The envelope lay on the table; unopened, ignored.
I had received the letter a week ago. Even without reading it, I knew the contents.
Trnngg trnnggg, the incessant ringing of the phone shattered the silence. It was Khaled, my husband.
“My decision is final, you filthy woman”, he barked, banging the phone before I could even respond. The raindrops pattering on the roof muffled my cries as the tears trickling down brought out harrowing memories.
The strongest women from the village of Qasr Quadin had come, at the personal request of my father, Ibn Ul Sallalah. Being the village chieftain’s daughter, I deserved the best.
I cried and begged to be left alone. All my pleas to be spared fell on deaf ears. My aunt Halima howled, “If she is not cut her sexual desires will bring shame to the family”. A neighbour shouted, “If she is uncut, the food she cooks will be poisonous”. “Don’t you know, only cut girl would fetch more cows”, another aunt screamed, as I felt her slap singe my cheek.
After all, tradition dictates that a woman must be sexually ‘pure’ before marriage. And so, at the tender age of 13, I was ‘cut’.
I winced as strong rough hands pinned me down on the stone table. Tough experienced women hurriedly tore my clothes, spread my legs apart and pressed them hard. My cries were drowned by the sudden ululating of women. Trembling, I watched as a woman entered the room with a knife. Before I could react, I had been cut.
Aamira’s cries brought me back to the present. My precious 2-month-old baby girl. I held her in my arms and clutched her to my bosom. As she suckled and calmed down, I looked around the dark room; warm and cozy unlike the other which held me, eons ago.
Firm hands clamped my mouth as a gruff voice forbade me from shouting. Horror struck, I saw blood-soaked rags being thrown into the bamboo bucket besides the stone table. That was the last thing I remembered before I blacked out.
When I regained consciousness, I was petrified on finding myself alone in that dark room. My legs were tied and lower body was covered with thorns, which rendered me stiff and impaired any kind of movement. I was left with was a lifetime of horrendous memories.
I gently placed a sleeping Aamira on the mattress besides me. “Oh, my darling, Mamma loves you so much”. As I looked at my little one, innocent and full of life, I strengthened my resolve “Mamma will never let you down my baby”
I don’t know what had been more painful, the razor sharp knife cutting through me or the sight of my mother watching indifferently. My daughter would never undergo the same pain. I will protect her always, even if it meant going against Khaled, his family and the community.
Idiom – swim against the tide/current: to do the opposite of everyone else; to go against the trend
Though this story is a work of fiction, it is inspired by the lives of the brave women in Sudan and many parts of Western Africa who are raising their voice against the practice of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation); thanks to their efforts now FGM is banned in many countries.
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