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‘I am Misbah… a fighter’

Sometimes, struggle is seen in the wrinkles of dull skin, white faded hair, and tough hard skin of hands with blisters while other times it is seen in the sky kissing buildings, and in luxurious homes with filthy life styles. Everyone strives to achieve the best in their life.

We never know, the person sitting next to us might be a storm bend tree, who has burned the candle at both ends to earn and become successful.

We meet and interact many people every day, but hardly get to know more about them. I was travelling to Lahore from Abbottabad by bus.

I was asked to visit my aunt who was ill and I had to stay with her until her recovery. In the bus, there was an annoying lady who was continuously talking to someone on phone, which was quiet irritating because her pitch was loud and shrill. An unusual noise in such a luxurious bus I thought, I didn’t look at her and rang the emergency bell. The hostess came to me and enquired my problem.

I pointed at the back and told her that the lady’s conversation was very loud and frustrating. The hostess passed on a weird look and nodded. I couldn’t comprehend her gesture at all, so I just leaned a bit forward to see the annoying lady’s face.

A lady probably in late 40’s, somewhat fat, wrinkled face, a big nosepin which was covering the nostril even, thin white hair, perfectly oiled and tied up covered in the red silk scarf, she had a faded beauty in her facial features, bulging eyes and nicely plucked eyebrows.

She was also wearing spectacles, which were fixed on the nose slightly touching the periphery of the big shiny nose pin. Her first glimpse ignited the spark of curiosity in my mind. I just ignored her because of my intolerant behavior.

After wasting five hours of my journey and letting burn the fire of curiosity in my mind, I asked the girl sitting next to her to exchange her seat with mine.

That annoying lady was still talking to someone on the phone, this time her tone was even more loud and furious as if she was scolding someone.

I was a bit scared because of her harsh tone but as soon as I sat next to her and fixed my seat belt her facial expressions changed which gave me comfort.

My questioning eyes made her end the call quickly. There upon I introduced myselfas a blog writer of a local magazine.

She almost jumped from her seat, as if she was also curious to talk to me. I told her that I am writing some blogs these days but I don’t have much colors to spread in my words.

She passed on a smug smile and came closer to my face, then she slightly slid my scarf and whispered in my ear “I have my story for you”.

This was the pacifying sentence which made my journey a memorable one, otherwise I would have drowned in the sea of boredom.

Here is what she said after my getting a positive sign from my side:

“My name is Misbah, just Mishbah. I am 42 years old. I earn for my old mother and,my recently divorced sister. I run a sewing center, where I teach young girls and women the art of stitching for the sake of Allah. In this way they start earning for their family. I am also a head tailor in the factory which works to export the dresses.

My designs and different styles of stitching are mostly preferred, and that is the reason I came here to get the award of appreciation from our company and also got a new target to design the uniforms of hostesses of this bus.

Struggle and patience have always been a part of my life as important as water and air. My father couldn’t afford much of our expenses as he was a mason. He used his labor to earn which was not enough to feed us.

I was admitted in a sewing center at a very early age, along with my three sisters. I had two brothers who were sent to school so they could study as per our society norms. I always wanted to go to school, but due to the poor condition I never let my father know about this.

So, I became more focused and determined in my sewing work. This art was already in my blood, and I refined it with the passage of time. The timepassed by, and I got married in 1990, my husband was a hardworking man.

He always struggled to earn the bread and butter for the family. After a year later, we were blessed with a baby boy. At that time I thought I had earned every happiness of life and my family is complete now. But this didn’t last that long. In 1995, exact five years after my marriage, my husband went to Karachi for training purpose. His plan was to shift the whole family there, no one knew that his death invited him there. And there, he was shot dead in a terrorist attack. My colorful life became gloomy and dark. I had no reason to live.

The essence of my life was no more. I used to stay quiet for days, people started considering me a possessed or a cursed woman. Seeing my worst condition and my neglected son, all the elders in my family decided for me.

A decision of second marriage, with the younger brother of my husband. This decision satisfied my parents for a very short time span as soon as they realized it to be the worst time of my life. I was against this marriage, I requested my father to tie up with any disable old man but not with Afzal. But my protest was worthless. No one knew that once again I was crucified in the hand of my destiny, unfortunately I was married again, which proved to be catastrophic.

Afzal was the laziest son of all, he would never move to fetch a glass of water for him. Perhaps he had no goals in life, the worst thing about him was that he hated me when I was his brother’s wife and he started hating me even more after our marriage.

I used to ask him the reason but his bitter answers shattered my motivation for spending a happy life and made me shut up for years.

We were dragging our relation even worst then a rusted bicycle. I believed that after having a child Afzal might change his attitude, but things got worse when we had a baby boy. He hated me for no reason.

His stance made me ill-mannered and an outspoken lady. I turned into a wild beast, I started beating my children just to vent my anger.

I also started arguing him, we fought every hour on patty issues,and as a result he took me to the mental hospital. After declaring me insane, he admitted me there. All these years my life took serious turns, but this time I felt crippled. I had nothing to say, that was the time I realized how helpless I am, being a female was not my choice, and this society dragged me to hell.

After my medical examination, doctors concluded that due to mental harassment my behavior changed to such polarization. A psychologist came to me and inquired that what incident had affected me to such abnormal behavior.

I never shared anything with anyone. She was the first person whom I showed the burns. She was astounded to know that Afzal pretended so well, in reality he was maniac.

She motivated me, she raised my morale to live for my kids. I was sent home after three months. There was a clear change in my behavior. But this change didn’t last for long. When I came back to Afzal’s home, his disturbing conduct pierced my heart and I turned back to a rude and outspoken wife. All this mess just lasted till 1998, and then finally I was set free by Afzal. He divorced me.

I was stigmatized as an insane divorced and a cursed woman. My children were my whole life, they were betrayed from my love by their grandparents and Afzal. I wanted my children back, but neither I had money nor I was bold enough to claim for the right in the court. So I accepted the bitter reality that I was born to live a life in misery, dejection, regrets, desolation and much more woes.

I was getting weaker and weaker, only my mother saw my scarred wounds. She took me to shrines and tombs of saints, so I may find tranquility. But her efforts were not fruitful as I wasn’t motivated internally. Or maybe I never wanted to stand up and step ahead in life.

One night, in the state of despair, I left my house with the point of never coming back. Before leaving I told my mother that I will never come back now, she smiled and said that I will come back here no matter where ever I may go. Her confidence gave me a chill and broke into pieces, maybe I was wrong, but then I thought that there was no point of staying in this place where everyone gave me their satirical sympathies. I had made up my mind. So I kissed my mother and left.

It was midnight, the freezing nights of December I remember very clearly, the fog was transcending. Although I was wearing a woolen shawl but I could feel the cold air deep in my bones. As I crossed the streets, I started shivering because the temperature had fallen below zero degrees.

The gleams of the street lamps were very dim as they were covered by the thick fog. I could hardly see any pedestrian. Suddenly a dark thin street caught my sight. It was so thin that hardly a bicycle could cross it. People were living there too. It was very heart touching I could feel the pain of the people living there.

Right after that, I heard some men laughing and whispering something behind me, due to the fog they couldn’t find me. Their voices were coming from nearby, so I ran to hide myself in that street. By taking the advantage of its darkness and narrowness I started moving backwards slowly, as I heard the men near that street. They were talking about me, as if they were finding me.

Their intention didn’t seem good on me. I was so scared, my heart was running marathon in me. I felt a chill of cold all over my body and then the sweat popped out, my body was warm in that cold place. I took off my shawl.

All the houses doors were closed in that street. The houses seemed to be one roomed. There might be enough space to sleep only. As I stepped back, I slipped in the mud that gave them a clear indication of my presence in the street.

They turned on the flashlights of their phones to search for me. I managed to stand up quickly and ran towards the house whose door was opened. It was even darker and smelly in there. They almost came to the mouth of the door I was hiding behind. They stood there for almost 10 minutes, I was holding my breath because the smell was so toxic. When they failed to find me they left the place because the wild dogs were barking somewhere in that street.

As they left, I turned on the flash light of my phone, I found myself in a public bath. It was the only bath in the street, I figured out. The toxic smell was of the wastage and there was no proper sewerage system there, this reminded me of my home, and how my mother used to keep everything clean and tidy. It was suffocating inside, so I came out side. I saw a feeble lamp light in a house next to this so called public bath.

There was no proper door and the entrance was covered with a torn dirty cloth. I sat there on the muddy step outside that house.People who were living here were so devastated and poor, and how life was possible in such harsh conditions where one may hardly find a place to lay down. I felt somewhat lucky in this regard that I have a house at least. A flash back of all the past popped in my mind and then I started crying. I wanted to erase all my past, I wanted to set myself free, but one after another all the incidents came into my mind.

I was lost among somewhere in my marriage and divorce time, when suddenly I was distracted by a strange noise. I couldn’t comprehend what it was. I thought who will be up at this time of night, then I thought it might those men who were following me.

I started praying that my doubt remains uncertain. Tangled in theses doubts I felt someone behind me, a warm pat on my shoulder. For time being it took my breath away, I jumped aside and turned my face to look who it was. My eyes widened with astonishment, when I saw a crippled woman offering me a glass of water.

She looked faded in 60’s, wrinkled face, bulging lips, big round eyes and her left leg was amputated. Surprisingly, she was standing on her single leg, her big questioning eyes were eating me up. She might be thinking that I ran away from my house with my lover who has now left me here helpless. Before I could speak and tell her why I came here, she asked me to come in.

She told me that it was her little heaven, where she was living with her son who suffered from polio. She told me that she lost her leg in an accident and due to this his son Allah Rakaha had this disease. She worked all day for him, she only knew stitching and knitting.

So, she used this skill to earn and feed his son. When I asked about her husband, her face turned pale, she told me that he left her on the road when she was hit by a car and after sometime he divorced her and married to the woman he loved.

The room which she called her heaven was given by the factory owner for whom she worked. Her face was gleaming with satisfaction and gratitude when she told that she had never lost hope and she lived for her son. God gave him life and gave her a chance to thank Allah for everything. I was so ashamed of myself, as she started telling her story.

She had nobody with her when she was fighting for life in the hospital. People living in harsh conditions are satisfied and happy, I never thought of this all. I was standing behind her, tears rolled down my cheeks, she gave me a fine piece of handkerchief, I wiped off my tears, and she held my hand with firm grip and said ‘Dear, I don’t know who you are? Nor I know why you are here, but your face has innocence and your eyes reflect struggle, live your life, earn your identity and don’t let others live your happiness of life’ her words were heart throbbing. I realized that It is useless to cry over things which are a part of past, I realized that I can live in present and work for my future.

I transformed into a complete different human being. I went back to my home and cried for hours. And that is the last time I cried for myself. I earned my identity, I realized what I was made for, and I realized my purpose.

My purpose was to teach others the majestic art of stitching. That’s what I do now. Initially I joined a sewing center. I worked as an instructor but after few years I was promoted as the head instructor. Our sewing center got affiliated with an NGO. Many ladies were handed over to me, whom I taught stitching clothes. It was my stardom.

My work expanded when I started designing outfits for a local brand. I used to design the dress what I saw in my dreams. Genuinely, I saw different dresses with marvelous folds and falls. Different techniques popped in my mind and I started knitting, making handmade jewelry, handkerchief, handmade bags and lots of more stuff. I was honored by the government to establish my own workplace for all these. I was in my lime light.

Now I have my own house where I am living with my mother, my sister and that lady who motivated me to earn my identity. She walks with a stick, many times I have forced her to go for a proper treatment but she always refuses by saying that she accepted life with this and now when if she is blessed she will live her life like this.

She is a source of motivation for me. I came here to design the dresses for the hostesses. That is why I am travelling in this bus.Many people don’t who I am. But I know, who I am, I am Misbah a fighter’.

Majestic, her words affected me. I continuously wiped off my tears, but she didn’t cry. She was so determined. Her face was shining with confidence, it was breathtaking. How could this all be possible? The person sitting next to you might be really a storm bend tree.

Struggle is all about how motivated you are. You can cross mountains, swim through seas if you have courage to do so.

If you make your life a masterpiece, imagine no limitations on what you do, what you have or what you can be.

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