Women should say NO to unpaid work

Today I want to apologize to my mother for saying all those years when she was alive that ‘she does not work, she is a housewife’. She was given in marriage when she was a 10-year-old child. Since then she woke up at dawn, worked all day to make breakfast for everyone, and then lunch for everyone and then dinner for everyone, she served everyone food,she cleaned everyone’s dishes, she cleaned the house, the courtyard and the garden, she washed everyone’s clothes, she cleaned up everyone’s messes and she made everyone’s beds but she did not get time to go to her bed even at midnight.

My mother often told me that she could earn some money if she worked as a maid in some people’s houses. I laughed at my mother. I could not imagine my mother as other’s housemaid. My father was a renowned physician. He earned a decent amount of money. But the money he earned was HIS money, not my mother’s money. My mother had to beg my father for money. My mother had no rights and no freedom only because she did not have her own money. She could not buy anything she wanted to buy. She could not go anywhere she wanted to go. My father gave her money only when he wanted to give her money. My mother had to do what she was instructed to do with HIS money.

We know they don’t count women’s work but they count on women’s work. We know that the unpaid work done by women is worth $11 trillion. There is a conspiracy to glorify women’s unpaid housework. They have given housework a nice sweet name, it is now ‘homemaking’. They now call housewives ‘homemakers’. But nice names can’t make penniless women happy and satisfied.

Women must have their own money and their own house, so that they do not have to beg anyone for money, so that nobody can ever say to any woman, ‘get out of my house’.

Housework must be shared by all family members. No single person can or should be responsible for all of the household chores and childcare. Women should work for money, HER money.

Mother’s Day!

We all know Mother’s Day is a big buck business. It is still a good day. Children think of their mothers for at least one day a year!

When my mother was alive, I didn’t have time to think of her. She died. Now I think of her everyday. I repent everyday.

Mother’s Story

 

1

My mother’s eyes became yellowish, egg-yoke like.
Her belly swelled out rapidly like an overly full water tank
ready to burst at any moment.

No longer able to stand up, or sit down, or even move her fingers, she just lay there.
At the end of her days, she did not look like Mother any more.
Relatives appeared each morning, every evening,
telling Mother to be prepared,
telling her to be ready to die on the holy day, Friday,
uttering la ilaha illallah, Allah Is One!

 

They warned her not to disappoint the two angels—

Munkar and Nakir.

 

The relatives wanted to make certain that the room

and yard would be clean
that the perfume atar  and the blue eye shadow surma

would be present when Death would finally arrive.

 

The disease had nearly devoured her entire body;
it had stolen her last remaining strength;
it had made her eyes bulge from their sockets,
it had dried her tongue,
it had sucked the air from her lungs.

 

As she struggled to breathe,
her forehead and eyebrows wretched with pain.

The whole house demanded— shouting—
that she should send her greatest respects and reverence

to the Prophet.
Not one doubted that she would go to Jannatul Ferdous,

the highest level of heaven.
Not one doubted that she would soon walk hand-in-hand

with Muhammed, on a lovely afternoon,

in the Garden of  Paradise..


No one doubted that the two would lunch together

on pheasant  and wine.
Mother thus dreamed her lifelong dream:
She would walk with Muhammed

in the Garden of Paradise.


But now, at the very time that she was about to depart from this earth, what a surprise

She hesitated.

Instead of stepping outside, and entering that Garden,
she wished to stay and boil Birui rice for me.
She wished to cook fish curry and to fry a whole hilsa.
She wished to make me a spicy sauce with red potatoes.
She wished to pick a young coconut for me
from the south corner of her garden.
She wished to fan me with a silken hand-fan,
and to remove a few straggly hairs from my forehead.
She wished to put a new bed sheet upon my bed,
and to sew a frock with colorful embroidery—

just for me.
Yes, she wished to walk barefoot in the courtyard,
and to prop up a young guava plant with a bamboo stick.
She wished to sing sitting in the garden of hasnuhena,


“Never before, had such a bright moon shone down,
never before, was night so beautiful.. .” 

 

My mother wanted so desperately to live.

 

 

 

 

2

There is, I know, no reincarnation,
no last judgment day:
Heaven, pheasant, wine, pink virgins —
these are nothing but traps

set by true believers.

 

There is no heaven for mother to go.
She will not walk in any garden with anybody whatsoever.
Cunning foxes will instead enter her grave;

they will eat her flesh;
her white bones will be spread by the winds…

 

Nevertheless, I do want to believe in Heaven
over the seventh sky, or somewhere—
a fabulous, magnificent heaven—
somewhere where my mother would reach

after crossing the bridge,

the Pulsirat— which seems so impossible to cross.
And there, once she has passed that bridge

with the greatest ease,

a very handsome man, the Prophet Muhammed,
will welcome her, embrace her.

He will feel her melt upon his broad chest.
She will wish to take a shower in the fountain;
she will wish to dance, to jump with joy;
she will be able to do all the things

that she has never done before.
A pheasant will arrive on a golden tray.
My mother will eat to her heart’s content.
Allah Himself will come by foot into the garden to meet her;
he will put a red flower into her hair,

kiss her passionately.

 

She will sleep on a soft feather bed;
she will be fanned by seven hundred Hur, the virgins
and be served cool water in silver pitcher

by beautiful gelban, the young angels.
She will laugh,

her whole body will stir with enormous happiness.

She will forget her miserable life on Earth…

 

An atheist,

How good I feel
just to imagine
somewhere there is a heaven!

 

(The original poem was written  in Bengali.  It  was published in  Bengali literary  weekly magazine ‘Desh’. Bangladesh government  banned the magazine on April 4,1999, and seized all copies from the news stands. I was accused of personifying  God.)