“No, let it be.”
As firm as possible, Maryam said in a confident tone. After saying ‘yes’ to everything for that long, finally, she said ‘No’ too.
It was the third day of Eid. Everybody was gathered at phuppo Jamila’s house for the family feast like every year 🍲.
Huffing and puffing dragging her three kids behind her, assisting her mother in law with her walking stick, Maryam had finally reached.
Catching a deep breath, she murmured as she kept the glass of water on the center table.
Well, she could catch enough deep breaths tonight. Tonight, she was spared from cooking (like crazy), serving (like crazy), doing dishes (like crazy).
Just like every other Indian home, Eid meant cooking like crazy, dressing like crazy, attending guests like crazy, (far from the actual spirit of Eid), in Maryam’s home too. She was at her craziest best from the last two days… Two and a half to be precise.
Tonight, she was the guest at phuppo Jamila’s home ❤️.
Not only Maryam, but all ladies could also catch as many breaths as they wanted. Food was being ordered from outside.
However, Maryam was still breathing hard. No matter how hard she was trying she was not able to breathe freely.
How could she?
The tight choker necklace around her neck was choking her. (No wonder how it got the name ‘choker’). With every forced movement of her neck, her earrings that were looking more like two identical chandeliers hanging from two identical loops on the ceiling, were dangling to and fro. However, she had to wear all that. She was an ideal Indian bahu after all.
From her jewellery to her gaudy attire everything was making her sweat profusely under her black abaya. She knew that no matter how hard she would resist she would have to take off her abaya in front of everybody. Because, as an Indian, there is absolutely no point of wearing a nice attire (and living a good life) if the world can’t see it.
You practically wear things so that others can see. And, in the rarest of rare possibilities, if you are someone who doesn’t care if others see or not, the world wants to see it. And, they have all the right to do so, even if they have to force you to take off your abaya, niqaab, jilbaab, hijaab or whatever, in front of everybody.
So, basically you love it for the same reason, you hate it for the same reason; ‘others can’t see’ 🤷♀️.
Anyways, it was not a big deal. As long as you are alive it does not matter you can breathe or not. Maryam was alive too.
It had been ten years of her marriage and she had learnt to be alive without breathing.
“Too late. You guys should be here before Maghrib… See, it’s almost Isha now.”
“OH, MY MAGHRIB”.
Maryam ran towards the prayer mat without even answering Shabnam aapa why she was late. All the eyes followed her in the direction she leaped from the couch, then met with each other as if asking ‘what’s the big deal’.
“I mean who offers namaz on Eid. Isn’t it uncomfortable to bent and bow down in all these crispy flashy dresses?”
“Is she showing off?”
“What if a bit late? She could offer sometime later at her home too.”
Well, there was still some hope. Maybe a few elderlies who had realised that their one foot was already down in grave, offered their Maghrib prayer. The prayer mat was still on the floor. Neatly spread on the floor, in the direction of qibla, folded in a perfect triangle from its top-left corner.
Unfolding it from its top Maryam took her position.
Her murmur could still be felt in ears.
Maryam knew that all eyes from left and right are on her. A few were behind her back too. However, she had no other place to offer her salah. All rooms were equally occupied. And, she could neither leave nor delay her obligatory prayer. It was never her habit to offer her salah in haste. Her qiyaam, ruku and sujood all were reasonably calm. That’s a different thing that for the eyes on her they were ‘deliberately too long’.
I really wonder if prolonging your salah so that ‘others can see’ is a big sin, what about ruining it by rushing just because ‘others are seeing’ 🤷♀️?
Battling with her thoughts recollecting her khushu anyhow she finished and said salaam. And, without any further delay saying durood on her tongue mutely she stood up. Thanks to Allaah that she could say her adhkar and duas silently any time later. Afterall that was not obligatory too.
Realising that the time of isha was just approaching, she left the prayer mat there only and came back on the beautiful red couch.
“kona moda nahin?”
(Didn’t fold the corner?)
Staring at Maryam, Nilo Anty folded it in its previous position in a neat triangle from the top left, without waiting for the answer of her casual question imposed on Maryam.
“No”, Maryam said.
“Bhool gain hogi bhaabi”
Phuppo Jamila’s youngest daughter said chuckling at Maryam’s unexpected answer.
“I didn’t forget. I just didn’t fold it.”
All eyes were on Maryam now. Her ‘No’ was a bit louder this time.
“A prayer mat doesn’t necessarily have to be folded that way. I mean you can fold it and keep it back at its place if you want. Or, simply leave it as it is if you are still using. But folding a corner… Like a ritual… It really has no place”, Maryam explained convincingly.
“Like this Maama?”
Eight years old Haana, Maryam’s daughter, unfolded the corner that Nilo Anty had just folded up.
Maryam’s elliptical smile approved Haana ❤️.
“khuli jaanamaz par shytan namaz padh leta hai”
Nilo Anty said, clenching her teeth this time.
Phuppo Jamila, Shabnam aapa, chachchi, badi taai, Rimna, Seher bhabi, Gudya, Shagufta bhaabi, Banney khaloo, Maamu Sajid, all of them jumped in Nilo Anty’s defence approving this popular belief in Indian homes that by folding a corner of prayer mat you are not letting satan worship Allaah. Everybody believes there that if you leave the prayer mat without folding the corner it would be satan’s turn to offer salah after you.
(guys m dying with laughter 🤣)
“It’s not the case”, Maryam said very politely this time.
“Earlier when there was no electricity, in mosques in remote areas, it was the practice to leave the prayer mats with folded corners to indicate congregation was just over… That’s it… M not sure… Allaah knows best… That might be the reason…”
Maryam’s mother in law intervened. It was turning bitter now. It was now the matter of bahu vs in-laws in a typical Indian home.
“Fold that corner Haana”
Mother in law ordered Maryam’s daughter pointing to the edge of the mat with her stick.
There was silence in the room.
Little Haana’s gentle hand moved towards the mat while eyes towards Maryam, her Maama, whose moist eyes were fixed to the ground now.
Maryam’s No suddenly broke the silence.
For her, this was not at all about bahu vs. In-laws. After all, she was saying yes, all the time. For her, it was about right vs. wrong now, knowledge vs. Ignorance. It was about Haana too; passing down the legacy of ‘saying yes to please the world’ vs. ‘saying No to please your Lord’.
Her ‘No’ was the matter of straight path vs. a world upside down now.
Tonight, finally satan got the chance to offer salah after Maryam.
And, after that all shayateen (satans) got guidance… (Shayateen of that room too 😋).
As, she said ‘No’.
The Might of Pen ❤️