The story of privilege during an epidemic

The story of privilege during an epidemic 

-Sabah Batul


My teacher once told me,

You are aware of your Privilege.

I wasn’t sure whether to be proud of my awareness,

Or to feel terrible about my state.


This birth-given right of mine,

It is a great power with great responsibility.

It is what gives me the power to whine,

And do nothing to change the course of history. 


Ab toh corona ka time hai,

Apna time ka intezar bhi nahi.

Ab toh mere paas laziness ka privilege hai,

Ab kaha se badlungi history?


Toh phir maine,

Tik tok videos banaye,

Phir apne maid ke hisse ke kaam bhi kiye,

Delivery boys ko cape bhi de,

Par phir bi din ke sabse buri baat internet ke slow speed hi thi.


Sitting in my ivory tower,

With my home workouts.

KFC delivered, kitchen is stocked.

Then I sigh staring at my phone, 

are rey garib,

Agle hi lamhe mein karan johar ki story se gham me kami bhi huwi. 

But I still tell myself,

we are all doing our best. 

We are all fighting this battle. 

Some easier than others.

But the truth is staring at us, 

The class difference startles. 

Dalit abi bhi neeche hai, 

Par woh bi neeche jinhe hum mudh ke dekhte bi nahi, 

Woh road ki safayi karne wali aunty akhir famous actress hai bhi nayi. 

Toh hum thank you, aunty bolke agey bad jate hai,

She remains the giver, we remain the insatiable takers.


Ye class difference samaj me shayad ara hai, 

Par is bimari ka corona jaisa koi ilaaj nahi, 

Ilahi, ye bhi communalism jaise shayad sacchai ka mohtaj nahi. 

Hum ye jhoot aur captilasm ki hawas me khuhsi khushi jalte rahenge. 


Aj inke qurbani pe thaali bajayi,

Kal wapas tv heroes pe paise udayenge.

Zindagi bus isi ghere me reh gayi shayad meri.


Yeh helpless rona bhi privilege hi hai mera.


So I tell this to myself to be aware of my privilege.

Environment toh bacha nahi sake, 

Insaniyat toh dikha nahi sakhe, 

Raaste bhi sunsan kar nahi sakhe, 

Bus privilege ke bartan bajaye hai.

Ayse sunday humne manaye hai. 

Raaste pe sone walon ko disinfectant se nhilaye hai. 

Ameero ko sar pe bithaye hai. 

Jahalat ke andheron me diye jalaye hai. 

Ayse Sunday humne manaye hai. 


What more can we do? 

How do we break this hierarchy, 

Where one has more, 

And many have nothing. 

An empty stomach versus the privilege of dieting. 


With UAPA haunting the ones who dare, 

Can we waste time on the Kardashians now? 

With extradition cases, student activists attacked and the economy in crisis. 

Can we avoid the lines of migrants stacked together like mices. 

Because that’s what social distancing means to many. 

Can we avoid rebels without a cause protesting staying at home?

Because that’s what freedom means to many.

While a doctor is buried on the run,

With the shame of a failed society attending the funeral.

The lynching of men, the pelting of saviours. 

We treat them as well as we did the son of God. 

The crucified heroes:

Humanity ka copyright toh shayad sirf unke paas hai. 


Can we still cover our eyes and follow our country’s andha kanoon? 

Or has the virus finally opened our eyes? 

Because I still close mine to enjoy the theme song of the office. 

My temporary privilege pays for the upkeep of my unraveling mental health. 

How long before we are on the streets with no wealth? 

How long before escapism is a thing of the past?

 Like the last season of our favorite show, 

We are forced to explore the possibility of an ending now, at last. 


Surely we are trying our best. 

But can we be more action and less instagram rants? 

Not that that doesn’t impact. But we need more.

Question the government, 

Fight for a democracy. Another birth-given right.

Before that be prepared to share our salaries? 

Our salaries equally with blue collar workers. 

Share what we actually owe to them?


Kyuki jee toh phir bi rahe, fuzuliyat aur khsuhi ke dekho ke bina. 

Kyuki huste toh aj bi hai,  Kyuki waqt se mile pyaar ne hasna sikha diya. 


So as my teacher once pointed out beautifully,

Sabah, you are aware of your privilege, 

And my part in running the wheel of greed.

So what will I do about it now?

What will you do about it? 

I hope my words become the beginning of something more.

Shayad abhi bhi hai thodi si hope?


Trespassers will be prosecuted


I read the news today,
And it scared me,
I felt like time was chasing me,
Chasing me with the “desh bhakts”
Chasing me out of my own country.

I decided to get my friends
And take our fight to the streets,
I decided to pack up my bag of dissent
And ask for my identity.

I was a part of a protest and when we reached the freedom park,
Someone started reading the preamble.
In the open ground her voice echoed.
She emphasised on the word secular.
And I couldn’t help but think.

Zindagi se bahut mange hai dukh,
Ab mangke dekhti hu wujood.
Ye watan jisme hai mera ghar,
Ye phechan le meri phechan agar,
Toh is wujood ke sang chalungi me,
Is watan ko phirse ghar kahungi me.

I am scared, so scared in my own country.

Bahhoton ne pehlaya mere dil me ye dar,
Ye rajneti chadegi sar par.
Par is rajneti ko chunne wali hun mai,
Iske hathon kaise bikhar jaon?

Later, when I reached home and saw my family, I thought to myself,
“Is the day far when I have to scream,
Run, grab all that you can, they are coming for us. They won’t spare child, woman or man!”
I thought to myself,

Kya samjaon apne chote bhai ko? Kya bataon usko?
Ke uthao samaan, wo log kehte hai ab nahi ye apna ghar,
Bhaago! Aagey dehshatgar.
Usko toh agayi samaj bus yahi baat,
Ki hinduvta ki Jeet huwi aur desh ki haar.
Kal shayad banjaye wo bi ek terrorist,
Hinsa ka bhuka, badle ki aag me jalta,
Beghar, isi desh ka baccha.
Kis desh ka premi, kiska desh drohi?

What is our crime though? Why do they hate us?

Ye sar ka hijaab phaasi kab bangaya?
Ye taqti pakadne se tumari laathi uthana lazim kab hogaya?

Is desh ki mithi pe sajdah karte the nana,
Kehte the ye mithi hai azeem.
Shaheed huwe the 1971 ke jung me.
Ammijaan bhi huwi is zameen ke liye yateem.

Perhaps they need more from us,
Ek aur Anne Frank ka janam ho bus.
Literature me aur pade bhayanak daagh,
Ek aur partition, ek aur religious cleansing,
Ek naya mazhab se bana card, ek naya adhaar.

But do they not understand that this is wrong.
Dividing us into little mason jars for different shelves.
We are one, we are together, we are a secular democratic nation!

Par yeh baat to bus bache samaj rahe hai ki,
Khoon ke aansu royega Hindustan,
Jis din woh rehjayega bus apna naam.
Hindu log, bus hindu hi pehchan.
Khoon ke aansu royega Hindustan.

That is why us students protest,
That’s why we acknowledge our right to dissent,
Kyuki zaalimo,
Ye desh hai mera ghar.
Toh is wujood ke sang chalungi me,
Is watan ko phirse ghar kahungi me.

Because I belong here,
I grew up watching kabhi Khushi kabhi gham with their kids,
I too ate parle G while indulged in ekta kapoor shows,
I too looked up to shaktimaan, my hero!

But now we are trespassers, and we’ll be prosecuted?
Waah! Desh bhakt, waah!
Mazaak bana rakha hai.
Par laazim hai ki hum bhi dekhenge.
Kitna zulm karoge, hum bhi dekhenge.
Hum Jeetenge, laazim hai ki sache hai toh Jeetenge.
is wujood ke sang chalungi me,
Is watan ko phirse ghar kahungi me.


-Sabah Batul

Dear you

Dear you,
Who are you if not damaged?
You aren’t healthy.
Stop kidding yourself.
You are your issues
And without them,
You are nothing.

They are all you have ever known,
They were given to you at home.
The panic comforts you,
The anxiety puts you to sleep,
The negativity helps you breathe.

Who are you kidding?
You aren’t healthy.
Your therapist is pushing you,
That’s not who you are,
You don’t deserve love.

Listen to me, you,
You will always be alone,
You will never know a home.
Your friends are waiting to leave,
You aren’t one to keep.

I’m the voice in your head,
And I tell you the truth,
You are a pathetic mess, you.
Hidden under kindness,
You rue life, every second.

Your body is ugly,
Your skin is disgusting,
Your hair is no muse of poetry,
You lack essence.

No matter what others tell you,
I’ll always speak the truth.
I reside in your head,
And I’ll never abandon you.
Your one true friend.
So always listen to me, you.

It, you will never know.
You will never know love,
You will never know peace.
You will never find hope.
Joy to you is misery.
No wisdom. Always weak.

So agonize and wait for death.
Alone, always.
Never feel free. Never know yourself truly.
Who are you kidding? You aren’t healthy.

Dear you,
For you: Days dark. Nights blue.
Grey inside. Rotting, you.
Voice inside, speaks the truth.
Will never find it, you.

-Sabah Batul

Second wave





There is a wave coming,
A wave so strong,
Us, struggling dimwits don’t understand it at all.
We wiggle under its apocalyptic noise,
We squirm and cry,
It stands on us, demands us to oblige.

There is this obsession,
Over arbitrary laws,
There are waning relationships,
Perhaps that’s why the obsession over alcohol,
Over drugs and sex.
An obsession to feel before numbness,
An obsession to live before death.
A race against time, if you will.

Me? I stand unable to tell real from what my mind creates for me.
An unbearable coked up symphony.
I stand amidst a chaotic hell of my own making.
I wiggle to break free from myself,
And I cry because I can’t feeling nothing else.
I survive because I don’t fucking want to die.
I see the wave coming,
and I don’t know if that will kill me,
Or I’ll reach out to the guns first.

There is a wave coming,
It’ll set us all free,
Emancipate us from this dirt and misery.
There is an obsession, amongst the youth.
To yell and fight,
To reduce to their primal instincts.

There is a revolution on its way,
And its price is all our lives.
The apocalyptic dream is livid,
The nightmare of life is surreal.

We will surrender though,
Mankind will diminish to nothingness.
We will break down our souls
And feed it to The End.

There is a wave coming,
A second coming if you will.
Its going to fuck us all,
But not if I walk to it myself.
-Sabah Batul

Damsel in Distress


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Hello woman,

We live in a world of empowerment and #MeToo.
But dudes with dicks are a privileged crew!
So I sit to understand the world around us from the comfort of my conservative home,
And this is the conclusion to which I have come…

The expression of freedom, it’s never ambiguous.
It’s the Allowance of freedom that messes it’s meaning.
Figuring yourself out, a task I find ominous.
But I’m forbidden to do it on my own by she who claims to be my king.
Faith, something I’d like to understand on my own terms, dear,
But they keen to persistently interfere!
And some nights, helpless, I just think…

‘When I met her,
She said she loved me.
But as time came, she slowly stopped my heart beat.
I didn’t understand what I did to deserve the pain,
But she killed me like this every day.
Until…Until I felt all alone.
And tears choked me.
And in me sleep, each night, I begged for mercy.
If it was with her death or mine, I was so hurt, i just wanted it to stop.
I was sinking, and I wished to be left alone,
I would like to drown or swim on my own.’

So in a world of #TimesUp,

I am lost and miserable, but a dear friend has reminded me I am strong.

I’ll find myself mercy and the nightmare will be gone.

So, ladies, I’d like to remind you too, you owe it to yourself to find your way.
Believe in yourself, force happiness to stay.

                             -With love,

                              your ever so lovely,

                              Damsel in distress.


Are you forcing your child to grow up? An Adult already in her childhood


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Are you forcing your child to forgo their childhood?


Pc: AgileLeanife

As adults we tend to drown in our problems, we forget to take the little joys of life seriously. That is until we are our problems, and it’s tough to even breathe. But when that little one comes along, happiness is effortless, and we slowly start burdening our little bundles of joy with the responsibility of our joy.

We don’t mean to do that to our children, none of us do! Neither did my mom mean to do it to me. But when her life took a turn she didn’t plan out, she held my finger tight to protect me. Maybe that’s when I realised I had to hold back to protect her too.

I think it’s the circumstances we were in. Dad and mom didn’t have a fancy degree or a job that paid well. So it was all struggle in the small one-room apartment with three kids. But at the end of the day when we all sat down for that one hot meal our tired mother prepared, it was literally paradise. And when she got sick, and we didn’t have enough to care for her, the meals turned cold, and paradise turned black. Food was the least of our concerns though. The free clinic helped us out as much as they could, but she needed more.

What happened? My older sisters and I turned into mothers to tend for the one we were losing. Her pain ridden drowsy eyes would shine every time she would see us taking care of her. There quickly would be a tear running down her pale skin – a tear of remorse – of how things turned out. She knew she was dying, and she understood how that killed all of us.

I like to think that I was her favourite, as I read to her every night. She said the stories helped her forget what’s real and what’s not. She said she felt as though she flew away to a place where she had us all safe and happy. The house was warm, and the backyard was big, and we were all always laughing!

30 years later, I still remember the last time I sat down and read to her the words of another, she blissfully smiled. I don’t know if she understood much but she did enjoy. Her face was a shade of blank – mixed with joy, and I kept reading to her what I thought was her favourite book. Waiting for her eyes to shut, waiting for her to let go, waiting for her to fall into a beautiful doze.

The next time I saw her, she was wearing her best dress. She lay so still for her watchers that it hurt me. It hurt me to watch her the way she was. I took peace in the thought that she is happy now, and away from the painful corridors of those long hospital halls. But it still did hurt how everyone reminisced her living days and how they would miss her so dearly.

Meanwhile, dad held my hand as tight as he could. As though he was trying to hold on to hope for me. It was sweet.

Pc: Hansen Spear Funeral Home

As my older sister gave the eulogy, everyone nodded and smiled and cried. But I felt like I was just there but somewhere else too. Somewhere away from all this hurt that my heart couldn’t possibly comprehend for me.

As the service was coming to an end, I could swear that I didn’t feel her presence anymore, although she was physically still there. And that hurt as well.

Then when she was given back to the earth, I could feel she had left us for good. Maybe she would look down soon on a dull night and miss us too.

We drove back Home ever so quietly. Home. The word felt empty, as were the vessels. There wasn’t enough food or clothes to go around. And we didn’t have topics to talk about because she wasn’t

there to listen. So we were walking zombies, making noise as we moved. We were all a little empty, crying while hiding in our rooms.

In my room, I was alone at last. As I was when she was alive. So that felt normal. But my lump of pain had me still drowning. Reminded of the beautiful past, where life was something you could live without having to think about it.

I went to her grave every day for as long as I could and read to her stories that helped me fly too. Sometimes I would take my own short stories where I had strong wings that would help me reach her at the highest station in heaven. I would imagine her smile while listening to my story. I would imagine her healthy. It would hurt her to think we forgot her and remembered her disease.

So we lived with her memories and somehow forgot to make our own for a while. And my greatest remorse is we missed out on our childhood, and that would be the last thing mom would want. As a parent today I work hard to make sure my children grow at their own pace. I make sure they never feel what I did as a kid. But I always dread the fact that there might be a time when I won’t be able to protect them when they will be forced out of the nest. That’s when I read my mother favourite book, she gives me courage through its words.

At this point, my youngest grew restless of watching TV and thought it best to throw a tantrum. I kept the book down and took her in my arms to make her a snack. “Honey, how is the essay going? “, I asked the oldest, she grunted in response. I smiled and gave my hungry kid a tight hug before I had to let her down. And this scenario right here brought my paradise back to life, and I began making the much-awaited sandwich.




Read this on Are you forcing your child to grow up? An Adult already in her childhood as well.

Younger at 40: Old is just a label


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Pic source: Masterfile

I hadn’t expected my life to turn out as beautifully as it did. A kid and an adoring husband. Book club on weekends, and picnics on sunny days. I was the lady in the movies, glistening in the background. Happier than the leads. But soon I came to a realisation that perhaps I was avoiding for longer than I care to agree to. I was old. I was actually the lady they talk about in the Olay advertisements. The saggy old hag that you need to avoid becoming. Their anti-aging creams lying to us just as our mothers did. “It all gets better as you grow old”, they said. What lies!

I am Colette, and here is my take on aging. I hate it, but I’m getting used to it.

Let me begin by saying it ain’t a ball, ladies. I am tired all the time! I am failing at yoga, if that’s even possible? (I don’t bend like the others do). I read books just so that my peers won’t judge me for being ‘unaware of my surroundings’. My husband orders wine for me when we go out with friends because it’s a woman’s drink (apparently he hasn’t figured it out that we live in the 21st century). My breasts are saggy, and I haven’t had sex for so long that I am pretty sure that the hymen is growing back. Menopause is killing me while burning me alive. I am tired of cooking dinner for my family, and I’m tired of pretending to enjoy small talks with my other perfect friends. And how is it that Angelina Jolie is about my age and she looks like a doll?!

So, to help you understand where I am coming from or maybe just because I need to tell this to someone, let me tell you a story. I did something I wasn’t supposed to. I went around and had a little affair. I met him in yoga class, the one I was failing. He was my teacher, I stayed back to learn the Uttanasana, and one thing led to another and so it began. The most satisfying two weeks of my life until Mary Kai saw us together going at it in the storage closet. And I was labelled a cougar.

It hadn’t occurred to me before, his age I mean. To me it was about the attention he gave me, the attention I missed from my busy and equally tired husband. No doubt what I did was wrong. I cheated on my husband, a terrible thing I regret. The divorce is going fine by the way. He is dating his secretary now (as he did for a year, just out in the open now is what I meant). Not many judgments directed towards him, at least not explicitly.

Now I am living my life as a divorcee woman. But the rumours and gossip have started to get to me!

So, I write to ask you all something, riddle me this, if age is just a number then why does mine matter so much? If consensual sex is nobody’s business then why does it make me a cougar? If every body type is beautiful, then why are my saggy breasts, wrinkled skin stuffed down a spanx, and child-birth survived loose vagina, disgusting? You can lust, and have every right to hate the label whore. I follow desire and I am having a mid-life crises?!

After you cross a certain age, people start assuming you’re old news and expect you to retire away from the world. Have a peaceful life, eating the fruits of the trees we planted in our youth. But my tree is still branching, despite the end of my youth. And I want to live, I want to live till I am alive. I don’t want to be declared old news. I still have a few more mistakes to make. And I still have enough love to give to fascinating men for fickle moments.

Why should I be your older reliable friend? I am the protagonist of my story, and let me tell you it’s a blockbuster! I am ageing as badly as you can imagine -trying my best to get in terms with this- but I don’t want to fix my ageing skin or pop vitamins and heart medicine by the fireplace like you expect me to (Fortunately, I have my father’s genes and I am healthy as a horse).

I don’t want to do yoga and wait for my kid to call me once a week. I definitely don’t want to work on my stitching skills, or leave recipes as legacy. My legacy should be something colossal, something that I had fun making.

I guess what I am trying to say is ladies, I am tired of being just a wife, a mother and a friend. I want more, I want to be a lover, someone who turns you on. I want to try adventure sports, and not worry about my weak bones. I want to try restaurants and drink exotic drinks, not host boring parties. I want to see the world again and do more with my sunny days than picnics.

So if you understand where I am getting at or where I am coming from, that’s great! Otherwise, you can label me like you label others, an oldie with a few good years left. But I’ll keep living my life, reckless or meticulous, the way I want to. That is of course until you find me in an urn on a shelf. But until death comes running my way, I won’t let the world kill me with a number.



Gay for the Day: Are we your hashtag today?


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“How about pride week for Intrigue this year? It is cool and trendy. The theme can be- My Gay Best friend!” Arya exclaimed, in love with her own ingenuity. “Oh, so the keywords cool, trendy and aware took you straight to Gay. WOW. Pun intended, BTW!” said Amina rolling her eyes.

“So what do you suggest? Nothing is more eye-catching than rainbows and our support!” “Now that’s just demeaning, Arya,” Neha added. At this point, the conflicted clique of girls looked in my direction. Feeling obligated to say something, I added, “Did you guys hear about the Section 377 hearing at Supreme Court?” But I was interrupted by the riveting tale of Kylie Jenner’s thrown out lip fillers by Nishant who had just arrived.

But today, I had a little too much of the Kardashian talk, so I finally decided to say something, “Hey, did you guys know that the word ‘Gay’ actually means cheerful and bright and showy on Wikipedia. And it was picked up in the 19th century as slang to refer to a mass of people with flamboyant personalities -stereotyped- rather than a description of their sexual orientation, which should have pointed out.

So gays have walked the earth long enough for a shout out in the Bible, but somehow we aren’t surpassing the Facebook rainbow filter and derogatory references! Not all of us want to flaunt our fashion sense to the world. Seriously, what is wrong with you people?!

We live in a world with an expanded spectrum of acceptance, with people who are self-aware and brilliant actually striving to help us voice our choice. But your group of people, who think we are the It thing of today still box us down to a trend.

You know what? Just for one day let’s try to get rid of these people and relatives and aunties and dadas. Just for one fine day, it would be great if my sexual fantasies were left alone rather than paraded around. It would be really awesome if my choice was not put up for public validation! It would be crazy if I could just be the norm rather than the sore finger sticking out! Yes, I am Gay. But I don’t want to announce it at a fancy coming out party, because that’s just not who I am.”

Catching my breath amidst the feeling of complete exuberance, I continued, “ You know I read somewhere that section 377, which by the way penalizes homosexual sex, was established more than 150 years ago during the British rule, who themselves have eradicated this absolute load of crap long ago! Then why is it that in the name of culture I’m a criminal?

Why is it that if not by the law, in some way, we sometimes feel like the animals at the zoo? Caged and at display.


Maybe that’s why I hid from your spotlights, cameras, and #prideweek tweets all this while. Maybe that’s why we liked the closet better than the room where there always will be the disapproving murmur.”


With this thought, my monologue came to an end. And although beautiful, that is not how I came out. That was a story for another crowd and another time.

Today, all I said was, “Supreme Court claims the LGBT community is a negligible part of the population and denies them their right of choice.”

This was received with a short protest by my friends. They all agreed on how it’s unfair and how badly it sucks for the LGBT community to receive the animosity they are offered.

The conversation then swiftly moved on to Justin Bieber’s engagement with Hailey Baldwin. And I stood there in silence, mourning yet another defeat of my people.

A Dream: The Middle Class Mother


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“I don’t know Radha, maybe it was a mistake to let my dreams go in the name of what seemed like love. Maybe it was a mistake to depend on Raghu for money.” Said mum to her friend. Radha sighed, almost feeling the regret my mom was feeling, and added, “at least you had dreams of value to miss. Mine was to get married.” And the dull silence broke into a sad laughter of reminiscence.

Mom was cleaning up after her friend left, the teacups were washed and arranged, and the table was back to its shiny self. “I need new books,” I told her with guilt. She looked at me smiling, “Of course, I’ll ask your dad for some extra money today.” And the guilt turned into a knot in my stomach.

How disappointing it was to see my mom depending on my father to the extent of disrespecting herself. She must have started out like me, a ten-year-old, with dreams of her own. She wanted to be a teacher she had told me. But she got married as soon as she completed her graduation, and my father found it ego shattering to let his wife work. “I can take care of you”, he had promised her. And today, he fought with her for every extra rupee in the name of house expenses.

A few years later…

“You just want to show off in front of your friends and family. Want to feign the role of a Memsaab. Don’t forget that I am just a clerk! Hold the purse strings, I always remind you, but no! You have to put Radhika in tuition. Why can’t you teach her? I ask? What is the use of that B.Sc. degree I ask” After a long pause “Why can’t you be a loving wife, or am I cursed for life with you? My friends sing praises of their dutiful wives, meanwhile I am stuck with you!” Father had his own regrets and dreams I guess; mom quietly packed his lunch while I skimmed through my 11th physics textbook to appear busy.

Conversations like these happened way too often than they should. From money for daal to an eraser, everything had to be approved by the Dictating breadwinner. And every time I reminded myself of my dream, just like my parents did. I wanted to earn a lot of money one day, and shower my mom with all the money bought happiness she missed out on.

A few years had passed when finally I got my first job, my stipend was Rs.500. A well-paying job it was, indeed, but mom was happier about the fact that I had made something of myself.

The first salary check I got was to be given to my mom, but a selfish desire shadowed my good intentions and I gave her the moony with regret, only to fulfil the promise I had made to a younger Radhika. She was ecstatic. I was sad. Something had happened over the years, I had turned selfish, and my mom seemed like a burden for a second. I was swept with guilt when I realised I had turned into my father!

Not trying to make excuses, but the child me hadn’t taken into account the ice-creams, dresses and birthday parties I had restrained myself from to avoid my mom being yelled at. So when I finally got the freedom of deciding my own budget, I didn’t want to share the happiness, not even with the woman who had suffered more than I did.

All those years a mom spends over preparing others to achieve their aspirations, while she shares tea over lost dreams. All those battles with dhobi bhaiya and sabji bhaiya to save that extra paise, feeling valiant over victory, only to get ingrates in return. Her dream was compromised just for her family. And we left her counting the change in her hidden box in the kitchen, amidst the grains of sand. Indeed a scary life, one of the Middle-class mother.

The Story Behind Her Eyes


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Pictures are stories that are already imagined for us. And one of such imaginations is the beautiful portrait in conversation today, the one that was compared to the famous Mona Lisa. The reason behind me taking this particular topic is to point out the human mind’s working and understanding of the complex stories, which we simplify to the level of spoiling its existence.


The picture of the ten-year-old Afghan Refugee was one of the most famous covers of National Geographic. The picture was taken at the Pakistan refugee camp, and for about another 17 years, Sharbut was unaware of her fame and glory (distant from first world problems of popularity).

Fun fact: After the picture was published, many men recognised with Sharbat as their wife.

This dry and short introduction seems apt for the objectification of Sharbat Gula, being the portrait of the Afghan Girl. When the picture was taken, Afghanistan was under the gnawing Soviet Occupation. Many children like her were displaced under the label of ‘refugees’.

So, when I see the picture, I see a strong and glamorous woman, as do you. The piercing eyes have a sad story behind. But the popularity of the picture ruins its raw beauty for me. I think the picture caught the common eye due to her earthly, bold looks. Rather than the troubles she was facing. Her beauty stood out and was the riveting factor, rather than her traumatic childhood. And such a superficial outlook on the lives of the migrated Afghani’s is disrespectful and pathetic.

Obviously the point of the picture was to show the Afghani struggle, but it turned into more of a sympathy towards the beauty in pain. Which was completely out of context, and unrequired. To prove my point I’d like to take the example of Bibi Aisha, her picture we feel sorry for. But the Afghan Girl, we find breath-taking. But both of them are damsels in distress, then why the different take?

What I am trying to say here is, I find it that our prejudiced vision prevents us from seeing the ugly in the beauty, and the truth behind agitated green eyes. And I find it terrible that my biased eyes will never see something as it was meant to be, and how it will continue to discriminate and box art. So will you break this chain?

                                                                                                                              -Sabah Batul