By: Gohar Hoth
I have been waging a war with myself before penning down this article. A part of me wanted to share this story with Baloch. A part of me held my hand and did not allow me for writing it. I don’t know whether I have taken a right decision of sharing my thoughts or not, but I do know that it is a personal account. A story of a Baloch girl. Currently, I am a student at the university of Karachi.
I would rather say a Baloch female student. Before securing admission, like all other girls who dream of university education far from their homes, getting into a university seemed to be a distant dream. It took me almost a year or more to convince my family for higher studies and leaving my native town, Gwadar. Amidst excitement and high hopes of having a bright future I stepped into the university of Karachi in January. I always have had thought that I would face no difficulties and hardships because my fellow Baloch friends would be there for providing a helping hand to me. This is a very common thought which could cling to any Baloch’s mind as we say we are one nation and always stand by one another in hard times. The Baloch, historically speaking, have been very supportive. It goes without saying that they have been known as hospitable. Some are still. More importantly, they are known for respecting others. Or they were known. I still can’t decide that.
After spending a few weeks in the university my all illusions evaporated. I feel I was wrong about my nation. Many might disagree with me though. As per my experiences of first few weeks, I found that my Baloch fellows, particularly boys are too judgmental. They are very narrow-minded. If not all, many I personally confronted in the university. While passing through canteens I was attacked by such naked looks. They were not less than harassment. And the murmuring and more than whispering sounds in Balochi haunt me. These things became norm of the day in the university. Not for me but for many Baloch friends. No matter if you are wearing Balochi clothes or veil, the thirsty eyes and frustrating words do attack you. This made me uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. At first, I thought it is because of change. Or maybe I am not used to of university life. Or maybe it is my first time to study out of the town and live in a hostel.
The experience of studying at the university I thought would be a life changing but it was far from truth. I was told about my culture and my family honour. I did not know why my Baloch friends were saying that to me, at first. As the time passed on, I kept on hearing gossips about my friends. The girls. Of course, gossips that who is dating whom. Most of those gossips were blatant lies. But I never thought I would hear name of a close friend in one of those gossips. I could not believe that my fellow Baloch boys can initiate suchgossip. I had to struggle a lot to reach the truth. And this gossip was coined by one of our Baloch brothers. It was not one person but many.
A very dear and close friend asked her class fellow, a Baloch male friend for help. This is very normal. And this should be seen as a normal act. A student asking for help from another student or going to cafeteria or photostats. To me, personally this seemed to be very usual thing until my experienced the feedback or becoming one of those gossips. She came to know that She was dating the boy with whom She once visited photostat for collecting notes. And this rumourmade rounds and came to her time and again by knocking her door and making her sleepless. She was left with fearful thought, such as what would happen if her parents hear this? Would She survive? Many unanswered questions left her frightened and shaken.
However, thanks to a few more Baloch friends, particularly boys, who were there to console her. But she found a big chunk of the Baloch male students with some outdated thoughts and mentalities such as if a Baloch not wearing Balochi dress might not belong to a respectful family. And if a Baloch girl is active and sitting with her boy class-fellows might be easy to date or easy prey. If a girl talks to boys, she is considered a characterless person for many boys. They don’t realize how one falserumour can ruin someone’s life. Unfortunately, these boys are the ones who project themselves in public as well wishers of Baloch but also take lead in spreading unfounded rumours as well.
There are also many boys who talk of respect and dignity but when it comes to actions, they are the exact opposite. I have seen girls sharing their stories how they were exploited by their fellow Baloch friends. They come up with some sweet stories but end up damaging other peoples ‘souls.
Some days ago, a Baloch girl’s singing video in a TV show was circulating on social media. Many educated boys and even students were criticizingthe girl that she brought bad name for the Baloch, etc. This made me wonder the same Baloch were in deep slumber when Baloch girls were abducted from Awaran and Mashkay. Many did not say anything on this vicious act. I thought why these injustices weren’t awakening their sense of dignity? Did this not bring bad name for them? Does it bring bad name for them when they share false rumours and insinuations about their Baloch girls? Does it not bring disrespect for them when they ogle at girls? Why do they not feel disrespected before exploiting someone?
For laying claim to dignity and respect it is essential for everyone to be dignified and respectful in his/her conduct and behavior for respect and dignity are not something abstract but have to be palpable and have to be proved not in words alone.
I think charity begins at home and those men, regardless of the fact that they are Baloch or not, who disrespect women regardless of the fact that they are Baloch or not have not learnt to respect the womenfolk of their family and therein lies their problem and determines their behavior elsewhere.
Respect for women and the sanctity of their person and lives has been an integral part of Baloch society since countless millenniums and violation of this very sacred dictum and percept leaves the high claims of being friends Baloch nation in other aspects exposed and hollow. I ask of respect from all those who respect their family’s womenfolk because my friend talking to her class fellows isn’t a sin; it would be a sin if the talking of those boys, who spread baseless rumours, to other girls is also branded as sin.
Baloch boys in particular should consider each Baloch girl a ‘Bahot’ and not an object of ridicule. To them I say respect us so that others also take cue from you and learn to respect us if we are respected your dignity will be enhanced.
I will conclude my story with a saying of renowned Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur who needs no introduction among the Baloch with a hope that all Baloch, men and women, will heed act upon this:
“Nations are defined by the cultures and all have their own qualities. Culture is what we are; it is a reflection of our actions because culture isn’t something external; it doesn’t exist independently of us. What we stand for, what we oppose and resist, what we believe in and how we conduct ourselves in our daily lives represent not only us but our culture as well. We cannot be judged apart from our culture and neither can our culture be judged apart from us. What we do and how we live represents our culture. We represent our culture with our actions and not with our words and empty platitudes. To be a Baloch you have to live by the values that make you a Baloch; Baloch culture is what a Baloch does.”
Hoth is a student of International Relations at the University of Karachi.
Published in The Balochistan Point on May 17, 2019