Picnic in Purdah
Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format without author’s permission.
1. The Idea
It is a hot dusty afternoon in Karachi. Yasmin and Salima, two mid-twenty beauties, are drinking tea in the house of Yasmin. Inside at least the sun doesn’t burn, but it is hot and dust gets everywhere. Salima says “What do you want for your birthday next week?”
Yasmin thinking more about the climatical conditions than presents says “I wish I was back in my native town, surrounded by green hillsides, groups of shadow giving trees and cool streams, eating icecream.”
Salima says “That sounds terrific. Why don’t we go for a picnic?”
Yasmin says “I don’t know if it is possible. I am not very good at distances, driving conditions and that sort of thing. And what will Aziz and Sayed say?”
“I think they will say yes.” says Salima “They quite often take us for shopping, don’t you think?”
“Yes you’re right. If you ask Aziz, I’ll ask Sayed tonight.” Yasmin finishes this part of their conversation and the tea break by gathering the pot and cups and go to the kitchen.
They were dependent on Aziz and Sayed for shopping outside the local area as all four were strict beleivers of traditional modest behaviour. Observing strict purdah the women were not allowed outside their own quiet quarter in a suburb of Karachi without being accompagnied by their husband. Because they lived within five minutes walking distance of each other they were allowed to visit each other alone, but as always outdoors heavily veiled. In fact they were always veiled as much as possible without interfering with their doing.
Because of this Yasmin immediately after placing the pot and cups on the kitchen table pulls her scarf veil over her mouth and nose, and pins it at the ear. Then she flips her eye veil down. Salima has done the same as soon as Yasmin turned her back to her. Yasmin returns to the living room with a catalog in her hand.
“Do you remember we talked about our gloves may show a little of what is beneath, if seen in strong sunlight,” Yasmin says. “I was visiting Leila yesterday and I saw she had this catalog, which I borrowed.”
She hands it to Salima, who browses for a while. Looking at a page with large pictures, she raises her left hand to flip back the eye veil.
“Yes they certainly looks very opague,” she confirms. “But they look very hot as well.” she says as she flips the eye veil down again.
Yasmin says “If we complain about such details, it might be that little step in the wrong direction, that sends us to the wrong place on judgement day. These gloves may be a little hotter than our current gloves, but the fires of hell are infinetely hotter.”
“You’re right,” says Salima. “Could you ask Sayed to order a couple of pairs through his office telephone?”
“Of course,” says Yasmin.
After some moments of thought Salima says “I better get on my way home now. It’s been a lovely afternoon. Remember to ask about the picnic.”
Salima flips the eye veil back again and removes the cloth pin holding the lower veil. Then she grabs the ball gag hanging as a necklace under her chin. It is fitted with an elastic band, allowing her to easily pull it out and slip it into her open mouth. Then she covers her face completely with the veils again. Next she turns to her outer garments lying on a chair next to where she is sitting.
Like Yasmin she’s alredy dressed in a colourful shalwar kameez – the pakistani wide trousers and a shirt reaching to the knees. Covering her hands and reaching under the sleeves of the shirt to the elbows are long black gloves. Under the trousers are long black stockings reaching the knees, and she’s wearing plain black shoes. Covering the shalwar kameez they wear a long plain coloured coat barely touching the shoes. The wide trousers of the shalwar kameez are only seen if a knee is lifted excessively. Salima wears a beige coat today, Yasmin a light brown. The mahram dress is topped by a pak-chadar: A scarf where the fabric flows down over the body from a headband tied at the back of the neck. The integrated nose and mouth veil is tied with a cloth pin in front of one ear. Salima and Yasmin wear elbow reaching pak-chadars, which do not interfere much during arm movements. Usually they are coloured exactly like the coat to give a more modest impression. To be sure not a strand of hair is seen under the headband of the pak-chadar, they wear an under scarf below to keep the hair in place. Salima and Yasmin believe a purdah woman always should cover as completely as practical possible. As a clear view is not necessary for most everyday tasks, they have added an eye-veil to their pak-chadars by sewing a small semi-transparent black scarf to its headband which reaches to about the tip of the nose.
From the chair Salima picks a black skirt of thick fabric and zips and buttons it around her waist. The skirt touches her shoes. She then takes the pakistani khimar of the same fabric with integrated semi-transparent boushayia veil and fits it on her head. It reaches her knees completely covering the arms even when directly down. Her eyes are now covered by two layers making it difficult to see inside. Finally she takes an old Indian style burqa in the typical undyed offwhite colour and fits its cap top on her head. As the cloth falls to the ground nothing is seen of what is underneath. Except her veiled eyes, which look at Yasmin through the small coin sized peep-holes, which take the place of the mesh of most burqas.
Yasmin leans her chin against the burqa, where Salimas chin is supposed to be, as a goodbye kiss. Then she opens the door to the small yard in front of the house, and goes to the door in the wall to the street with Salima following. She pulls the door handle down and moves behind the door, as she pulls it towards her, to avoid being seen from the street. Salima, the ghost, passes out into the street, Yasmin closing the door behind her.
2. The Men
As Salima anticipated both husbands long for a trip to a fresh cool place as well. Not known by the women they already have an agreement to meet at their local bar after dinner the same evening. They are both great cricket fans, and spent lots of hours at the local bar watching cricket in the television and drinking coke or tea.
In fact their friendship and the friendship of their wives started shortly after Sayed and Aziz met at the bar to watch a cricket match. Normally family is not a subject between men believing in segregation of the sexes, but one afternoon, while Sayed and Aziz sat in the bar talking cricket as usual, a man arrived accompagnied by a woman in a peep-hole burqa. Of course she never entered, but as the bar was totally open towards the street, they could clearly see her, while the man went inside to buy cigarettes. One of them remarked something like: There are not enough women properly covered like this. The other then said: My wife is covered exactly like her. We believe in the traditional values and purdah. This immediately made Sayed invite Aziz to visit his home for dinner along with his wife. An event normaly reserved for closely related family only.
This afternoon their friendship had turned to a kind of brotherhood. Of course they had never seen or heard each other’s wife. When Aziz and Alima arrived, she dressed as above, she was shown directly into the bedroom, and stayed there during the entire visit. Sayed and Aziz occupied the living room, with Aziz seated turning away from the bedroom door and kitchen. He never saw even a veiled Yasmin that first day. But of course she was dressed in all the layers except the burqa, while changing between serving the men and talking to Alima. And each time she had to change role, she lifted all her veils and removed the gag or the opposite. Alima only had to remain silent, while the bedroom door was shortly open, because she was seated not to be seen through the door.
This dinner was followed by others, and an occational shopping trip to the large bazar in the center of Karachi. Shopping in burqa, mute with gloves and eye veils isn’t much different from looking in a catalog, as they can neither feel the clothes, try it, see colours or details correctly or ask for a wider selection or price. But of course the bazar is a nice change from their quiet neighborhood, where all the days looked the same.
For once this evenings topic in the bar isn’t cricket, but the picnic. None of them own a car, but Aziz has a brother with his own car, which he is certain they can borrow. Aziz earns his living as a public bus driver, so his brother knows he is an experienced driver. Sayed knows the picnic site. He was raised in the same small town as Yasmin. Their fathers knew each other, and had arranged their marriage. Yasmin had just turned sixteen, when Sayed ended school at nearly seventeen, and they were married shortly after. Because of his very high grades the school teacher had used his contacts to get him a job in a government office in Karachi. Then they had moved to their current house.
Sayed estimates it will take five hours to reach the picnic site at a leisurely pace. That means starting at seven to be there at noon, stay for perhaps two hours and be back at seven in the evening. They both have some large food coolers, so they can bring all the food and drinking they want. As they can’t think of any problems it is decided to take the picnic in exactly one week; Yasmin’s birthday.
In the morning of the day before the trip Yasmin arrives at the house of Aziz and Salima dressed in burqa on top of the other veils and dresses, exactly like Salima on the opposite visit. Through the layers she presses the bell. After a short while the door opens and she enters, turning left following the door movement. The door closes, but what appears behind it surprises her: She expected Alima, but what she sees is a fully veiled Alima looking exactly like herself. They lean their heads towards each other as a “Hello” greeting. Alima lifts the front of her burqa from the inside with her left hand. At her thigh her right gloved hand appears for a moment holding a shopping bag and a shopping list. Yasmin lifts her burqa to show she has a shopping bag as well. After a short while Alimas burqa is lifted again now holding a key. She opens the door and they go out in the street. Alima turns and locks the door.
They head for the local shopping area. After a five minutes walk they enter a grocery store. Alima lifts her burqa showing her gloved right hand with the shopping bag and the shopping list. The shop assistant is used to purdah customers. He takes them both, puts the sopping bag on the counter next to the register and then with the list goes to the shelves. The list is long and after a while thirty-something items are located at the middle of the counter. He grabs the item closest to him and looks at Alima. She nods and he puts it down close to the register. Continuing like this for each item he looks if Alima nods or shakes her head. A few items end away from the register as the result of a no-shake. “I have another kind of bisquits. Do you want me to show you?” the shop assistent says. Alima nods. He fetches them and she nods again. When there are only items at the register side of the counter the shop assistent enters all items and says a price. Alima shows her gloved hand again, this time containing her purse. As the shop assistant knows taking the money herself is difficult with gloves, and would require showing both hands. He takes the purse. In plain sight he takes the money and puts the purse back in her hand which then disappears under the burqa. The shop assistant then puts all the items in the bag and puts it on the floor in front of Alima. She lifts her burqa and steps forward placing the bag between her legs. She lets the burqa go down and bend in her knees to let her grab the handle of the bag. Alima and Yasmin turn to the exit for the next shop.
They are late for the noon prayer when they get back to Alima’s house with their bags filled to the top. And then they haven’t even bought anything to drink because the men have offered to handle that. After performing the prayer they remove their eye and face veils for a quick lunch, veil again and start preparing a number of dishes. While working they start discussing what to wear tomorrow. It is evident that this an unusual event where they cannot wear just their usual covering like for the shopping.
“I have a burqa designed for travels, which I haven’t used in years. But I’ve found it, cleaned it and tried it on,” Yasmin says.
“I have one too,” Alima says.
Now Yasmin looks surprised because she expected to have found a dress Alima didn’t know about. As they visit each other frequently they have compared wardrobe many times knowing they have a practically identical selection.
“Let’s go and see if mine looks like yours,” Alima says heading for the bedroom with Yasmin following. She takes the folded burqa from a chair, and lift it up in front of her to make it unfold.
Yasmin looks really surprised. “Mine is the same fabric, the same cut, the same bright white colour and has peep-hole eye openings with a mesh as well. I can’t tell the difference without comparing directly.”
“Yes with the thick high qualty silk and the mesh it certainly covers and protects better than our normal burqa. But of course it is warmer and makes it harder to move. We should definetely go for it as you need to be more protected on travels,” Alima says.
“I agree,” says Yasmin, as they go back to the kitchen to continue preparing food.
“This is a time for our extra large ball gag with tube. The tube increases breathing and allows drinking during the drive by putting a straw through it,” Yasmin says later in the afternoon.
“Yes and its more secure with its strong leather strap with a buckle at the back. Our normal gags with elastic bands are more to remind us not to talk. With all the reckless driving these days we might get scared so much we gasp stronger than the elastic band can handle. With a buckled strap we are protected from such mishappenings. The large ball gags are a must too,” Alima concludes.
At five o’clock the food is ready, packed in bags and boxes and placed in the refrigirator. All Alina has to do the next morning is to put the bags and boxes in the food coolers for Aziz next to place them in the trunk of the car. Yasmin says “See you tomorrow,” before she inserts her ball gag, veils and puts on her outdoor clothes. She is headed for home.
4. The trip
The clock has just passed five the next morning when Yasmin is in the bathroom as the first step towards being ready for the picnic. She won’t wake Sayed before half past six as men are fast in the bathroom and quickly dressed and then just need a little breakfast to be ready. She has moved all her clothes for the trip into the living room to avoid disturbing Sayed while dressing.
Entering the living room naked she puts on a bra and panties as usual. Next would normally follow a shalwar kameez set but today she continues with a black lycra catsuit with long sleeves covering all of her body except hand and feet. These are covered next by a pair of her normal to the elbow black gloves and black stockings reaching the knees. Instead of her normal under scarf to keep the hair in place today she puts on an openface black nylon balaclava covering all of her head and neck. Now the only skin to be seen is a piece of the face from above her eyebrows to just under her lips. The rest is black fabric. She is covered but very immodest as all of her body curves are revealed by the tight catsuit. But now she is ready for a shalwar kameez as usual. Today she has chosen a bright yellow one to contrast the other black items. To avoid sleeves or legs pulled up when moving a second pair of gloves and socks are added identical to the first. Now it’s time for her breakfast. She goes to the kitchen, eats three sandwiches and drinks a cup of tea. It is close to six when she returns to the living room to continue her dressing. It’s time for the large ball gag. She has to open her mouth to the limit to get it in. Then she puts her hands behind her head and buckles the strap tight. After this unusual experience, it’s a breeze to put on her usual coat with matching pak-chadar, pinning its veil and put down the eye veil.
Following is another additional item for the trip: A mask. At one of their trips to the bazar they had visited a shop specializing in traditional clothes from the Persian Gulf. They were all mesmerized by a box containing full face clothes masks from Qatar. These were produced recently as exact copies of the masks bedouin women have been wearing for centuries. The bedouin women wore masks every minute of the day until sleeping. The thick cloth dyed in black is stiffened and kept away from the skin in large areas by small rods sewn between the layers of cloth. Especially over the eyebrows this allows the upper edge of the eye slits to reach down to where it partly obscures seeing straight forward. This was not done to limit the sight, but actually increase it, as it reduces blinding by acting like a shade. Yasmin and Salina got one each and now is the time to find out if it actually makes the face a little cooler. Yasmin takes its top two tie strings in each hand, bows her head a little forward and pulls until the mask rests firmly against her nose and forehead. Then the strings are knotted. Then it is secured by tying the strings placed at the eye slits as well. As often done by pious women wearing mask she takes a large semi-transparent black scarf and wraps it around her entire head with a loose tie of the ends at the back of her neck. Normally this is done to veil the eyes which are visible through the eye slits of the mask. Yasmin’s eyes are covered already behind the mask but Alina and Yasmin have agreed that an extra layer, especially over the eyes, is justified because they shall spend many hours closer than ever before in a car with a strange male.
Next is the skirt and boushayia set. She easily puts on the long black skirt and the veiled upper part as she often does this several times a day nearly every day. It is half past six. It has been easier than expected. She is almost ready as she heads for the bedroom to get Sayed going. He is still asleep. She gently caresses his chin with the back of her gloved hand. After continuing for some moments his head moves, his eyelids twitches and with a sleepy voice he says “Yes darling, I’m awake.” Yasmin returns to the living room. She picks up the final dress: The large white travel burqa. For some time she lets it glide between her fingers admiring the thick quality of the cloth and the subtle embroidery, until she is holding the face covering between her hands where the delicate mesh covers the oval eye sized openings. Of course these are all feelings inside her head as all her eyes see through three layers of veil in the indoor lightning is blurred, colourless and subdued. She turns the burqa inside out, getting access to the cap, which she fits on her head. She is ready. But Sayed hasn’t left the bedroom. She enters and sees he is still in bed. Leaning over him she stretches down her left hand and taps on its wrist with her right hand. Sayed reacts by looking at his watch. Oh it’s twenty to seven. They might be here in ten minutes if they’re early. He jumps out of bed and rushes to the bathroom. Yasmin slowly returns to the living room. Standing with her back to a chair she lets the front of her burqa fall down. In the indoor lightning she is practically blind. She sits down in the chair. She is ready for the trip.
Five minutes later she hears Sayed going from the bathroom to the bedroom. Another two minutes and he goes to the kitchen. After waiting a while she hears Sayed in front of her. “I made it darling. They are not here yet.” Then the doorbell sounds. Sayed leaves. Yasmin rises from the chair, even though she knows the way to the front door she is not used to walking virtually blind. Talking outside reveals both men are entering. Obviously adressing her Sayed says “It is sunrise and time for the morning prayer.” “Stay here,” she hears from the voice of Aziz adressing Salima whom he must have guided in. She hears prayer rugs distributed over the floor. The men go to the kitchen to perform the ritual ablution. Suddenly the prayer call comes from their local mosque. Yasmin thinks her washing earlier is sufficient for participating in prayer. She is certainly not able to wash now. Sayed comes and guides her to move and turn. “You are in position for prayer now,” he says. The men start praying loudly. The women follow quietly. A quarter past seven they stop, and the women are guided outside. Here the sun allows them to orientate themselves even if it is much more dim, than they are used to. Yasmin and Salima lean towards each other as they always greet when veiled. They go through the open door to the street and Yasmin sees their transportation. A small white two-door car. There doesn’t seem to be much room at the back seat for two properly dressed women. The men return. Aziz opens the driver side door and folds the seat-back forward while Sayed locks the door of the house. Everything needed for the picnic has been placed in the trunk at the house of Aziz and Salima. Salima wiggles herself inside the car and Aziz watching her then folds the seat-back to its normal position. Now Sayed opens the other door and fold his seat-back forward. Yasmin wiggles herself inside ending feeling sandwiched between Salima and the side of the car. They both move for some time trying to find a position as comfortable as possible. Meanwhile the men enter and Aziz starts. The sun is racing towards full strength. It looks like the beginning of another hot dusty day in Karachi.
After some hours of driving Aziz and Sayed pause in their endless discussion about the chances in the coming test match against India. Measured in distance they are not quite at the halfway point, but considering the low speed driving through the seemingly endless outskirts of Karachi they are now out in the open land crossing a great plain reaching all the way to the town near their goal. The women have passed their halfway point regarding heat, sweat and drowsiness long ago. They are only partly wakened when Aziz pulls the car to a stop at the side of the road. Really looking outside for the first time in a long time Yasmin feels disappointed as she has expected much more of the scenery at the picnic site, but then she realizes they haven’t reach it yet.
Aziz goes to the trunk and fetches four cokes and two straws. Salima and Yasmin leave the car. Inside her burqa Salima pushes her gloved hand up under the boushayia veil to remove the pin holding the veil of her pak-chadar. She can’t sense it. Then she remembers the extra veil and the mask. The mask is open downwards making it a question of loosening the extra veil to reach the pak-chadar. With two pairs of gloves it is not easy to untie even a loose knot at the back of the neck pressed by the weight of a burqa, but she succeeds. Once again her hand moves upwards now under two more layers. Her hand is moving up the chin between the pak-chadar veil and the mask but is stopped before the veil pin. She realizes the lower mask tie is below the veil pin. She won’t be able to reach it without taking all the outer layers off. Yasmin has the same experience of course. Their men, who are used to see them opening their veils under the burqa for drinking in ten seconds, understand there is a problem. Aziz finds a note block and a pen and hands it to Alima. With two pairs of gloves, seeing through layers of veil and a burqa trying to cover her hands writing isn’t easy. But Alima having done it before with somewhat less obstruction scribbles
“MASK TIE BELOW PIN.”
The men get the problem as well. They soon realize the trip is too long for the women without being able to drink. The sun hasn’t passed zenit, and they’re already soaked in sweat. Continuing without drinking could lead to dehydration. Then something comes to Sayed’s mind
“You have a gag with tube just below the pak-chadar veil?” he asks the women.
They nod. He takes a straw holding it horizontally in one hand, while he with the other takes a handkerchief from his pocket and place it over the straw and hand. “Like this?” They nod.
“Now Aziz there is probably a box cutter in the car tool box. Would you take a look please?”
Aziz returns with the small plastic knife.
“Now my fist is the gag, the straw is the tube of the gag and the handkerchief is the veil. Now you move the tip of the knife gently over the surface of the veil until feeling nothing behind. Then punch. Try here Aziz.”
Aziz moves the knife along the handerchief towards the straw. At the middle of the straw he twists the knife slightly and the tip disappears.
Sayed pulls the straw the other way out of his hand and says “Look at the handkerchief. It is nearly impossible to see it is cut.” Then he takes the straw to the cut and push it through and says “But you can drink. And remember you only has the tip of the knife on the surface off your gag. You’ll never risk cutting the skin. And a little cut do not compromize the protecting value of the veil, in the unlikely event that the other veils should be removed.”
If the expression on the women’s faces had been visible everybody could have seen their doubt. After a long moment of consideration Yasmin realizes they have to try if they shall not return now. She takes the knife in one hand and a straw in the other hand and slowly starts moving her hands upwards under her burqa. A minute of movements under the burqa seems like eternity for the others. Then suddenly her right arm comes down and she drops the knife. They all look worried but she turns towards the coke cans standing on the ground in the shadow of the car. Aziz understands and picks a can up, opens it and puts his hand with the can up under her burqa. She takes it and nods her head a couple of times. Salima gets the knife and a straw, and two more minutes of worry starts. Then she moves to the cans as well, gets one and the men shake their hands. A major crisis has been solved. After ten more minutes of rest they are on the move again.
After nearly two more hours of uneventful driving they reach the hometown of Yasmin and Sayed. They stop at the town square, Sayed hoping to meet someone he knows. Most of his old schoolmates probably still live in the district. They all get out, the women moving along the front of the car to reach the shadow of the tree they parked below, while the men head for the bar at the other side of the square.
They have barely entered the bar before a voice says “Sayed, is that really you?”
Sayed sees his old friend Perwez and another guy, he can’t remember his name.
“We have to stay a while for tea,” he says in a low voice to Aziz. “Go and get the girls, we can’t leave them that far away for more than a few minutes.”
Aziz nods and turns.
“That is Aziz, my best friend. He will bring our families,” he says as he sit down at their table and continue talking.
Two minutes later Aziz returns with the women behind him. As he enters the bar the women select the wall next to the bar with shadow, face the wall and stand with heads bowed waiting for the men to leave. Yasmin knows she may be passed by some of her old friends as well. But they are as unrecognizable and silent as her, covered in much more than the blue burqas, which are the most common outer garment in this part of the country. Forty minutes later, twenty to noon, Sayed and Aziz leave.
When passing the women Aziz just says “Girls we are leaving.”
Yasmin and Salima straighten and follow three steps behind the men.
Back at the car Sayed says without really wanting an answer “We’re a little behind schedule now. Can you girls wait drinking for just half an hour until we’re at the picnic site.”
They all enter the car. Sayed points out a small dirt road out of town. The scenery is quite pretty with green hills and blue clear air. Despite being behind schedule they have to keep going at the low speed permitted by the road conditions.
After nearly half an hour Sayed suddenly says “It’s here. Find a good spot for parking.”
Aziz just turns into the grass and stops.
Fifty meters in front of the car their dream is fulfilled: A group of shadow giving trees stand at the top of a hill gently curving towards a small stream. The slopes are all green of fresh grass coloured by small flowers and on the other side of the stream in the far distance a dark green mountain ridge rises below a string of white clouds. The women walk towards the trees while the men empty the trunk and follow carrying boxes. The men have to walk to the car one more time to get it all.
“I think Aziz and I should go down to the stream. Then you don’t have to be so careful about lifting your dress too high while arranging the food,” says Sayed.
While the women start unpacking and arranging the dishes, the men go to the stream and splashes cool water on themselves and each other for some time.
Sayed says “It is time for the noon prayer, and the women are sitting down, so the food is probably ready. Let’s wash the right way and go and pray with them.”
Returning to under the trees they look at the sun to estimate the direction of Mecca and turn in that direction. The woman, who understand what is going on, stand up behind them. Influenced by the surroundings Allah gets a very heartfelt thanks.
When prayers are over they all sit down, the women leaning towards the trunks of the trees. First they open four cokes and Aziz puts a straw into two of them and hands them to the women. They just drink for a little while, then Salima gestures with her right hand index finger in the direction of her mouth. The men can’t understand what is wrong. Aziz finds his notebook and hands it to Salima with a pen. She writes
Sayed looks at the paper and says “You can’t eat because the hole in the pak-chador is just a scratch only big enough for a straw. I’ve thought about that during the drive. Considering the layers of veiling following the pak-chadar, I will permit for this special occasion, that Yasmin cuts a little further, so she can pull the gag out.”
Salima writes again
“NOT PULL OUT LEATHER STRAP.”
Aziz says “You mean this special gag with a tube does not have an elastic band as your usual gag, but a tight leather strap?”
Both women nod several times.
Then after a long silence Sayed says “You can have two cokes each.”
The men start eating. After a while they are just lying in the grass taking a bite of something from time to time.
Ninety minutes later Aziz says “I’m afraid we have to think about going home.”
They start packing. As the women rise to walk back to the car Sayed says “Sit down for a few more minutes while Aziz and I get the car ready.”
Aziz looks a little surprised, but says nothing and follows Sayed to the car. As they walk Sayed says “You know it’s Jasmin’s birthday today. I forgot to congratulate her this morning because I got up too late and was only just ready when you came. I’ve brought a surprise for her, I want to hand it over in private. Could you bring Salima with you to the car and wait for us for five minutes?”
“Of course my friend. And please share our congratulations with her. I’ve forgot all about the birthday as well.”
When they return to the women Sayed is carrying something behind his back which he places in the sun on the oppsite side of the trees.
Aziz takes the last boxes and says “Salima come with me. There is something in the car I want to show you.”
She rises and follows him.
Sayed says to Yasmin “We’re alone now. I allow you to lift your burqa.”
Standing she lifts the front of the burqa over her head.
“You may lift the next layers as much as is possible as well,” he adds.
With one hand she lifts the boushayia veil which she can just keep clear of the eyes if she keeps holding it. With the other hand she is able to lift the mask veil away from her eyes by holding that hand up as well. Now there’s only a small influence of the mask slits and her pak-chadar eye veil to limit her view of the beatiful scenery. For her it is as if she was seeing totally unobscured.
Sayed meanwhile goes around the trees and picks up his present. He stands beside her and says “Happy birthday Yasmin. It’s lovely to be back where we used to play as children. I’ve had trouble deciding if your birthday surprise should be chocolate or icecream. Luckily I decided for the icecream. After ten minutes in the sun I think you’ll be able to drink it with a straw.” Saying that he holds a big glass with a straw up to the bottom of her mask.
Five hours in a melting car lie ahead of them.
Copyright © 2006, Bo_Emp ; bo_emp ‘at’ yahoo ‘dot’ com
Bo_Emp has written a very loose sequel to this tale entitled The Purdah Hospital.