys in the family had to face. Rebellious at heart, she tries all the ‘could nots’ as a young adult, leading to an incident which roots the same fear in her heart that her family had possessed and warned her of.

As a review of the story itself, I would only say that it has been well planned and executed. However there is something more to the story! It made me think! And it made me compare my own childhood experiences with that of the protagonist as well as the prevalent mindset in the society at large.

I myself have grown in an extremely protective environment, but that had nothing to do with me being a girl. Fortunately for me, my brother had similar restrictions as I had, and I had similar moments of freedom(sometimes even more) as my brother had. I don’t remember my brother ever being allowed to play in the streets, or roam around aimlessly with friends even during the day, or visit Khokhas etc. I remember how we were allowed to go anywhere with my elder sister(a girl) or even alone at times, depending on the need. Walking back home from school, sometimes all alone, has a very deep and calming effect whenever I recall it.

I always saw having a protective parent more as a privilege than a suppression. But what I have been reminded through this story is a mindset, so deeply rooted in the society, that it refrains both the protective parents as well as the female children from being able to distinguish between the real dos and donts. What happened in the story as a result of too many restrictions is a rebellion that could have been avoided through reasoning.

The story further made me contemplate over the problems that are unjustly labeled as feminist issues. Cigarette, for instance, is not a feminist issue but more of health. Similarly young adults, either gender, sitting at Dhabas, or moving around aimlessly at different events, only remind me of the children stranded at an island in ‘Lord of the Flies.’ It only makes me wish that all the young ladies and lads do not get to face circumstances that leave them with haunting memories, as the children on the island or the protagonist of the story.

Feminism, as I have observed over the years, has more to do with issues related to education, health, marriages, honour killings, jobs, and most importantly respect. And I have observed the real feminists as those who emerge out of the chaotic mindsets, with an invincible force that is invisible at the same time. Feminism is more about facing the storm and reducing its impact.

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