She was bathed in my perfume when I entered the room.
“Baji, there was some stench coming from the store room; that’s why I was using it.”
She is the daughter of our housekeeper; hardly 12, with dark skin, sharp features, huge, sparkly eyes, and an innocent face. Her mother asked me to help her with her studies and I loved to teach her. She was such a bright student who wanted to learn as much as she could. But for some time now, I was noticing a devastating change in her personality; a lack of interest in her studies, a sudden interest in the latest fashion, makeup, and Indian movies instead of cartoons. The change even went as far as her stealing money and cosmetics from my dressing table.
At first I thought this was natural for a girl approaching her teens. But one day I found her in my room with heavy makeup, dressed like some heroine from an item song with her shirt pulled up, posing inappropriately in front of the mirror. When she saw me, she got frightened and begged me not to tell her mother. After calming her down, I gifted her my red lipstick and asked (in a friendly manner) why her interests had shifted so drastically towards such things. Swallowing back her tears, she responded by asking me a question instead,
“Baji, am I not pretty?”
“Of course, you are.”
“Then why does Master ji not give me the same kind of attention he gives to Hira? Why does he love her so much and always asks her to bring copies to his room? Why does he always take water from her bottle instead of my cool water bottle? Why does he always give her more marks even though her answers are wrong and her handwriting is poor? You know why? Because she is fair and pretty. And I am a kaali daiyan (dark witch).”
She stared sobbing profusely after uttering these words as reality took a hit on her innocence. Children are like little glass dolls. Their innocent souls protected and a single crack on their souls causes absolute, irrevocable damage. Their little hearts are full of spring. All they want is love and appreciation. All they want is to fill the barren sketch of this world with their colours. But the stains of cruelty vapourise their bright colours into the dullness of hell.
I was shattered after hearing her unexpected reply. I immediately called her mother to handle this. Zoya’s confidence was gone and I took it upon myself to restore it with her mother’s care. However, her mother, Surraiya, wasn’t even shocked. After listening to the whole story, her reaction was very disappointing.
“Baji, mein tou isko kaam par hee laga leti hun saath, parhnay ka kya faida?”
(Madam, I’ll just find her some employment alongside mine, what’s the point of education anyway?)
Ironically, these words were true–what is the fruitfulness of education? To corrupt a child’s innocence? Or to kill their confidence and self-esteem?
It took me a long time to persuade Surraiya and nurture whatever was left of Zoya’s confidence by showering her with love, care, and affection. We managed to arrange a meeting with the principal as well, but Hira’s parents were not cooperative at all in this regard. They declared it a question upon their 13-year-old daughter’s chastity, which would create hurdles in future rishtas (marriage proposals) as well. I tried greatly to convince them but was thrown abuses in return.
However, the principal was very cooperative and he promised to maintain a strict policy against such behaviour. The so-called teacher was also very frightened after his ‘hidden affections’ became public knowledge. Nothing more could be done because Hira would not speak up and there was no other evidence.
The most depressing part was Hira’s parents’ reaction, who cursed their daughter instead of that beast. I can’t forget the beautiful fairy-like face of that innocent girl who was not even aware of her crime. I wanted to hug her, I wanted to tell her that no, baby, it’s not your fault. But I could not. She was already getting a reality check, and it was not my place to intervene.
I went there several times after to keep track of the atmosphere of the school. Zoya was my newscaster, but I never heard anything about Hira afterwards. She never came to school; they went back to their village and nothing more was heard of her.
These Master ji’s are not only plucking the innocence of these girls because of their lustful desires, but also enabling violations within our new generation. And it needs to stop. We have to raise our voice and cleanse ourselves of this – and them.
Published in express tribune, written by:
The author is a student of English Literature at Government College University Lahore with an interest in current affairs, human psyche and theater. She was the Leader of Opposition at Youth Parliament Pakistan as well. She tweets as @Mariaam_Naqvi (twitter.com/Mariaam_Naqvi)