Featured Character: Mama from Shrouds Over Eden

Mama is an important figure in the lives of some of the ladies in Helen Khan’s book, Shrouds Over Eden. We wanted to talk to Mama firsthand to learn more about her and the lives she impacts.

When we asked her to join us today, she graciously agreed to come and share with us why she is so passionately involved with broken-hearted women. So, without further ado, here is Mama.

Me

Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you and where do you live?

Mama

What can I say about myself? You asked my age, well, I’m a grandmother, so old enough. I live in the suburbs just across the street from Baraka Colony. It’s a nice home, services us well, especially since we have so many people coming and going through our doors all the time. Sometimes, people like to stay overnight, especially if they haven’t slept for awhile. Many say it is very peaceful in our home and it helps them sleep better than even in their own homes.

Me

Do you have any siblings? Do you have children?

Mama

I have four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, all younger than me. And we have 11 grandchildren.

Me

Who is the most important person in your life? Why?

Mama

The most important person in my life is my husband. He is my best friend. I prefer to be with him than apart. You could say he is my hero. I have a lot of respect for him. My mother was my role model, but my husband is my hero.

Me

How do you measure success? Is it money, career, husband, children, happiness? What is it?

Mama

For many people money or possessions define success. And although money is important, after all, we all have bills to pay, it isn’t what makes a person successful. Success for me is having well adjusted children who are happy being who they are and what they do. It is being happily married to the man in my life. Success is making people happy; using what God has blessed me with to bless others. Those are some of the things that define success to me.

Me

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Mama

Sometimes I am not humble enough or kind enough. I catch myself being proud or unkind and I don’t like that.

Me

What is your philosophy of life?

Mama

You can call it philosophy or my motto for living, but it is to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbour as yourself. And my neighbour is very inclusive, it pretty much covers everyone regardless of who they are or believe.

Me

What do you think women need most?

Mama

Love, we need to be loved for who we are. And we need to be hugged. I meet so many hurting ladies who have aching backs and shoulders. But if I put my arms around them and hug them, tension goes out of their bodies, they relax, and the aches and pains go away, at least for awhile. Then they need to be hugged again.

Me

I understand, from reading Shrouds Over Eden, you spend a lot of time with women in your area. So, I’m going to assume you know why misogyny is so prominent in Pakistan. Can we blame religion or tradition for how women are treated in Pakistan?

Mama

Religion does play a factor, and perhaps erroneously so because much of what is done for religion is really tradition and no one knows why. For example, if you ask someone why women in Pakistan take the uncomfortable and backbreaking position of riding bikes aside, you may get the answer, “Well it’s Islamic.” The truth is that many women whether they are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or Sikh ride side-saddle when they are the passenger. And this happens throughout Asia, not just Pakistan. If we look at the history of riding side-saddle, it became taboo to ride that way around the 14th century when Princess Anne of Bohemia rode off to marry King Richard II. Advisors told her she could not ride astride, she had to ride side-saddle as it was improper for her to do otherwise. Then along came Queen Victoria who entrenched the tradition. India, which included Pakistan, was a British colony. So, we can thank Queen Victoria and colonialism, not Islam, for the danger and discomfort women face when they ride aside (side-saddle). Often traditions are given religious sanction, but that is not necessarily their root.

The other thing we can look at is the dowry system. This is a Hindu tradition that carries over into Muslim and Christian traditions. Although the Bible doesn’t mention what should be given to the bride or the groom. In Islam there is what is called mahr where the groom gives, maybe, a monetary or land amount to his bride. The dowry system is another case where tradition prevails.

Me

From Shrouds Over Eden, I understand that Sonu was a frequent visitor to you home. Can you share one or two things about her?

Mama

Sonu frequently visited our house. She, like many others around lived in a home where abuse took place. Sonu would often come over, just for cookies and lemonade and would sit on the veranda, quietly. She didn’t talk much as a child. She was a lovely child that needed lots of love and validation. Validation I think is the key world here. Many of the girls and women I meet need to be validated. They need to be told they are worthy of love and respect. Then she married and that marriage was full of violence. But God led her into a garden where she met Lamb. It was his unconditional love and treatment of women that she clung to and that is what helped her through difficult times.

Me

Do you think the garden was real?

Mama

There are many who think it was fictional. But I think it was real. Why? Because of what she learned in the garden. Lamb lived upon the earth many years ago and the things that Sonu learned are part of history. Also, after her experiences in the garden, she had an inner strength that helped her live life despite her hard circumstances. You don’t do that based on fiction. It had to be real.

Me

And my last question, is a fun question. What is your favourite colour?

Mama

I like creams, browns, and greens. I think that green, soft, muted greens are my favourite. And I look good in green. Most people here love bright colours, but I like softer colours.

Me

Thank you, Mama, for taking time out of your day to be interviewed. Having that insight into the lives of broken-hearted women has helped me, and I am sure our audience, have a better understanding of what some women go through every day. For our readers who want to read Mama’s story, you can purchase Shrouds Over Eden in various outlets worldwide.

Click Here To Read More From Helen Khan & Shrouds Over Eden

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Featured Character of the Month: Guddi from Shrouds Over Eden

This month we are featuring Guddi, whose story appears in Shrouds Over Eden, a book for the broken hearted. Guddi has had to make some difficult decisions in her life. Here she is to share with us more about who she is.

Again, with me, is Alizeh Rasheed who has graciously agreed to act as our interpreter for this interview. And just for the record, the picture you will see in print is a younger Guddi as she says she no longer is as beautiful as she once was. I think she still has a striking personality. She has certainly aged gracefully. Okay, so let’s hear from Guddi.

Me

Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you and where do you live? Do you own your own home, or do you rent?

Guddi

I am now close to 50 years old. I live in a village, District Jalandhar. I live with my husband and sister who is also my husband’s wife and three children, two sons and a daughter. The children are my sisters, I am not able to have children.

Me

It isn’t common for people in your country to have more than one wife. Could you please share why your husband is married to your sister?

Guddi

You’re right, it isn’t common. But in cases where a wife is childless and there is no one to inherit the property, then it is permissible for the husband to take a second wife. My husband was afraid that his relatives would steal the land from him if he didn’t have a son. So I suggested that he marry my younger sister. She is the one who has the children. But because I am the first wife, the children call me Mama.

Me

Who is the most important person in your life? Why?

Guddi

Those two boys that call me Mama. They are very important because it is they that will look after us in our old age.

Me

What is your greatest fear?

Guddi

That someday my husband and sister will no longer give me full respect as the first wife and I will lose our sons.

Me

How do you measure success? Would it be money, career, husband/wife, children, happiness, etc.?

Guddi

My husband has much land, he is a big farmer here and very successful. So, having good crops, land and sons to look after us in our old age is success for me.

Me

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Guddi

Perfect happiness would have been able to carry my own biological son. But fate was not with me. We tried everything to have a child. I visited our holiest temple, the Harmandir Sahib and I even went to Goindwal Sahib. It is a gurdwara that has 84 steps in it. On each step you recite Japji Sahib, that’s the divine word revealed to Guru Nanak. If you do all 84 steps your sins are forgiven, and you don’t have to go through so many reincarnations. But you can also pray for personal things, so I asked Satguru to give me a son. Even though I endured and did all 84 steps, I didn’t get a son. That’s when I decided my husband should marry my sister.

Me

Do you work outside the home? If so, what is your occupation?

Guddi

My sister is a teacher, but I stay home and look after the household and children.

Me

What did you eat for breakfast? Did you make it yourself? Do you wash your own dishes or do you have a maid to do those things for you?

Guddi

I had a paratha with yogurt and achar this morning for breakfast. For those that don’t know what that is, it’s a stuffed flat bread fried in a pan along with the achar which is a kind of spicy pickle. I make the meals, so I made breakfast for everyone. Also, we have a girl that comes in and washes dishes and cleans the floors and does the laundry.

Me

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Guddi

I wish Satguru would take away my barrenness. To be barren is to be cursed by God which means looked down upon in the village. Even though my sister’s boys call me Mama, when I walk in the village, I still feel that people look at me and gossip about me because I can’t have children.

Me

Sonu talks about you in the book Shrouds Over Eden. Where did you meet her?

Guddi

What an angel! She came to our village a few years back. She shared many things about this one she had met, called Lamb and how his compassion strengthened her and gave her courage. She shared about how he valued women. I wish I knew Lamb the way she does because then I would have asked him for a son. If I had a son, then I wouldn’t have asked my sister to marry my husband.

Me

Are you not happy?

Guddi

I am not complaining but sometimes I get depressed. It is not easy being one of two wives, even if I am the first wife.

Me

Well we have run out of time and we don’t have time for another question, except for this last one. It is a fun question. What is your favourite colour?

Guddi

I like bright colours, bright blues and greens.

Thank you Guddi for taking time out of your day to be interviewed. I’m sure it wasn’t easy sharing your story to a large audience. You did an excellent job; I feel I know you so much more. For our readers who want to read Guddi’s story, you can purchase Shrouds Over Eden at various outlets worldwide.

Click here to find out more about Shrouds Over Eden.

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