The Girl Who Fought Her Own Battle

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| This is the 496th story of Our Life Logs |


December 20, 2006. I was 13 years old. The door flung open. Our one-room home felt like a locked cage. I remember the fear in my mother’s eyes and the way my brother’s breath shortened. I remember the pounding of my heartIt was the first night my father came home drunk. 

My family and I lived in Karachi, Pakistan, in a very small shelter. I don’t call it a home because it was really just four walls and a roof that allowed the rain to sneak in. We laid buckets all over the room to catch the water and prevent flooding. We had no fridge, no television, and we did not even have a proper bed for sleep. My mother designated one corner of our shelter as “the kitchen,” though it was just one cupboard that held basic ingredients and a small stove that sat on the floor. In another corner was where the four of us would always sleep together, and the trunk that held our clothes. We were so poor that at times we had no money to even pay the rent and our landlord would give us notice to leave the house.  

Education was something on which my mother never compromised, and she even helped us in our studies. She attended all our school functions and listened to all our problems. My father did not make enough money for our house as a rickshaw driver, even so, my mother would stitch clothing and hold committees so that our school fees were always paid on time. We went to a very ordinary public school but still managed to be good at academics. 

Ever since I was small, I remember seeing my parents fight over our financial crisis. After their heated exchange, my father would eventually leave our home in anger and would not return home for days. I always grieved for my mother. She never had the support of his husband; neither financially nor emotionally. We never had a happy family life. We were never close to our father. Though, despite all the tensions in the house, she never took out her anger on her children. And for a while, my father didn’t either. 

When I got a bit older, my father would not go out for work, which meant that he would not bring in any money that day. Around that time, my mother knew he had been taking some drugs, but my brother and I were too young to notice any small differences in his behavior. It wasn’t until I was 13, on the night my father came home from drinking. 

We thought that he might destroy our home. We didn’t know that he would have the courage to come home like that. I could not understand what was happening. When he entered, he broke the only table we had. My younger brother and I were shocked to see him like that. 

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Initially, we thought that he would get better in time. He wouldn’t do that again, right? Once he realized how difficult it was to run a house only on my mother’s very small earnings, we thought he would go back to normal. But we were wrong; he started getting addicted to drugs and would spend all that he earned to get his next high. 

Life was getting more difficult. It was getting impossible for my mother to manage the budget like this. At first, my mother restricted all eating out, but after just a few weeks, even eating three meals a day was getting difficult for us. There were days when we starved ourselves, though, my father wasn’t bothered. Finally, my mother finally had to take a step forward; living a life like this was not possible anymore.  

In 2010, she decided to cut off my father from our family. No longer was he allowed to enter our home. No longer was he allowed to make our lives miserable. 

Taking this step was very hard for us. It was not easy to live our lives without our father’s support (however small it was). Now, my mother was responsible for every single thing in the house. From taking care of us to our schooling to paying all the bills and rent. And while I picked up some extra money by tutoring some of the children who lived on our street, ends would simply not meet. 

Time passed, but I couldn’t see our lives improving in any way. The reason behind abandoning my father was because my mother wanted to make our lives better, but it was not happening. Money was still the same. The only change I saw in our lives was that it was relatively peaceful now. But what is peace when you must suffer stomach pangs? 

In 2012, I was studying in the second year of college. I got admission to a very good university on a full scholarship. Only then it was possible for me to study. I decided to help my mother financially by taking a part-time job after my morning classes at university. I worked a night shift at a call center and my mother had no objections with me doing so. I earned very little amount there, but it was enough to pay my and my brother’s public-school fees.  

But as hard as we work, society never fails to make our lives difficult. Everyone started to bad mouth me and my mother. They said that my mother had forced me to work night shift so that I could send her money for the home she could not manage on her own. These words were thorns, but my mother and I decided to ignore them. My mother told me that I was to focus on my future, and I agreed. I had to achieve something in my life if I were able to escape poverty.  

As I continued working, I started bringing in a handsome amount and finally, my mother, brother, and I were able to move into another house. We no longer called our home a “shelter.” This was a two-bedroom house; my mother and I shared a room while my brother got the other room. For the first time in my life, I slept on a real bed. I felt my dreams deepen, and I began to see the light sneak in. 

Slowly, we upgraded our living standard as well, buying a television, fridge, and other essential appliances that we’d never owned before. My brother was also tutoring younger students, which was how we managed to run the house well.  

During my last semester at university, I applied for various jobs. But unfortunately (or fortunately), I didn’t get any. I was in a denial, honestly; all my life, I had worked so hard to make a path for me and my family so, I was disheartened in the beginning. I cried to my mother. When I was finished, my mother leaned in and told me, “Dear, the sky is the limit.” She asked if I had applied to vacancies in other cities, not just our own. I paused. No, I guess I had not. That small encouragement was my revival. 

As my university career was coming to a close, I reached out to my cousin who was living in Dubai. I told her that I wanted to apply for jobs there, and she helped me out in the whole process. It was exciting to have more and more opportunities. However, I had sent many job applications in the UAE, and I finally got a video interview with one of the organizations in Dubai. Within two days, I got the hiring letter from them.  

I was so excited to start a new life, something I have been wishing for so long. But at the same time, I was very sad to leave my family behind. They had been with me through thick and thin and now…leaving them alone was unimaginable. But then, I remembered what my mother had said, “Dear, the sky is the limit.” Sometimes you have to let go of something precious in order to get something priceless.  

In October 2014, I left my country, my home, my family, and everything behind and went to start anew in Dubai. For the first few days, I stayed at my cousin’s apartment until I found a place to live. While Dubai was strange and different, I started my job and did very well. I worked there for two years and then found another job where they paid me to double the amount of what my previous job paid me. Finally, I had achieved my goal.  

I was very young when my father and mother split. At that time, my friends would play outside and enjoy themselves while I had to stay home to earn extra money. My brother and I didn’t enjoy our childhood as other children did. We never went to parks and outings because we did not have money. We did not have many toys to play with. Still, we did not complain. If you stay strong and believe that after every bad day comes a good day, you will relish in the good.  

 

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This is the story of Naheed Abbas

This is the life story of a young girl named NaheedEarly in life, her father adopted the habit of drinking and eventually, her mother had to kick him out of their family in order to keep them safe. After the utmost effort and hard work, Naheed finally managed to provide her family with a better living standard. Today, Naheed is living in Dubai with her husband. Her mother is also living with them and her brother has gone abroad for further studies. Now, they are on good terms with her father as well, but they don’t live together. Naheed is a mother of two adorable babies and manages the house as well as the professional life very well.

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Naheed in her 20s. 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on February 13, 2020.

| Writer: Zaid Mubbasher | Editor: Colleen Walker |

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To protect the privacy of the storyteller and those involved in this retelling, some of the names may have been changed. (1)

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