Samar Al-Ansari 11.5 Written Task #1 May 24, ‘05 After reading about Okonkwo and his daughter Ezinma’s relationship, I felt as if I was reading about an Arab girl’s relationship with her father. Some Arab fathers favor sons over their daughters, especially in the tribal days, and I wanted to illustrate the parallel of the Ibo society with the Arab society. Ezinma desperately wanted to please her father as do many Arab daughters. The neglect of a father is traumatizing both for daughters in the Ibo and in Arabia.
“Yuma, I am invisible to him,” said Leena as she began to weep silently. Her head laid in her mother’s lap, as her mother gently stroked her hair. Leena held her mother’s hands and examined the exquisite henna designs printed on her beautiful hands-they always seemed to amaze her. Her mother’s hands were beautiful yet strong, just like her. Zaina’s hands were worthy of her daughter’s admiration.
Zaina’s jallabiyah grew slightly damp as her daughter’s tears began to roll down her cheeks with more force. She could not understand her husband, how could he neglect a daughter as beautiful as Leena? “Habibti, your father isn’t trying to hurt you. It’s just, you know how it is with fathers and their sons. Don’t cry over things that you can not control.”
“I wish I was a boy! He would pay attention to me then! He would hug me, kiss me, and smile when he saw me. He would be proud of me! I wish I was a boy!”
“Ya bunaytay, be careful what you wish for. I was once a young girl like you who desperately wanted her father’s attention. I too was tired of the sitting in the harem all day; I wanted to sit in my father’s tent. I wanted him to smile at me when I brought him his mint tea in the afternoon; I wanted to be his everything. But after my mother told me the story I am about to tell you, I finally accepted the matter.
Many years ago in the neighboring city of Najd lived a young woman who was just one of many siblings. She was the youngest of three sisters and nine brothers; Fatima was as invisible as a ghost. Fatima received overwhelming love and care from her mother Zainab, but no recognition whatsoever from her father. Every morning, Fatima would leave her mother’s tent carrying her father’s freshly starched ghutra. She would walk in, kiss his shoulder, and hand the soft fabric to him. He would run a comb through his hair, and his beard, then put the ghutra on his head without even looking at her. She would then turn away and hear, “Ya bint Zainab, tell my wives that I am ready for the morning meal.” He didn’t even know his own daughter’s name. Day after day, she would hear the same thing, and a part of her would die. She would swallow her tears, stare at the ground, and curse her existence.
Fatima tried to impress her father in any way possible. She would bring him most of his meals, a bowl of water in which to clean his hands after the meal, and his pipe every day. But, he didn’t seem to notice. To him, she was merely Zainab’s daughter. Fatima never gave up on her father, she knew that he would appreciate her one day, and be thankful that he had a daughter like her.
Once Fatima prepared for her father a delicious date cake prepared with tender love and care. She was sure that this gesture would go appreciated, and was waiting with anticipation for her father to wake up from his afternoon nap in order to bring him his cake and tea. As she was preparing the tea, her brother Salman came in and said, “Fatima, I can’t bring myself to tell Father that I’m going to leave for a few weeks. Do you really think he would notice?”
“I am sure he would notice, after all you are his son and not his daughter. But father has seemed quite forgetful lately, and I think he will be able to handle two weeks.”
Salman picked up the tray of tea and cake and said, “I sure am going to miss my afternoon talks with father. I’ll take this to him, I’m on my way to his tent anyways.”
Fatima opened her mouth to stop him, but she let him go. Salman was leaving, she would have plenty of time to spend with her father after he had a taste of her cake. Fatima decided to follow Salman and listen to their conversation in order to find out if her father enjoyed the cake. After what seemed like forever, she heard Salman pour the red steaming tea, and after a few minutes, she heard her father say, “Mashallah, this cake is exquisite. Teslem yedek habibi. Thank you for this delightful treat my son.”
“It is quite tasty, but I must confess my sister Fatima baked it herself.”
“Fatima? Which one is she?”
“She is the youngest of your daughters Baba, my mother Zainab’s youngest as well.”
“Oh, she is one of Zainab’s daughters. Anyways Salman my son, how is the market?”
Fatima’s sadness turned to rage in a split second. She was not angry at her father for neglecting her, but she was angry at Allah. Why did he choose to punish her in such a way? She vowed to herself that she would change fate, and get her father’s recognition in any way possible. Suddenly, it came to her. Fatima was almost a replica of Salman, so she decided she would pose as him for a few weeks. She would win her father’s love, if only for two weeks.
The next morning after kissing her brother goodbye, she went into his tent, donned his thoub, tied her hair up in a bun beneath her ghutra, and applied kohl to her face representing facial hair. In a matter of a few minutes, she was transformed into Salman, her father’s son, not merely Zainab’s.
Over the course of two weeks, Fatima began to go to her father’s store in the market regularly. Nobody suspected that she wasn’t Salman, and her father greatly appreciated the success that she created for his store. “Salman, habibi, you make me prouder every day. You have improved my business, and have entertained me with your thought provoking conversations. It’s almost as if you are a different person.”
Fatima was as happier than she imagined. She spent every waking moment either at the market or in her father’s tent. She was the perfect son. Her father began to boast about Salman to many of his friends thus attracting potential wives for his son.
One day after a long tiring day at the market, Fatima went in her father’s tent to have tea and saw a group of men. “Salman, this is Essa and his two sons from the Al Rasheed clan. We began to talk earlier today in the market, and I think you would be perfect for Essa’s daughter Hind. I was just about to send for you, what do you think my son?”
“Anything you say father,” said Fatima who was in a state of complete shock and confusion. As she began to sit down, her brother, the real Salman entered her father’s tent.
“Salman? Is that you? But then who is this?” exclaimed the father in obvious confusion.
“Yes, father I was out of town for a few weeks. Who is this?” said Salman as he began to approach Fatima. He looked deep into her eyes and saw the tears begin to form. He touched her soft face smudging the kohl; he knew it was Fatima. In a moment of anger, he pulled the ghutra of her head with extreme force and slapped her.
The father dropped his tea cup and stared at his daughter. He began to shake, but he controlled himself. He did not want to hit her in front of his guests, but he did something much more hurtful than a slap. His words were sharper than knives. He looked at her and said, ‘You used to be my daughter. Then you pretended to be my son. But now, you are nothing to me. Get out!” He then spit on her, and that was the last time she ever saw him.
Dry your eyes habibti, and accept the fact that men and women here are different.”