by Tasneem Khan
This series is about domesticity, about purdah, an element often associated with womanhood, and yet marred with a vague representation and numerous stereotypes in collective conscience.
It is an authentic documentation of the women I have often seen toiling within the clayed walls of their house as much as their husbands labour on their village’s arable lands. Long ago, without exclusive luxury, women would churn curd in mathnis, winnow heaps of wheat, make mango papads and pickles when summers arrived, all while doing the usual household work. Today, except for slight respite, the culture remains the same.
Mornings begin with kindling the chulha, bundles of rotis are made. Once the men leave, the real work commences—brooming begins, clothes are washed, lunch is cooked. Often, there is some additional work, could be making pillow covers or sieving rice to remove weevils.
Traditionally, there is a certain time period in the afternoon fixed for some unwinding before evening brings the second rush. Some lie down and take forty winks, while others prefer to socialise. Seldom, a few of them might save the time for some reading—from the Quran, to zenana periodicals, to Urdu novels. Dinner preparations begin before sunset and the return of their husbands officially marks the end of their day. Although, sleep is an occasional luxury, as the toil begins, once again, at 5 in the morning, following the muezzin’s morning salam.
The aim was never to represent these women as victims of domesticity; I have seen them cracking jokes, laughing, gossiping and enjoying their life in the most wonderful ways, and yet again, on sombre days, I have seen them tired to their skin and bones, dreading their lives and kismet.
The point this series tries to make is that beyond the blue gate, far, far beyond the purdah, there are humans, not caricatures with sympathetic undertones, not your specimens for oppression, not topics, not subjects —but humans, breathing, feeling, limitless humans.
Tasneem Khan is a student and a writer from Lucknow. She has had work published on Live Wire (The Wire’s space for young writers) and Women’s Web. She regularly posts on her blog on Instagram.