by Dave Potter
Exclusively for the ‘Tales of the Veils’ website
Azufa waited in darkness as she always did. How long it was since she had been sat down she couldn’t say exactly, one minute, two, five. It mattered not. She was in safe hands, that she knew. Then it came. A hand brushed her head and untied the blinding veils from around it. She blinked in the light and then, as always, she felt the soft kiss on her eyelids, the only part of her exposed to the outside world.
She was lucky. She knew that. She was protected and loved. How many women could say that? And certainly how many women like her, terrible sinners? No, she could not have hoped for such a life for she did not deserve it yet Allah had blessed her in that way.
“Happy birthday, darling,” said her husband, sat across from her at the small table in the restaurant. “Shall we begin?”
The spread laid before them was stunning. A variety of starters and mains, looking and smelling beautiful. Janghir would point to one and she would nod or shake her head and depending on the response, he would feed it to her. The tastes were exquisite, but just as exciting were feeling his fingers as she placed the tasty morsels into her mouth. As he fed her this special birthday feast, her mind cast itself back to how they had got to this place.
She’d met him in university, both being students at the Agricultural University in Dhaka. Her life had been so different then and she shuddered when she thought about it. She’d been raised in a shamefully Westernised and liberal family and went around wearing only a sari, her hair, let alone her face, uncovered. They flirted, gone on dates and kissed and then he’d asked her to marry him. The families had met and they’d agreed and so a glorious and grand wedding was held. Then they’d settled down together in a house that his father had bought them, he working in a well-paid job at a government ministry and she living the life of a society lady. She had been happy, or so she thought. Now she realised that then she hadn’t even a conception of what true happiness could be.
And whilst her husband was at work, she had gone shopping, gone to gyms and clubs. And there she had met Darbesh Khan, the playboy son of the Khan family. They’d drunk together, flirted, caroused and finally committed the unthinkable act whilst Janghir was away on business in Saudi Arabia. The affair had gone on for two months before a servant saw them and told her master.
What could she expect after that? At least divorce and disgrace. After hearing of her shameful behaviour her family disowned her. Poverty too, for all her money came from her husband and she had racked up large debts. And even if Sharia Law was not the legal code in Bangladesh, it was still widely practised. What if Janghir ordered her to be lashed?
For three days her husband stayed silent, saying not a word, not leaving his quarters. Then he went out and did not return for another three days. Then he called her to his study.
“Janghir, please believe me, I am so sorry, I shall never do it again! Please forgive me!”
“If you will forgive me, dear wife.”
“I forgive you! But you have done nothing wrong. It is I who sinned and…”
“No, I am at fault also. I neglected my duties as a good Muslim husband. I left you alone for days on end whilst I went out on business and I exposed you to the temptations of the world. Do you know that the main prayer that the Christians pray is not to be led into temptation? You are like a precious jewel yet I did not protect you; I left you to the mercy of the world and you succumbed. Succumbing is your sin, failing to protect you is mine. Neither shall happen again. I forgive you and will not divorce you or let you suffer further disgrace, but we must change how we live. My dealings in Saudi have taught me how a good Muslim should live and we fall far short. We shall both become more pious so that temptation is not an option in the future.”
“Do you mean the veil?”
“Yes, and other things. So, before we proceed, I shall ask you this question: Will you agree to submitting to my judgement as to what measures we need to take to ensure our happy future life?”
“No buts, yes or no. I need your trust and submission. Otherwise we must divorce now.”
“Alright then, I trust you. I agree.”
“Good, then sign here.”
There was a document which he put before her. She did not read it, only signed. She could not divorce and she still loved him. Darbesh had been a silly distraction, not true love.
Once she had signed it he said, “Follow me. The servants are all receiving their new uniforms and instructions. They are also removing all sources of temptation; the TV, mobiles and so on. Come my precious jewel!”
He led her to her room. On her bed were some strange garments, all in black. She was fast beginning to realise that her husband had turned Islamist, but then how bad could it be wearing some veils? And also, how long before he got bored of the idea?
Janghir ordered her to strip down to her underwear and then once she had done so, picked up a strange garment made of black leather. It was some type of corset yet rather long and, when he fitted it around her waist, quite heavy. Quite how this would make her less tempted she couldn’t see, but she had agreed to his plan so she acquiesced. He sat her on the bed and then took her left arm and folded it behind her back, palm facing outwards, so that her fingers were touching the back of her neck. Then he did the same with her right so that they were pressed together over her spine. “What…?” she started, but he bade her to be silent and then carried on, lacing the corset over the arms. Then she realised, he was securing her arms within the corset, it had no armholes whatsoever! She started to squirm and said, “No! Please stop!” but he merely calmly reminded her that divorce was the alternative and at that she stopped. He laced and laced so that the backs of her hands were held tightly against the skin of her back up between her shoulders and her elbows were almost touching behind her back, just a little above her waist. Her whole body was laced very tightly, so that her arms were crushed against her back. Then, once the laces were tied off, he stood her up and let her view herself in a full-length mirror. She appeared to have no arms at all! Her upper body was thicker than normal in profile, but not noticeably so and to the untrained observer, it seemed as if she had been born that way.
She began to protest, but he held her nose and then slipped something into her mouth. It was a gag which he then buckled behind her neck. Then he dressed her in traditional Islamic clothing: black stockings, a loose black abayah, a headscarf and a veil with two layers, the second covering her eyes and leaving the world with a grey blur. Then, on top of that, he draped a khimar that reached to her knees. Now no one could see that she was armless, she just looked like a pious muslimah.
“Azufa my love, this is to be your daily attire from now on. You will be allowed to wander around the house dressed like this but not leave it. From now on, like a true purdah lady, you may only leave when accompanied by me or your maid when I have given express permission. Alone or with the servants, you may have your eyes uncovered but with other women this second layer needs to come down. With any men I have a third layer here. This will blind you completely and thus remove any temptations. To get you accustomed to your new life, I shall fasten this outside veil on now. I want you to sit here for an hour and contemplate your past sins and future piety. Then I shall return.”
Azufa remembers being sat there in the pitch black, tears flowing from her eyes and dampening her veils, groaning into her gag. How she had hated him then, and for months afterwards. Now she could not contemplate such emotions.
He had meant what he said. From that day forward her life had changed irrevocably. All her waking hours she was shrouded in black cloth and rendered as helpless as a baby due to the strange corset which he called a ‘Venus Corset’. Wearing it she could do very little, not even open a door, and gagged as she was, she couldn’t speak either. Incommunicado, she spent much of her time just sat there, contemplating. She woke up, showered and was dressed. Then her maid fed her and then she was left alone, only disturbed by the Call to Prayer. And that was her life. Sitting there, shrouded in black, pious and silent. At first she thought that she would go mad, but then she learnt to cope with it and after to like it. Before she had never had time to think, now she had lots. Before she had never considered the fact that she was a Muslim, now she thought of little else.
Part of that was due to the other aspects of Janghir’s new regime for his household. No TV, no newspapers, nothing. The only books allowed were the Quran and collections of Hadiths and these had no pictures. There was no radio either, but CDs were allowed with religious lectures and recitals. Denied any other form of diversion, she began to crave them.
These though, had no visual element to them. All the pictures in the house were taken down and all the servants as covered and gagged as she was. All she saw were black cloth cones. Only one other human was she allowed to see and that was Janghir, in person at the end of each day and in photographs positioned on the walls. Soon her mind forgot what other humans looked like; when she tried to picture them in detail she struggled, but the image of Janghir remained crystal clear and she cherished it like a Christian does an icon. During those long hours of silence and inactivity, she gazed at his photograph deeply and began to long for him and love him more intensely than she ever had done before. Each evening after dinner when she retired to her room for her maid to unveil and prepare her for her husband she felt a surge of excitement and desire that she could hardly control and when he finally entered it was all that she could do to stop herself from launching herself at him in lust. And when he unlaced her Venus corset and she entwined her fingers in his the feeling was heavenly. Denied skin to skin contact so completely, it overwhelmed her when she at last attained it.
After some time he allowed some deviations to her regime. He set up a weekly visit to the wives of the imam who had inspired him to turn to Allah. They lived much as she did except with the use of their arms. They accepted her state, never questioned or even mentioned it. A husband is master in his own home after all. There were four of them yet only one was allowed to speak on each certain day. Azufa never spoke for removing her gag would have been an act on impiety. Instead she just sat there, a silent spectator, listening as one wife or another would discourse on purdah living, household matters and raising a family.
He noticed that she was putting on weight so he set up a gym. She would be dressed in a full black cat-suit with padded mittens that left her hands useless and then her wrists would be fastened to a bar hanging from the ceiling. She had to haul herself up and down for an hour, thus ensuring that her arms, so long numb due to inactivity, did not waste away. Then the Venus Corset would be replaced and she would do sit ups or jog on the running machine.
And occasionally they would go out. He would place the blinding veil on her and lead her to the car. They might go shopping where he would take her into a private compartment and the veiled female assistant would show her an item and she would either nod or shake her head. Or joy of joys, like today, to the family restaurant where they would book a private room, have the food delivered and then he would unveil her and feed the morsels to her one by one, her sucking his fingers eagerly with each bite never being so improper as to speak in public after he had ungagged her.
Tonight’s food however, was now finished. She had sucked the last tasty morsel off her beloved husband’s fingers and now they simply gazed at each other’s eyes. “I love you,” he said softly and she smiled a hidden smile as a tear rolled from her eye. He kissed it off and then picked up something from under the table. It was a small package, wrapped in colourful paper. Unable to do anything for herself of course, she could not unwrap it so he did so for her and, when done, showed her the contents.
A pair of black satin gloves.
She stared at them in amazement, unbelieving.
“Yes my dear, it is true. You have redeemed yourself and I love you all the more for it. But from tonight things are again changing. You will be allowed use of your arms again. Not always of course; outside of the house it is too dangerous and on Fridays you shall live as you do now so as to contemplate Allah all the better. But on the other days, for certain periods, you shall be allowed their use.”
Azufa shook her head. She couldn’t believe it, accept it.
“My love, I shall remove your gag so that you may speak so long as you promise to do so only in whispers so as not to tempt any passing males who may overhear.”
He lovingly unfastened her gag and freed her mouth.
“I cannot,” she stammered. “I am happy as I am; it is a pious and holy life. I do not deserve…”
“Shhh… pious and holy you undoubtedly are, but from now on you shall need your hands sometimes.”
“Because gloves are not the only change to your life from tonight. This morning, for the first time since your redemption, I ordered the servants not to include the pill in your medication. You have now proved through years of pious devotion that you are fit to become a mother and so tonight when we retire, we shall not just be exercising for fun…”
Tears of joy and happiness now flowed continually from her eyes.
“…and that is still not all, for I watch you and I know you Azufa. Yes, you are happy today, ten times happier than you were as a Westernised harlot. But that happiness is still incomplete, for you have not a friend and confident. And so, tomorrow, there is another development for us both to enjoy. I shall be welcoming Zaynab, the sixteen-year old daughter of the imam into our house as my second wife. As well as your arms and, Insha’allah, a baby to hold, you shall have a sister to love and cherish and to communicate with via notes.”
And with those words he again kissed away the tears of the happiest wife in all Bangladesh.
Copyright © 2014, Dave Potter