Author: Duri Baluch
Khatoon is a fictional story that symbolizes the oppression of women in the patriarchal society of Baluchistan. The existence of women makes sense only in the presence of a man. They have a good life as long as their husband is alive.
It was spring time, mango and palm trees etc were full of blooms. In the morning, when the neighbors woke up, I noticed loud noises full of joy coming from Haji’s house. People coming and going, they made fire in the yard, children and maids clapping and chanting. Neighbors and the people of the village found out that lady Khadija had just given birth. All the neighbors and people of the village went to Haji’s house, happy that he had a daughter, probably everyone will stay there for lunch.
All the women of the village were sitting in the big room busy talking next to Khadija and her newborn, when Haji entered along with his elder son. Women cleared the way for Haji and his son. Haji came in, and sat on the quilt and leaned back on the Baluchi embroiled pillow. He was very happy. He made his voice soft and a bit loud and said: ‘’bring my little girl so I recite the Adhan in her ears and announce her name.’’
Bibi Kaput, the housemaid at Haji’s, and Khadija’s wedding gift, was sitting next to the cradle. She held the baby in her arms and placed her on Haji’s knees. Haji recited the Adhan in both ears of the newborn and turned his face to the people and said: ‘’people of the village and all the relatives, my daughter’s name is Khatoon. Khatoon was my grand mother’s name.’’ Khatoon who was born after six boys, became the apple of Haji’s eyes. Khatoon grew up gradually.
Khatoon was nine years old, when one day, Doshanbeh the farmer along with the chief of police and another man in a suit knocked the door of Haji’s house. Abdullah, Haji’s eldest son arrived. He said: what is going on? why are you all here knocking on the door of my father’s house?
The chief of police moved his hat up and down and said: ‘’we need to see your father.’’ Abdullah accompanied them, guiding them toward the guest room. Abdullah called his father. Haji came in with his Lankeek [efn_note]Lankeek or Loang is a part of Baluchi traditional clothing. It is a check patterned shawl that Baluchi men wear around their neck and sometimes on their head to protect them from the heat.[/efn_note] and sat in Kamarzani[efn_note]Kamarzani is Baluchi term that refers to a form of posture when sitting on the ground. In this posture, men sit on the ground, bend their knees toward their bellies, wrap their Lankeek around their back and tight Lankeek around their knees. Baluch men sit in this form, whenever they want to sit for along time in a place that does not have a back support. They usually sit in Kamarzani during long and formal conversations.[/efn_note] with fortitude.
He turned to the men and said: ‘’you are very welcome gentlemen. Who is this stranger with you?’’
The chief of police said: ‘’this is the new teacher, who came from the city and teaches the girls.’’
Haji’s expressions changed and frowned. He raised his voice saying: ‘’do you think we have lost our honor to the extend to allow the state to teach our daughters with a teacher who is a male and from the city?’’
While the men were talking in the guest room, Khatoon was hiding behind the window, listening to what they were saying. She was very happy and excited. She thought to herself: We will go to school just like boys. After hearing what her father had to say, she became sad. Studying was Khatoon’s dream, but among the Baluch, and especially Boladai tribe, studying for the girls was nothing but a dream.
From childhood, it was decided that Khatoon was to marry her cousin Abol Jan. Abol Jan was young, gentleman, a real deal and strong. Khatoon was fifteen when uncle Hayat Khan said: I will make a groom out of him and we will hold a wedding. Haji accepted as well and said: ‘’Khatoon has grown up too, and she is ready to get married.’’ Lady Khadija was on board as well. Khadija, had been seeing Khatoon and Abol Jan talking and giggling with each other next to the rear wall several times. And whenever Abol Jan visited Iranshahr, he would bring gifts and souvenirs for Khatoon.
Whenever there was a family gathering or a party, lady Khadija would find Khatoon and Abol Jan taking a peek at each other and smiling. The news of Khatoon and Abol Jan wedding that week swept the whole village. They sent a messenger to invite family and friends from near and far villages. The wedding was celebrated and Abol Jan and Khatoon ended up together.
In the first year of their marriage, Khatoon gave birth to a baby girl. Abol Jan named her Kalthum. Kalthum was not even two, when their second daughter Maryam came to the world. The revolution had just happened, all the Khans and local governors fled and emigrated to Pakistan, but Haji stayed in his land and said: ‘’if I die or live, I will forever stay in my land and I will never leave it.’’
Abol Jan was a guardsman. A very competent young man. Every morning, when he used to go toward the police station, where he worked, Khatoon would get nervous. She would place her children on her knees and sing a song for their father. Khatoon loved Abol Jan.
Khatoon’s friends used to tell her, you have changed the story, you are the Majnun and Abol Jan is your Layla [efn_note]Layla & Majnun is an Arabic love story from 7 century. Qays and Layla loved each other, but Layla’s father rejected Qays. Qays continued his pursuit for Layla with no avail and was called by people ‘’Majnun’’ meaning crazy.[/efn_note].
Maryam was one year and six months old. Abol Jan went to work but he did not return at night. Khatoon was worried sick. Haji sent his people and Guerrillas to the police station to find out why Abol Jan has not yet came back from work.
The Guerrillas brought the news that bandits ambushed Abol Jan on the way to a mission and have seized his and Shir Mohammad’s rifles.
They are both in the custody of the state, and unless their rifles are found and brought back, they will not be set free. Haji suspected that Yaruk was involved. Yaruk and Haji were not on good terms, and he held an old grudge against Haji.
Haji called his messengers and sent this message to him: ‘’you have two days to hand over the rifles, if not, you will have no place in this village.’’ On the other side, state officials informed Haji that he had three days to deliver the rifles. The time was up. The state transferred Abol Jan and Shir Mohammad to Zahedan. The whole village knew about it, but they did not tell Khatoon.
It was the time for the morning pray. Khatoon was busy praying. Baby Maryam woke up. Khatoon put her on her knees and while she was breastfeeding her, Bibi Pari Khatoon entered the room in a rush, all in dismay and distress crying and shouting. She grabbed the child from her mother’s arms and gave her to lady Khadija.
Khatoon was terrified, her eyes were bulging. She stared at the ceiling. Bibi Pari Khatoon tore Khatoon’s beautiful green Sequin covered dress from the neck. Lady Khadija was upset, as if flames came out of her eyes. She shouted: ‘’what is my daughter’s fault? Why are you doing this to her?’’
Bibi Pari Khatoon paying Lady Khadija no mind, put her own black dress which had no embroidery on Khadija. It was then when Khadija realized that the black snake bit her [efn_note]To be bitten by a black snake is a Baluchi proverb meaning something unpleasant, damaging and sudden occurring to someone.[/efn_note], and her life was destroyed. She realized that she had lost Abol Jan. The sound of doleful mourning arose from the house, and all the villagers cried and chanted cries of separation from their youth.
Khatoon, our beautiful teenage lover became a widow at nineteen. She placed her orphaned daughters on her knees and sang Abol Jan love song as she cried. And now, Khatoon, the same nineteen year- old widowed lover, is alive at sixty, in her black dress and Chador sitting in the corner of her clay house, chanting dirges, her eyes have become dry and weak. This is the destiny of Baluch women, who die when their husbands die, but are only buried later.