“Watch where you’re going, slag!”
It was not the first time I had been labelled that. School corridors, on my way home, in the restroom – it was all too familiar by this point. But did it hurt less each time? Probably not.
My parents were relatively religious despite living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The thought of the American culture influencing us to the extent where we dismiss our Muslim roots almost always ate away at them. Due to this nagging idea, five times prayers was enforced more than usual and sometimes, just sometimes, was the only topic discussed at home.
My two older brothers, Tabraiz and Sohraab, were total opposites of one another. Tabraiz, twenty-four, was a carbon copy of my extremist of a mother and agreed with anything that escaped her lips. As for Sohraab, twenty-one, he was more like me. We often huddled in corners of our bedrooms for quick venting sessions before we were called to do one chore or the other. We eased each other’s burden in this manner. He was undoubtedly my partner in crime.
Sohraab was doing his second year in university; however, being as popular as he was, still had junior friends who would report back to him — mainly, regarding me.
“Nashua, from what I heard, you were screwing around with not one, not two, but THREE different boys — in one week! Unbelievable!”
As close as we were, he was my older brother at the end of the day and was obliged to talk sense into me. His brief, but powerful lectures were fed to me almost every other day and hardly ever had any kind of effect on me. But later that night, I felt a change in my mindset and attitude — almost as if it were a divine or holy revelation. The entire concept made me ponder for hours at a stretch. I finally knew what to do. “Baby steps,” I whispered to myself. “Baby steps.”
“Nashua, you’re running late for school. The bus is gonna be here any minute!”
Hearing my mother croon from the kitchen downstairs, I excitedly dashed down the stairs in order for a reaction.
“Oh, my Lord has answered our prayers! When did this happen? How –”
“Don’t be silly, mother,” I interrupted, “We all knew it was going to happen one day.”
I witnessed my mother taking every inch and angle in of the scarf wrapped firmly around my head. She was in utter awe and shock — but for once, in the most pleasant way possible.
From the bus ride to school, the classes I took and the cafeteria I roamed till two in the afternoon when I had to walk back home, not a single insult was thrown my way. The day went smooth for a change even if everyone did ignore me. I could definitely be getting used to this whole veil thing.
Saturday night called for another party. Without having to sneak out or persuading much, my mother instantly permitted me to attend the function, trusting that I had turned over a new leaf. Who would have thought that one simple decision would allow one to get away with so many things? Certainly not me — not until now.
My head was stripped free of its accessory and my hair hung loose as I swayed to the beat of the music with an older guy I had just met. Lights flickered, shots were taken and everything after that became a distant, horrifying memory.
I awoke the next morning in my bedroom, wearing the dress from last night. My breath wreaked of alcohol; the scarf was nowhere to be seen. I was almost too afraid to go downstairs and face my family. That problem was solved within a matter of minutes, though.
My bedroom door flung open and in marched my two brothers and mother. Sohraab, being my favourite, did not even bother to glance my way. Tabraiz searched my room noiselessly for anything ‘suspicious’. My mother glared at me in silence and finally broke the ice.
“The amount of disgust and disappointment I have felt this time is irreparable. You have brought nothing, but shame to this family through this pretentious act. So much for new beginnings.” And with that, she closed the door behind her. Little did she realize that with ‘that’ one dialogue, she shut a whole chapter in my life, too.
Purity and piety is not attained through a simple piece of clothing. It comes from within. Until one is cleansed internally of corruption and filth, a mere scarf cannot make a difference. I had, needless to say, learnt it the hard way. Nonetheless, better late than never.