This story contains graphic sexual elements and thus is unsuitable for minors. Turn back now if you are under eighteen years of age!
Shami’s New Life
by Dave Potter
“Hey Shami, them trousers look great girl, you’s dead fit in ‘em!”
“Noor, they’s only twenty quid from Next. You should be getting’ yourself a pair, like.”
“Shami, you know I can’t. Me dad ‘ud kill me. Sez that good Muslim girls shouldn’t be wearing thing like that. Besides, you’ve got the figure like. You look like one of them girls in Bollywood. Me, ‘ud only look fat in ‘em.”
Noor’s words were only too true. Shami did have the figure to pull it off. In the tight, figure-hugging white pants, with only a thong underneath and an equally tight top in white lycra that barely covered her breasts, she did look like a Bollywood leading lady, and the lads would go wild for her. Furthermore, her friend had also been right about fathers. Shami shuddered when she thought of how most Pakistani dads were. ‘Cover up!’ ‘Act like a good Musilmah!’ That was all she ever heard from her friends’ dads. Hers on the other hand, was quite different. Oh yes, very different indeed. For her father was Abdul Husseini.
Abdul Hussein had left Pakistan by jet plane some twenty-two years ago. Until most emigrants, he had not been seen off at Karachi Airport by hordes of tearful relatives, primarily because Abdul’s hordes of relatives did not know that he was leaving, and indeed, would have been very angry if they had known. They’d have been angry because Abdul was leaving with Jamila, the daughter of Murtaza Nasir the local tyre magnate. Tyre magnate and Shi’ia Muslim.
And the Husseinis were Sunni.
And Jamila had been promised to another at the age of nine.
And Abdul had been promised to one Rashida, also at the age of nine.
“Pakistan is bloody backward country with bloody backward minds,” he would say to his daughter countless times as she grew up. They tried, oh how hard they tried, to split up your mother in me. Uncles, Mullahs, fathers, bosses, everyone was called on to point out that our innocent love was wrong because of faith or society or whatever. So what did I do? I tell you Shamira, I sticks two fingers up to the whole bunch of bastards and to the whole Pakistan, buys two tickets and comes here to England where the man and the woman can be free to live the civilised life how they want. Yes, goodbye and good riddance. From that moment I promised that my children will never have to live like that, that they can live in the Western manner instead and so it is, you are free my dear and they can all go to hell!”
And so it was that Shami could get away with her figure-hugging lewd outfits from Next, could drink alcohol and date white boys, unlike her Pakistani friends who still lived under the ‘iron fist of ignorance, superstition and primitivism’ even though they were born and bred in the United Kingdom.
“Come on,” said Shami to her unfortunate friend. “It’s time to go girl, I wanna be at the club early to see if I can get that guy Dave who works behind the bar…”
And so off they went to the domain of alcohol, music and loose morals. A modern-day Gomorrah a million miles away from Pakistan.
Shami knew that something was wrong as soon as the taxi pulled up outside her house. Despite the fact that she was raving drunk and Noor had to steady her, the police car and lights on in the living room and hallway were too obvious signs that something was amiss. She fumbled with her key around the lock but it was opened from the inside before she could find the hole. In the space stood her father’s business partner Yusuf, an upright and thoroughly self-righteous man whom Shami detested.
“A Muslim girl in such a state,” he tutted under his breathe. “It’s a disgrace to his name!”
“I’m not a fucking Muslim,” she slurred back. “We’re atheists in this house, remember!?”
For men like Yusuf however, atheism does not even exist as a concept. Nor too do the opinions of drunken teenagers. “Come inside girl, there is bad news.”
Shami entered the room to find a policeman and woman sat on the sofa. Also present was Yusuf’s wife, Salma, a woman as obnoxious as her husband and finally, Omar, the mullah at the local mosque.
“Where’s dad, and mum…?” Shami asked uneasily.
“I’m sorry my dear,” said the policewoman, coming over and putting her arm around the girl, “but there’s been an accident…”
From that moment on, Shami can remember nothing of the evening.
The funeral took place less than twenty-four hours later in true Muslim fashion with a simple wooden coffins and the mullah reciting words from the Qu’ran as the bodies were lowered down. Yusuf had said that despite his surface atheism, Abdul had remained a true Muslim at heart and besides, his wife had always been faithful. Salma and the mullah had backed this up, as also had Abdul’s eldest brother, Mohammed, whom they’d telephoned immediately and who was flying over as soon as he could. Shamira, in her grief, was too shattered to object.
And so it was that her parents were buried and gone and two days later she was ferried to the airport to meet her infamous uncle Mohammed, whom Abdul had quarrelled with over Rashida and had not spoken with since. When he arrived at the arrivals gate pushing trolley containing but two small suitcases, Shamira immediately empathised with her father. He was a large, stern-looking man with a bushy beard that could rival Osama bin Laden’s and two piercing eyes that sent shivers down the spine. He came over to the group holding up the placard and greeted Yusuf before turning his eyes to his niece.
“So, you are Shamira?” he asked.
“Yes, welcome to England Uncle Mohammed.”
He seemed not to notice her reply and instead said curtly, “And do you consider that appropriate attire for meeting your uncle?”
She looked down at her jeans and sleeveless top. “Yes, why not?” she answered defiantly.
He snorted and turned to Yusuf. “Please show me the way to the car, sir and explain to me what has happened these recent days…”
Uncle Mohammed was to stay at her house which irked Shami considerably as, unsurprisingly, she had taken a disliking to him instantly. ‘However,’ thought to herself as she sat in the car returning home from the airport, ‘it is only for a short while and soon he will be back in Pakistan. I should have perhaps remembered how backward he was.’ She decided to placate him, that she would wear some more, well… Pakistani attire, and so upon returning home she entered her mother’s room, (as she herself owned no such clothing), and picked out a blue sari and matching headscarf that her mother wore for special occasions. Upon coming downstairs after donning her new outfit, Uncle Mohammed made no comment, but said nothing further that was negative, so pleased with her small victory, Shami also kept her mouth shut.
The following morning they were due to go to the solicitor’s for the reading of her father’s will. Shami rose early and made herself some breakfast, before donning the sari and headscarf again. She didn’t really like the Eastern clothes as the headscarf which was made of almost transparent silk kept slipping off her head and she was always tripping over the sari, particularly when going up and down the stairs, but she put up with them nonetheless, anything for a quiet life after all. Unfortunately however, quiet was the one thing that Uncle Mohammed did not seem prepared to give her. “Where is my breakfast?” he demanded, coming down the stairs dressed in his baggy white Pakistani clothes.
“Excuse me?” queried the confused girl.
“A woman’s job is to provide food on the table. I desire some samosas girl, make them!”
Such blatant sexism naturally got Shami’s back up straight away. “I don’t know how to make samosas,” she replied, “so hard luck Uncle.”
“Don’t know how to make samosas! Didn’t that whore of a mother of yours teach you anything!? And such impudence in a girl too! And your clothing? Better than at the airport perhaps, but still, do you think you are at a fashion parade for prostitutes or something? If you wear a headscarf, then you should make sure it covers your hair, Shamira. Every hair visible is like a dagger in the heart of the Prophet!”
At this, Shami’s blood began to boil. “My mother was no whore but an angel and if you want impudence, then let me show you impudence! Fuck off you shit and take this fucking scarf with you!” And with those defiant words, she threw the scarf down on the floor and stormed off.
The atmosphere was tense in the solicitor’s office. Uncle and niece would neither look nor converse with one another. “So are all the relatives of the deceased present?” asked the man in a grey suit.
“Yes,” answered Shami.
“Yes, sir,” echoed Mohammed.
“Well then, we shall begin, don’t worry, it’s quite straightforward. Ahem. ‘I, Abdullah Husseini leave all my worldly possessions to the care of my wife, Jamila Husseini. In the case of her death, then all is to be reverted to my daughter, Shamira Husseini. If she is dead, then I wish all to be left to the following charities…’ It goes on from there but it is not relevant. So, as you can see miss, you get everything, as is to be expected I suppose, although there is one small hitch, that being that I believe you are underage at the moment, is that right?”
“I am sixteen,” replied Shami.
“Oh well miss, eighteen is of course the age of adulthood and so unfortunately, all these possessions are to be held in trust by your guardian until you reach that age.”
“And who is my guardian?”
“Your guardian? Well, let me see… no, there is nothing here, nor in your mother’s will which I was about to read but is basically the same as your father’s. No, no guardian specified, I’m afraid.”
“Does that mean that I can just live alone then?”
“Oh no, that is illegal of course, miss, you are a minor and thus too young to be responsible in the eyes of the law. No, if no guardian is specified then, well, the responsibility lawfully falls to your closest living relative who is…”
“…who is me,” said Mohammed Husseini, finishing off the sentence for the lawman, and wearing a broad smile across his face.
“No! No! It can’t be!” protested Shami. “My father hated him!”
“That as may be, but as the law stands, he is the one who must look after you, only until you’re eighteenth birthday though.”
Shami couldn’t believe it. For the second time in a week, her world was turning black. “Thank you sir,” said Mohammed, getting up to leave. “We know all that we need to and shall leave now. My ward and I are busy you see. We have to be going to the travel agents…”
“The travel agents?” asked Shami in fear.
“Of course girl,” replied her uncle. “We are leaving for Pakistan as soon as possible!”
Two days later, Shamira Husseini was sat on a Pakistan International Airlines flight bound for Karachi. Beside her, sound asleep, was her uncle. And inside her only fear and trepidation.
After leaving the solicitor’s office they’d gone – as Mohammed had promised – straight to a travel agents and bought two one-way tickets to Karachi. Then, it being Friday, Mohammed had decided to visit the mosque and Shami had used the opportunity to go home and assess her situation. She lain on her bed and cried, but when there were no more tears left, she had started to think realistically.
So, she was bound to her uncle, a man whom her father had hated and who seemed, on first impressions, to be ghastly. That however, was only on first impressions and the more Shami thought about it, the more she realised that those impressions may have been misleading. For a start, her father had fallen out with him solely because he coveted at woman whom he was not allowed to marry. Now whilst Shami’s feeling were entirely with her father on that score, she had been around Pakistanis enough to know that such things as religious differences and parental desires were incredibly important to most of them and whilst it was backward and wrong, that was how they had been brought up and she should really respect it a bit more.
Furthermore, knowing her uncle’s backwardness and Pakistani values, had she not been a little silly and indeed disrespectful by turning up to the airport dressed in Western clothing? Ok, so women should be able to wear what they want, drink what they want and date whom they want, but whilst that was the wholly correct viewpoint, her uncle did feel somewhat differently and if she was to get along with him – and she would have to get along with him for the following two years – then she should at least, well… make a bit of an effort to fit in with him, even if she didn’t really agree with his points of view.
And besides, whilst she would much have preferred to stay in England, living alone in that large semi-detached would be a little lonely, and she didn’t know how to cook and wash and iron and stuff and besides, the government would probably move her out to some children’s home anyway which would be worse than even Uncle Mohammed ‘cos kids that went to children’s homes – and she’d met a few when she was younger when she’d attended karate lessons – were always dead rough and rude. And besides, whilst her father had always railed against Pakistan and its backwardness, her mother had spoken more tenderly, praising the beautiful snow-capped mountains in the northern provinces where she’d grown up and the delicious food and anyway, she was a Pakistani anyway, wasn’t she, and it would be great to see the country that she’d heard so much about and discover a little of her roots.
“I’ll try and be nice to Uncle Mohammed and be the good little girl that he wants me to be for two years!” she declared to herself eventually, before finally drifting off to sleep.
Early the following morning, Shami awoke and took herself off to the area of the city that her father referred to as ‘Crapistan’; the area where all the immigrants congregated. There she went into a store that she never thought she’d visit, Basra Fabrics, a shop owned by an Iraqi ÈmigrÈ specialising in Muslim attire.
“What can I do for you, miss?” the proprietor had asked.
“I’m looking for hijaab,” Shami had replied.
“A hijaab outfit?”
“Well, several actually. I mean, well… the thing is, I’m off to Pakistan like and well, I’ve never actually worn hijaab before, but I know there that they like it an’ all, so I thought it might be good, an’ respectful an’ all to well, yer know, get some outfits, like…”
“Miss, one should wear hijaab as a religious commitment, not to please the locals, but it is of no matter. What level of hijaab would you require?”
Level? Shami was confused. “What d’yer mean, level, like?” she asked.
“I mean miss, that the term ‘hijaab’ merely refers to Islamic clothing, but there are many interpretations as to what it is that Allah wishes us to wear. Take a look at this catalogue here. Now this is Indian-style, sari and light headscarf. I can do this for you, many designs and colours, very nice. However, here is Iranian chador, thick black you see, covers all, but the face left free. Here though is Arabic abayah with niqaab, her face is covered fully except for the eyes, whereas here we have burqa of Afghanistan, only the mesh to see through but beautiful embroidery and fabrics. Which do you desire? There are many more designs, please looking…”
Shami did looking. She knew straightaway that she did not wish to don either the Arabian abayah or Afghan burqa. Both looked positively terrifying indeed, having the face covered, particularly with the mesh of the burqa that covered even the eyes! On the other hand, she knew from experience that the light sari and scarf of the Indians was insufficient in her uncle’s eyes. She flicked through the pages and wondered at the different designs. “Excuse me,” she asked, “but what do they generally wear in Pakistan?”
“Well miss,” said the proprietor, “it depends. Where will you be going exactly?”
Shami realised that she did not know. She felt stupid. “Oh, all over really. I just need something… general.”
“Well, may I suggest this then?” said the proprietor. She turned to a page showing a woman dressed in loose black trousers, a black Pakistani blouse with a black scarf around her head. It was dull, boring, but on the other hand, didn’t look too restrictive.
“I won’t always be tripping over these, like with a sari will I?” she asked.
“Oh no, miss, very practical. No problems of that type.”
“And the scarf, does it slip off the head like, all the time?”
“If wrapped tightly, no problems, miss.”
Shamira looked at the outfit again. It wasn’t very exciting that was for sure, and definitely no sexy, but it should please her uncle. Besides, two years is not that long. “I’ll take five sets in total,” she said before adding, “and can I have one now?”
“Certainly, miss. I have one in your size.”
Twenty minutes later, Shami stepped out of the shop wearing her new attire. The lady had shown her how to wear it and wrap and pin the scarf. It was quite easy, not cumbersome and all in all, not really a problem, but nonetheless, she felt strange as she walked through Crapistan. She felt covered and the scarf clung to her head tightly. No longer did she feel sexy and desirable to men and no longer did she attract their admiring glances. Instead, she was anonymous, invisible to them and that was not nice, it was belittling and shameful. Shamira felt oppressed.
She walked into International Foods where her mum had always bought the family groceries and picked out ten samosas from the fridge and a carton of mango lassi. She then paid for them and caught the bus home, warming up the samosas in the microwave and then bringing them upstairs to her uncle who was still asleep in her parents’ bedroom.
“Your breakfast uncle,” she announced.
He opened his eyes, sat up and smiled. “Thank you very much Shamira,” he said, before starting on his meal.
And from that moment on, things improved. Her uncle sat her down and admitted that whilst his ideas were somewhat different from those of her father, he did hope that they could become friends and he did appreciate her efforts with regards dress and effort. He then went on to talk about her life in Pakistan. He told her about his two daughters, Chakila and Soraya who are sixteen and fifteen respectively and will become great friends with Shamira he is sure. ‘And the food! And the scenery! Truly Pakistan is a great country! You will love it, I know!’ he exalted. And then they went out together to organise Shami’s affairs and to sort out her future. “But what about school?” she asked, after they had informed the headmistress at Boulden Lane High that Shamira Husseini would not be doing her GCSEs there after all.
“Oh, do not fear, Shamira, there are some excellent schools in Pakistan, you can enrol there and continue your education. No offence, but you may even be doing better there than here. I am sorry but I was not given a too favourable impression by that school.”
Even Shami had to admit that Boulden Lane was not that good, but she nevertheless felt sad about having to leave Noor and all her other girlfriends, (not to mention the boys!). “Come, let us eat some ice cream together to help come to terms with this change,” suggested her uncle, as if reading her mind. Shami looked up at the bearded and be-robed man and started to wonder if he perhaps was not so scary after all.
The next day too was good. “It is your last day in England,” he announced after Shami had made him breakfast again. “What do you wish to do to make it memorable?” Shami thought for a while and then said, “Well, my favourite place is Waterworld, so could we perhaps visit there?”
“Waterworld? What is this Waterworld?” Uncle Mohammed had asked.
“Oh, it’s great! It’s like a big place with lots of pools and Jacuzzis and water slides and all sorts of stuff. It’s really good fun like, dad used to take me all the time.”
Uncle Mohammed frowned momentarily but then quickly regained his composure. Well, if that is what you want, then why not?” he replied.
And so it is that the Shamira that we find on the aeroplane is a Shamira who no longer fears and hates her uncle and is in some ways quite excited about her two years’ stay in Pakistan. She is also a girl cherishing fond memories of her mammoth session in the pools and slides of Waterworld with her uncle but the day before.
Little does she realise, that she will never be wearing a swimsuit again.
The first thing that hit her as she stepped out of the terminal building was the heat. A wall of it smacked into her face and made her feel giddy and faint. Then came the chaos, confusion and noise. Hundreds of screaming relatives and friends jostling behind the metal barriers to catch a glimpse of their returning loved ones or business associates.
“Will your family be meeting us?” Shami asked her uncle.
“No. The girls are at school, and your Aunt Maryam is preparing the house for your stay,” he replied.
So it was alone that they stepped out into Karachi and caught a taxi through the bustling, smelly streets which blew Shamira’s breath away. She, who had never been out of the UK save for a package holiday to Tenerife, could not believe the bustle, sounds, sights and poverty.
Aunt Maryam was not what Shamira had expected. Instead of a smiling, beautiful aunt, her arms outstretched to welcome in the new member of the family, when they reached Uncle Mohammed’s spacious Karachi home, they found a lady dressed all in black with a veil over her face leaving Shami only two dark eyes to scrutinise. She neither spoke nor held out her hands when her husband introduced the new addition to the household, but instead bowed slightly and then returned to the kitchen to finish preparing the meal. ‘Oh dear,’ thought Shami, ‘perhaps she doesn’t approve of me?’ It was quite likely that she’d heard shocking tales of her niece’s conduct in the UK and if she was a religious type – and let’s face it, wearing a thick black khimar and face-veil meant that she probably was – then she probably would not be too eager to speak with her new adopted daughter.
After meeting her aunt, Uncle Mohammed showed Shami her new room; a small windowless chamber furnished with but a single bed and cupboard for her clothes. She dropped her suitcases off there and had a quick shower before coming downstairs to dine with her new family. The food was laid out on the floor – Pakistani style – by the maids and she and her uncle sat down to eat it. To her surprise however, her aunt did not join them, but instead sat at the back of the room watching their every move intently. At first this put Shami off, but she was hungry and so didn’t mind too much, especially since the food was excellent.
After a few minutes the bell rang. “That will be your cousins back from school,” Uncle Mohammed announced. That piece of news excited the English girl as she was eager to meet her two relatives whom she hoped would be fun and could chat about the things that she liked with her. However, when they walked into the room, Shami was even more surprised than when she had met her aunt.
“Shamira, this is Chakila and this is Soraya,” said Uncle Mohammed. “Girls, this is your cousin from England, Shamira.” Like their mother, for some reason the girls did not greet or even acknowledge the new guest in any way more than a slight bow. They neither spoke now held out a hand. This however, was not what shocked their cousin. Instead it was their garb. Whilst their mother dressed in a black khimar with face-veil revealing only her eyes, these two wore mousy-grey and the veils over their faces covered everything. Furthermore, the material looked really quite thick and Shami wondered that they could actually see much through it. ‘Oh my God,’ she thought privately, ‘I really have hit on a house of fundamentalists here! Even this hijaab that I wear seems like nakedness compared to those two Taleban members!’
After the introductions the two girls sat down by their mother and the meal continued on in silence. When the two diners had finished, the three veiled women left, leaving Shami alone with her uncle.
“Uncle Mohammed,” she enquired tentatively.
“My aunt and cousins… why did they not eat when we did, but instead just sat there?”
“Here in Pakistan Shamira, it is usual for the menfolk to dine first and then the women afterwards, after their husbands and brothers have finished.”
“Oh.” Shami felt awful. Only in the country ten minutes and she’d already committed a cultural faux pas. “I… I suppose I shouldn’t have eaten then…?”
“Not really, no, but you weren’t to know.”
“I promise that I shan’t next time then.”
“It is good that you are being considerate.”
“I don’t mean to pry but, well, their dress, it was… kind of strange…”
“Strange to you perhaps, but not so strange here in Pakistan. Women here respect Allah and Islam and so wear the clothes that our faith requires. The Qu’ran you see instructs women – and men – to dress modestly and hide their beauty so as not to cause others to sin and the most effective way of doing so is covering up, especially the face.”
“But your daughters, even their eyes…! That I have never seen before.”
“Soraya and Chakila were wearing their school uniform today. They go to a very good – and very strict – Islamic school which requires all its students to dress so.”
“It’s a world away from what I’m used to in England. When I bought this hijaab, I thought it was pretty, well… extreme…”
“Your clothes are not extreme at all, Shamira. Some women here would even describe them as hardly being hijaab at all. They are however, an improvement on the garb you wore to meet me at the airport.”
“Would you like me to, well, wear something more akin to that of my aunt, uncle?”
“It is none of my business what you wear Shamira. You must wish to wear such things.”
‘I shall never wish to wear such things,’ thought Shami to herself, ‘but I do want a quiet life here and to be friendly with my cousins who now obviously don’t want to talk to me because I’m not Islamic – and oppressed – enough for them.’
“May I go to bed now, uncle?” she asked. “I’m tired from the flight.”
“Yes you may. Goodnight Shamira.”
“Goodnight Uncle Mohammed.”
Life in Karachi was strange for Shamira. On one hand it was exciting, being in a strange country with exotic sights and smells and a wholly different way of life to that which she was used to. Also it was good not having to go to school and instead having all day free to relax and sightsee. However, some of the different ways of life in Pakistan were, to be a honest, a little too different for Shami’s tastes. For a start, all the men everywhere leered and glared at her as she walked the streets. On top of that, there was her aunt and cousins whom she lived with and yet never once got a word out of. At first Shami had made efforts, saying hello when she passed them and offering to help in the kitchen, but nothing elicited even a single word response. Then she’d decided to follow up her original idea, and one day she went down to the city centre to an Islamic clothing shop and ordered a khimar with face-veil like her aunt wore for herself in a nice shade of dark blue. That evening she’d worn it for dinner but alas, the ploy had failed, her aunt and cousins still refused to have anything to do with her and only her uncle mentioned the extreme change in attire.
And what’s more, it was extreme. The cloth was heavy and extremely hot to wear in the strong Pakistani sunshine and the veil irritated Shami more than she ever imagined it could, sticking to her face, causing her to sweat and muffling her speech. How her aunt could wear such clothing everyday she did not know and as for her cousins’ garb, which was much heavier and covered the eyes too… well, that was just one step too far! Besides, what the whole hijaab thing represented, Shami did not really agree with, oppressing women and the like and so in the end she wore her niqaab costume just one more time before folding it up carefully and reverting to the lighter hijaab that she’d purchased in England.
These were not the only things that bothered her however. The eating separately at mealtimes was also strange. Sitting there and watching her uncle and his male guests devour their food, tantalised by the aroma and yet unable to taste anything until they had finished and she could leave and go to a separate room with her aunt where they ate their meal. That was another strange thing too – her cousins never joined them! Yes, that was weird, very weird. All in all it was turning out to be a weird household that she’d entered. Even Uncle Mohammed, whilst he was not as bad as she’d first feared, she still never quite knew where to place him and how he dealt with her was not how her father had, as a young, intelligent woman, but more he spoke to her like one would do a recaltrient child. He was forever hinting that she wasn’t Pakistani enough and chiding her for leaving the house and going to town without her.
But come on, she had to go to town! There was absolutely nothing to do at Uncle Mohammed’s house and as I have pointed out before, her aunt and cousins were no company whatsoever. So it was that she went out everyday, wandering around the centre, going into museums and parks and looking in all the shop windows. One day, after about a week in the city, she was in the fashionable district of the city when she passed a boutique that was selling a top that she would have died for in England. She went in and discovered the price was much lower than she’d expected, so on a whim, she bought it, before then realising that it was no use without a pair of trousers to go with it and so after picking out a nice pair of body-hugging blue jeans with a low waistline and trendy belt, she slipped on her new top and took off her headscarf. As she glanced at herself in the mirror, she felt sexy and feminine again for the first time since leaving the UK and decided that she would spend the rest of the day dressed in that manner, and would change back into her hijaab before returning home so that her uncle would never know.
So it was that she strode out of the shop to a score of admiring male glances and walked along the street, stopping only at a shoe shop to purchase a pair of equally fashionable and sexy high-heeled shoes. That done, feeling gorgeous yet a little tired, she noticed a coffee shop where the Karachi smart set congregated, so she decided to enjoy a leisurely cappuccino before making her way home. She had only been sat there for a few moments however, when someone tapped her on the shoulder and a male voice enquired, “May I join you, miss?”
Faisal Khan had greased back hair and a handsome smile. His tight white vest revealed a well-toned muscular figure and his eyes – why, they were eyes to die for! “And what is you name, miss?” he politely asked, after buying her a drink and introducing himself.
“How do you know that I’m not a Mrs?” she replied, coyly.
“Because no husband would let such a hot vixen of a wife out on the streets alone.”
Shami blushed at the compliment. “In England maybe they would?”
“Here is not England.”
“But I am English.”
“As am I, or at least, I hold an English passport and was born there, though I’ve lived most of my life here.”
“Really!?” Shami was interested. She missed England and wanted to talk about her home.
“My dad is director for Lloyds in Pakistan and he is constantly shuttling between the two countries.”
A director of Lloyds! So, rich as well as handsome and English! This could be promising…? “Shamira Husseini at your service, Faisal,” she said, holding out her hand.
That one chance visit to the coffee shop soon turned into a daily occurrence. Every morning Shami would leave her uncle’s house after breakfast wearing her hijaab and take a taxi into town, whereupon she would change in the toilets in the large air-conditioned shopping centre into an alluring, Western outfit, and then stroll down to the coffee shop, always stopping in at a boutique to see what item of clothing she would be buying next. Then, over coffee, she would talk and flirt with Faisal Khan, meet his friends, and afterwards take a trip around the city in his white BMW convertible to a cinema or perhaps the bowling alley. All in all, it was great, just like her life in England had been, only better, as there she had never had so much money and such a rich – and handsome – boyfriend.
And Faisal was not just rich and handsome. He was intelligent and interesting too. He told jokes that made Shami laugh and discussed issues with her that she was interested in. All in all, he was the most perfect man that she’d ever come across, and her fun-filled afternoons more than made up for the weird atmosphere in her new home.
More than made up for it until it happened that is.
Shamira Husseini had been in Karachi for a little over a month and seeing Faisal Khan for just three weeks when she returned home one afternoon to find things not as they usually were. Sitting in the living room along with her uncle was a strange man and behind them, kneeling silently, were her aunt and cousins.
And the two male members of that reception party looked extremely angry indeed.
“Shamira,” said Uncle Mohammed slowly, “what is in that bag that you are carrying?”
Shami blanched. “Clothes,” she quietly replied.
“Let me see them!” he ordered.
“They’re mine!” she protested.
“Let me see them!” he repeated.
She handed over the bag and Uncle Mohammed pulled out the white hipsters and skimpy red boob tube that she’d bought and worn that day. The three veiled ladies gasped as he held them up for all to see. “Oh dear, oh dear,” he said quietly. “It seems that you have been deceiving us.”
“Y-y-you said that I could wear what I wanted,” she pointed out.
“So why hide these from me? You know that this is an Islamic house, that you belong to an Islamic family, so why dress like a Western whore?”
“You are Islamic, but I… I am… not….”
“YOU ARE A HUSSEINI!!” he boomed, his voice like thunder now.
“And I am a free woman too!” she yelled back, rising to the bait.
“Look at your aunt and cousins, living piously, living Islamically. Are you not ashamed when you compare yourself to them!?”
“Ashamed!? No, I am not ashamed, I am glad. Glad that I was never oppressed and brainwashed as they seem to have been!”
Uncle Mohammed snorted. “And where have you been today, dressed as a whore?”
“Just to the centre, why?”
“Where in the centre?”
“To a coffee shop if you must know.”
“Liar! Shamira, you lie to your own family! This man here, he followed you and saw you! You were with a man, a man dressed as satanically as you are. Soraya! Chakila! Take note! Your cousin, whom we welcomed into the bosom of our family, has been… has been consorting, yes, consorting with a non-mahram man!”
This astonishing revelation caused further gasps from the female members of the party. ‘Oh please!’ thought Shami.
“Do you not know? Do you not realise, Shamira, what… what terrible damage such liaisons can do!?”
“Damage to what?”
“To your marriage prospects, girl! What good Muslim man will want to marry a girl who dates men such as that?”
“But I don’t want to marry, not yet anyway and certainly not to a good Muslim man!”
“Shamira, you blaspheming, evil whore! But now or later, good or bad man, do you not know that here in Pakistan, if you are seen with a non-mahram man, dating, then it is immediately assumed that you are… you are… no longer a virgin!”
And her head full of anger at her uncle’s words, she then let slip what she never needed to say.
“But I aren’t a virgin, uncle, so fuck you!”
After that revelation of revelations, the women were sent out, the men stormed out, with Uncle Mohammed leaving a parting shot about having to ‘calm down’. An hour later he returned, evidently having done so, for he carried two glasses of chai.
“Uncle, I’m sorry,” said Shami. “I got carried away and…”
“Shush, shush, Shamira and drink,” he said softly.
She took the glass. It was not too hot so she drank it all in one gulp. It only took a few seconds for the drug to start to kick in.
“Uncle, what’s happening?” she asked in fear and dizziness.
Mohammed smiled an evil smile of victory of Shami crashed to the carpet, her world turning black.
She drifted in and out of consciousness. Her dreams were chaotic as if drug induced and when she was raised out of them she imagined that she saw people in white coats and a female surgeon standing over her. Whether these visions were true or not, she knew not. All that she did know is that at the end of it all she woke up to find herself in a hospital bed in a private ward. A nurse veiled in white came up to her. “Miss Husseini, you are awake. How do you feel?”
“Where am I?”
“In the Tenth of Ramadan Hospital, miss.”
“Why am I here?”
“That I cannot answer, miss.”
“Your uncle’s orders. He says that any such questions may only be answered by him when you join him at his home in Kashmir.”
“Yes, your uncle comes from Kashmir. That’s where his home is. The Karachi house is only for when he is in the city on business.”
“So I am to go to Kashmir?”
“Yes, miss. As soon as you feel well enough to travel.”
It was all so mysterious and inexplicable. What was going on? “What date is it today, nurse?” asked Shami.
“The twelfth of May, miss.”
A week of her life had been taken away from her!
Two days after that Shami dressed in her hijaab from England and left the hospital. She was escorted by a big burly man who tolerated no misbehaviour and spoke very few words into the back of a large camper van with mirror-plated windows. In it there was a bed to sleep in, a small bathroom with chemical toilet and a tiny stove on which to cook. Inside the fridge beside the stove was food enough for several days. The front was sealed off from her by a large metal screen and the door was locked. It was a portable prison!
For five days and nights she sped across Pakistan in that van. She looked out of the window at the passing scenery and slept on the tiny bed. She cooked her meals on the stove and made use of the toilet. At the Kashmiri border they were waved through. Evidently her uncle was a more important man than she’d imagined. A day later they drew up outside his house. It was a large traditional dwelling, with blank forbidding walls and only a doorway in. Her father had once told her that houses were built like that in Pakistan so that passers by could not glance at the womenfolk within. To Shami it seemed more like a gaol, built to keep insiders in rather than outsiders out.
Accompanied by the burly bodyguard she stepped out of the van and walked over to the large, ornate wooden door. It creaked open slowly and she walked inside alone. She found herself in a courtyard. All was silent and the door swung to behind her. Across the courtyard was a large archway. She walked over to it and passed through it. There she found herself in a large room covered with Turkish rugs. Reclining on some cushions at the end of that room and smoking a hookah was Uncle Mohammed.
“Uncle, what is the meaning of all of this!?”
“Ah! Shamira, so, you are here then?”
“You’re damn right that I’m here! You’re man made sure that I came! I don’t even know where here is but, yes, I’m here, and what’s more I demand to know just what the hell it is you’ve been doing…”
“Shamira, I warn you, do not take such a tone with me…”
“Fuck you! I shall take whatever fucking tone I like! Several days ago I woke up in a hospital bed and since then no one has told me anything. Not why I blacked out, not why I was in bloody hospital and not where this is, nothing, and I demand to know and you are the only one with answers, they’re all working for you! Tell me now, uncle!”
“Shamira! Silence!” His face was as black as thunder and Shami sensed that he meant business. This was not the friendly Uncle Mohammed whom she’d known of late, but rather the stern man whom she’d met in the airport straight after her parents’ death. This was a strong man, an evil man, a man who could ruin her life. “Tell me please,” she whimpered.
At this sign of weakness he smiled, an evil smile, a smile of victory. “Ever wondered why your cousins don’t talk with you?” he asked softly.
This put Shami off her balance. What was he on about? “Why?” she asked meekly.
“Chakila! Soraya!” he boomed.
A scuffling was heard and within a moment two black, veiled figures shuffled into the room.
“Chakila, step forward!” Mohammed commanded.
The girl did as she was bid, dutifully.
“Take off her veil!” he then snapped to his niece.
“Me?” said Shamira, confused.
Shami tentatively stepped forward and grasped the thick black cloth that covered her cousin’s face, and with a sharp tug, ripped it off. Underneath was another layer of cloth wrapped around the girl’s head.
“Take it off!” commanded Mohammed. Shami slowly unwrapped the fabric which covered the girl’s face twice over to reveal a pair of frightened dark eyes peering out from a small hole in a full woollen hood.
“Remove the hood!” commanded her uncle. Tentatively Shami pulled off the hood to reveal something most unexpected. Instead of a girl’s face, she was confronted by the top half of a human head and the bottom half, well… it was a solid piece of black rubber, covering the neck, mouth and nose and ending just below the eyes. There were but three tiny holes in it, one for each nostril and the other, but a centimetre or so in circumference, for the mouth. “W-w-what does it mean…?” she asked in astonishment.
“Remove your cousin’s dress!” ordered Mohammed as if he had not heard Shami’s question. His niece did as she was bid, only to reveal another layer of clothing underneath which she pulled off as well. Under that however, further secrets were revealed. Glancing down at Chakila’s legs, she realised why the girl had always walked so slowly, as they were squeezed into a tight rubber skirt that bound them together, allowing very little movement. It was evident that her cousin could take strides of but a few centimetres.
That however, was not the worst of the horrors that the undressing had revealed, for moving her eyes upwards, Shami discovered that the skirt was in fact a full body suit that ended in the lower face covering that she’d seen earlier. And in the middle it had no openings for the arms. “Oh my God!” gasped the English girl in shock.
“Here in Pakistan, in good, devout Islamic families, we demand that our daughters live in what is called Purdah until they enter the homes of their husbands. Purdah means living in seclusion, and most importantly, not mixing with non-mahram males. If you had ever read the scriptures Shamira, you would know that Adam was thrust out of the Garden of Eden through the evil, tempting ways of Eve, and since that time, alas, women have continued to lead men astray just as Eve did to Adam. That is why Allah commanded them to be modest, to hide their bodies and guard their voices, so that they, and others around them, may remain pure and unsullied. Their curvaceous forms tempt men and their sweet voices cause men to lust. The women know this and yet still they continue, helping spread evil and the power of Shaitan throughout humanity. But if they will not guard themselves sufficiently, then it falls upon us men to do it for them. Look at you cousin, Shamira! She is covered, covered entirely. Not a single man may be tempted by her houri’s eyes or rounded form. Underneath the rubber suit sits a metal belt that is locked, a belt that guards her sex, so that only a legitimate husband may unlock it. And her voice? Why, it will tempt no one, for she cannot use it. That contraption there keeps it quite, for inside is an inflated rubber piece that fills her mouth completely. The hole is but to allow sustenance through. She is fed on a compound of healthy food through a straw. Never is it taken out, never may she speak. Your cousin is neither seen nor heard, nor shall she be until I pass her over to her husband and then, well, she is his concern. Soraya, I hardly need to mention, is identically clad.”
“But Uncle…why… why imprison them so…?”
“Shamira, when I met you, you were dressed as a whore, causing all men around to sin and lust. In England you questioned my authority and had me visit a den of iniquity, a swimming pool where hundreds of girls, including yourself, swam around in bikinis in the presence of men! Yusuf tells me you drink alcohol and his wife, that you have non-Muslim boyfriends. In Karachi you wandered into coffee shops dressed as a Western whore and talked to non-mahram men, and then finally, you admitted to me, with a disgraceful note of pride in your voice, that you are no longer a virgin, despite the fact that you are only sixteen years of age and unmarried! Shamira Husseini, in short you are a whore, a slag and a disgrace to this family! You should have been living in purdah since the age of ten, as my two daughters have, yet late is better than never. You were drugged and taken to the hospital because it is impossible here in Pakistan to procure a husband for a girl if she is sullied as you are. I know it is a lie and a sin, but I got the doctor to replace the hymen, make you a virgin once more, physically if not spiritually…”
“You… you did what!?” Shamira was horrified to think that some strange doctor had messed about with her…down… there.
“Shamira, that is the least of you worries, Ayeesha! Latifa!”
And at that he grabbed his niece’s arms and two burly veiled maids appeared. And to the girl’s horror they were carrying attire identical to that of her cousin. “Strip her!” commanded Uncle Mohammed. Silently yet methodically, they proceeded to do just that. As Mohammed held his niece tightly, the two anonymous servants took the scarf off her head, trousers off her legs and blouse off her body. Shamira thought that then it would stop, but to her disgust, it did not. As her cousins stood watching, her underwear was removed, revealing her re-virginised sex and calmly a metal chastity belt was produced and clasped around her. Shami gasped as the cold metal touched her skin, partially from the shock but more because she knew that worse was to follow.
Noiselessly the maids poured talcum powder all over her body and then it – the terrifying, all-encompassing, rubber purdah suit – was brought out. As her uncle continued to grasp her from behind, the maids lifted her legs and started to slide the thick sheath up over them. Shami shivered even though it was not cold as the rubber crept upwards, now to her knees, now her hips With some effort they smoothed it over her rather large derriere, sealing the chastity belt in and then up they went. When they got to her arms, her uncle fed them into a sort of rubber sleeve that kept them elbow to hand together behind her back. It was not particularly uncomfortable but as the suit rolled past and sealed that it also, she discovered to her dismay that it was completely immobilising. When it came to the mouth, her uncle held her nose until she had to breathe and then popped in the small black plastic appendage that was attached to the back of the suit and as soon as the zip which stretched from mid-back to the rear of her cranium was done up then he inflated the appendage by means of a small pump at the back of Shamira’s head. Once done, it was again not uncomfortable yet at the same time, the ability to make any sound other than an indistinct grunt was wholly removed.
The suit thus fitted only met the end of the first stage in Shami’s dressing. Thick stockings and embroidered slippers were now fitted to her feet and a piece of gauze material wrapped around her head causing the poor girl’s vision to be reduced to dim blur. Then came the jilbab and after that the khimar in plain black, heavy and reaching down to her feet. And then finally, to top it off, the full niqaab faceveil, not really needed since her face was entirely covered twice over, but an extra precaution against an illegal glimpse of her features and an extra dimming of her sight.
“Shamira,” announced her guardian. “Like your cousins, this shall be your daily attire from now on. You shall wear it at all times save for sleeping and prayer when your hands and voice are required. From this day forth you shall bring glory, not shame onto the name of Husseini by living in strict purdah in accordance with Allah’s holy law. The situation shall only change when you marry. Then you will be your husband’s responsibility and hen shall decide how to keep you. Now, Chakila and Soraya, leave your cousin. She is to be locked in this room alone for the rest of the day so that she may repent of her sins and come to terms with her new life. Depart!”
And at that they all departed. Shami could not see them do so very clearly – all that she could catch were the dimmest of outlines – but she heard them scurry away and knew instinctively that Uncle Mohammed was a man who is obeyed. The door closed with a bang, the key was turned in the lock and Shamira Husseini was alone.
It took Shami some time to get used to her new dress code. Although she had been wearing hijaab for some time now, it was still a world away from her new predicament. From being virtually free she was now completely imprisoned.
Imprisoned within her own clothing.
‘Oh, a cell would be better than this!’ she thought as she tried to wiggle her arms about and found that they would budge not an inch. She then tried walking. The long, tight leather skirt truly did limit her stride to the tiniest of minces and at first she almost fell over as she tried to move in her usual manner and failed. The matter was further compounded by her arms which, held immovable in the leather sleeve, could no longer assist her in retaining her balance. She felt like a walking tree trunk. It was weird.
She minced over to a nearby chair and attempted to sit down. There came another surprise. She could sit quite easily! The rubber, although thick and constraining allowed more bending that she expected. She could turn this way and that, sit or stand with ease. That at least was a relief. If only the rest were so good. Her sight for example. Now that she was getting accustomed to the veils she could make out the outlines of most things in the room and recognise most items. However, it was not really seeing. It was more like when you awake in the middle of the night and grope your way towards the bathroom without putting the light on for fear of waking others in the house. After a while you can see the layout of your surroundings quite clearly, but still it is dark and hazy, like there is a thick film over your eyes.
Or a thick veil.
Or three thick veils.
So she could no longer see, move or balance properly. What else? Well, talk or indeed communicate in any manner of course! Humans communicate in a variety of ways – speech, eye contact, writing and reading, hand gestures – yet Shamira was denied them all. Instead she was naught but a silent, anonymous black heap in the corner of the room. Her thoughts, opinions, loves and hates no longer mattered. In the name of religion and purity, she had been reduced to something that was barely human. In her desperation she began to cry. There she was, a faceless, helpless heap of black cloth, her beloved parents dead and no one in the whole of Pakistan who she loved and who loved her, alone, completely alone in her hijaab purdah prison and…
And yet, she was not quite alone. Her thoughts turned back to those lazy days in the coffee shop in Karachi, chatting with Faisal. Faisal, yes, Faisal! The only person she cared about in all Pakistan. She cared for him and she was sure that he cared for her. Cared for her and would help her, that she knew, if only she could get word to him of her plight. Yes indeed, he would rescue her and return her to her carefree life of a happy teenage girl.
Yet how can a restrained, purdah-living girl ever get word to anyone? Nay, it was hopeless. In her desperation and loneliness, large tears began to fall from her eyes.
But under all those layers, no one ever saw them.
Life soon formed a boring monotony for Shami. She was awakened every morning by a maid named Ayeesha who divested her of her rubber suit, (which she was forced to wear at night also, thankfully minus all the other garments), and led her to the toilet where she would perform her ablutions before donning a simple black Kashmiri burqa and performing her morning prayers to the sound of the muezzin. Then she would be re-encased in the fearsome suit before being fed, a humiliating and thoroughly miserable experience. Previously mealtimes had always been a highlight of Shami’s day, yet under purdah, that pleasure too was denied her. Instead a mush similar to that which babies are fed on was squeezed down the tube in the middle of her gag and down her throat. It tasted of nothing and afforded her no pleasure yet filled her up and kept her healthy. The she was covered in her many layers and sent out to spent her day in purdah. Her uncle had made it clear that his females were never to leave the house nor indulge in any ‘evil’ activities, so all that she was allowed was having a servant read the Qu’ran or other religious texts to her, sitting in silence with her cousins and watching an Islamic channel on satellite TV or prayer. IT was hardly a scintillating range of fun activities and to Shami who had never been the slightest bit religious, it was hellish. At other times she would sit in silent attendance as her uncle and the occasional male guest enjoyed a meal or conversation, or, once a week on a Friday, listen to a lecture on the female role in an Islamic household, Islamic marriages or Life in Purdah by some mullah from the local mosque. All in all, it was enough to drive her around the bend.
Then, as the day drew to a close, she would be escorted back to her room by Ayeesha who would strip and clean her, (for with only one toilet visit per day and a solid diet of liquid mush, she was forever having ‘accidents’), before being zipped back into the rubber suit and bundled into bed after evening prayers.
And that was it. In her new and holier life, there was no companionship, no activity and no joy. Instead, endless hours of complete boredom as encapsulated and bound into helplessness she wandered around the house trying to make out what the objects were before her through the multitude of veils that she was forced to wear.
Then, one day, after Shami had been encased in her purdah hell for almost a month, something very unexpected happened. In the middle of the night, the light in her bedroom was switched on and three figures entered. To her astonishment, they were female… and unveiled.
“Get up! Get up Shamira!” whispered a familiar voice. It was her aunt! Shami sat up and to her surprise another of the ladies – the servant – started to unzip her rubber suit. Confused yet excited, she waited patiently as it was peeled off her and her arm bondage removed. After stretching her aching limbs, she finally asked a simple question.
“Your uncle is away, Shamira,” he aunt whispered in reply. “He has gone for a week back to Karachi. He is looking for husbands for both you and Soraya. Whenever he goes, Ayeesha here kindly takes off our bondage and lets us live a little, but we have to do it in secret as he has many spies and if we were to be found out, then… well, it does not bear thinking about.”
“Well, thank you… but aunt, I do not understand… I always thought that you actually, well, loved living in purdah.”
“Shamira, there is purdah and there is your uncle. I was brought up the traditional way, in purdah, as a niqaabi, but what your cousins, I and you now are forced to endure here under this roof is something else entirely.”
“It’s sick!” added the third woman who previously had not spoken.
“Excuse me,” said Shami, “but who are you?”
The girl, a pretty creature of a similar age to Shami herself smiled. “Sorry not to do so earlier, I was incapacitated you see, but my name is Soraya and I am your cousin.”
The two girls shook hands and laughed. “It’s silly isn’t it,” said Shami, “but we’ve living together all these months and we don’t know each other at all.”
“It’s not silly, Shamira,” interjected her aunt, “it’s sad. I so wanted to welcome you to the family and up to now we’ve remained strangers.”
It was then that Shami realised there was someone missing. “But where’s Chakila?” she asked.
Soraya tutted and gazed heavenwards. “That crazy girl! We don’t include her in our little freedom sessions. Papa and the school have brainwashed her so much that she started to tell the servants how un-Islamic we were being when Papa went away. One day he found out and hit the roof. He sacked the servant who used to free us. Thankfully, he didn’t know that Ayeesha here was her sister and confidant. Soraya is a total extremist, she even asked Papa to fetter her further – all in the name of Allah of course – she gets some kind of kick out of it. I however, am quite different.”
That night turned out to be one of the most heavenly of Shami’s life. She sat for hours getting to know her aunt and cousin and lamenting the terrible regime that all were forced to endure. Then she also asked Ayeesha to help her.
“There is only one person in Pakistan who can come to my aid, but he I know I can trust. If I write a letter, could you find someone to deliver it, please?”
The servant looked uneasy. “Well, it will be risky but, yes missy, of course I will.”
The following night Ayeesha brought some paper and a biro and Shami penned her SOS letter.
Faisal my love,
It is me, your Shami. I am so sorry that I stopped coming to the coffee shop every afternoon. It is not by choice. I know that you tried to contact me but alas, I was unable to reply. My uncle whom I told you about turned out to be worse than I ever imagined. When he found out about us meeting, he kidnapped me and took me to his house in Kashmir where I am forced to live in total purdah, covered up like a religious sister and gagged. My life is a living hell and I dream and think of you everyday. Please, please help me my love, release me from this prison, and I shall do whatever you wish. I am so desperate and unhappy here, come as soon as you can and aid me in my distress.
P.S. Do not reply to this letter as my uncle screens all our mail.
Then, on the bottom of the sheet she wrote the address of the house where he might find her. Then, folded and despatched, she was content. He would surely come to her rescue! There was some hope at last, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Alas, the time of even those limited night-time freedoms was over all too soon as Uncle Mohammed returned from Karachi at the end of the week and the old hellish monotony of purdah life was restored. Not only that, but there was now also another factor to contend with, for, as her aunt had warned, her uncle was now intent on marrying both her eldest daughter and niece off as soon as possible. From what Soraya had told her during their night-time conversations, just before leaving he had made her strip off her veils and had a portrait photograph taken. He had not done the same with Shami since, in his own words, ‘there are photographs enough of that little slut taken when she lived as a whore in England.’ These photos he had then circulated amongst appropriate eligible bachelors in both Karachi and Islamabad and those interested were invited down to the house to begin negotiations and to see if they pleased the prospective brides.
And as both Soraya and Shami were beautiful, rich and virgins, then there were no shortage of callers. Every other day the same humiliating charade was played out. Young man comes to visit. He is introduced to the heap of cloth that he desires to marry and then that said heap of cloth sits in the room whilst Uncle Mohammed questions him of his religiosity, his views on how women should be ‘kept’ and how much dowry he expects. Depending on how he answers on all of these issues, Uncle Mohammed then decides if he is ‘suitable’ or not, and if he is, he is made to ask gagged and bound heap of cloth who must either nod or shake to indicate her feelings on the matter. Ridiculous, backward and humiliating, and yet alas for Shamira, a recurring nightmare.
When she had talked with Soraya on the issue of marriage during their freedom session, her cousin had said that she could not wait to rid herself of the yoke of her father by marrying the first man that came along. Shami could understand this completely – after all, anything was better than living as she was now – but she also realised that her position differed considerably from that of her cousin. Soraya after all, was her father’s responsibility for life, unless she got married. Shami on the other hand, was only under his guardianship until her eighteenth birthday. Of course, it could be that he would try to keep her in his power for longer than that, but if he did so then she could sneak a letter out to the British Embassy through Ayeesha and they would surely do something.
Nonetheless, a month and a half later when she was sat gagged, bound and veiled in a white khimar at Soraya’s wedding to one Nasser Khan, a thirty-two year-old mullah from the North West Frontier Province, Shami felt sad and envious of her cousin even though her life with her new husband would be led in the strictest purdah. Her only companion was being taken away from her; how would she be able to cope for a year or two on her own imprisoned in rubber and veils?
Then, two weeks later, it happened. A man arrived at the door in response to the advertisement for husbands for Shamira Husseini. He was about the thirtieth man to appear and so Shami felt nothing in particular as she was wheeled out to meet him. However, as soon as he spoke, she realised that it was her lucky day.
“Shamira, my name is Faisal Khan. I am honoured to meet with you.”
It was him! It truly was! She strained her eyes through the layers and could make out but an outline of a man in the baggy clothes of a fundamentalist. But that voice! That voice she would recognise anywhere! He was obviously acting the part so as to convince her uncle. He had got the letter and was coming to her rescue!
“Oh yes, we pray five times daily and pay our tithes. Hajj? Of course I have been on the hajj! What do you take me for Mr. Husseini? Dowry? No, no dowry expected. We have plenty of money in the Khan family, sir. It is virtuous young virgins accustomed to living in purdah that we are short of…”
‘What an actor! What a hero! What a man!’ thought Shami in a swoon.
“Well, you seem quite acceptable to me,” Uncle Mohammed announced at last. “However, it all decides on Shamira here. I must warn you now sir, she can be quite picky. Don’t get your hopes up too high.”
“I shall not, sir, thank you.” He got up and walked over to his veiled love. “Shamira Husseini, will you marry me?” he asked.
Under all that cloth her mind raced. She’d promised herself that she would not marry and instead return to England at eighteen a maiden. However, that meant six months more of the hell of life under her uncle’s roof and if she were ever to marry a man, could she choose better than Faisal Khan?
Slowly but surely she nodded her head.
Uncle Mohammed and Faisal looked at one another and smiled in delight.
And so here we find our heroine. For the first time in months she is naked, clean and shaven, lying on her bed in the arms of her new husband. They are both tired, chests heaving after the exertions of the wedding night. It had not been Shami’s first experience of sex of course, but it had been the best. After a hellish wedding day when she’d been ensconced in her rubber suit as usual and then had so many veils thrown own her that she could see not a thing, and been forced to sit through the ceremony and the following celebrations mute and uncomprehending. Afterwards however, she’d been taken by Ayeesha to her new chamber, stripped and washed and then shaved and lotioned. She’d waited anxiously for him to arrive and when he had… well, he was just as handsome, just as brilliant, just as perfect as she’d remembered. They kissed with a passion and then made love so many times that the very heavens opened and the new couple entered Paradise itself. They entered Paradise and now she was starting to come back down to earth.
She snuggled up to her husband and kissed him on the neck. “I’m so happy,” she whispered.
“So am I,” he whispered back. “However, now that we both seem finished and exhausted through all our exertions, then I suppose it’s time to talk about our new life together.”
“Whatever you want, darling,” she replied lovingly.
“Good,” said Faisal, and then with one deft movement he grabbed her arms and bent them behind her back before adding something with a click-click.
“What!?” said Shami in surprise.
Faisal ignored her, and instead bent down to her ankles and did the same there. Shami tried to move her arms and then her legs and discovered that they had both been cuffed. “Why!?” she asked in astonishment.
“Because my dear, I suspect that you may not like some of my new ground rules.” He then got up and walked over to a cupboard which he opened and took something out of. “Do you know what this is?” he asked.
Shami knew immediately. What he held in his hand was completely white, but she recognised the shape and material. “Oh no, please!” she said. “Not a rubber bodysuit like my uncle used to make me wear!”
“Oh no, Shami babe, this is not like your uncle made you wear, not at all. He was lenient. He had no imagination, no creativity. This one is far better. Look! It covers all you body, not only up to your eyes but over them. All your head in fact. Of course, your beautiful long hair shall have to be shaved off for you to wear it, but that is alas, an unfortunate necessity. And unlike your uncle’s pathetic contraption, (which I designed, by the by), this one has a beautiful boned and laced neck that shall keep you erect and noble at all times, and an even finer laced and boned waist so you can be squeezed like a white memsahib in her corset. And here, at the bottom you see, built in shoes, with fifteen centimetre heels of course, and here, two little extras for my personal pleasure; a hole for your love cavern and a hole for your arse so I may spear you wherever and whenever I wish…”
“No! No! No!”
“…not that they’ll be empty at all other times of course. Look at these rather fine – and rather large – dildos that I’ve acquired. Oh my dear Shami, you are going to be such a picture in all this, and I’ve got lots of different stuff for you to wear over the top of it too – Afghani burqas, Paktoon burqas, Turkish khimars, Iranian chadors, rubands, boushiyahs – not that you’ll ever see much of them of course, these two tiny pinholes in the rubber hood don’t admit a lot of light…”
“Please Faisal, no, no not that!” Floods of tears streamed down our heroine’s face as she begun to realise that there was no light at the end of this tunnel. “Why, Faisal, why? I didn’t think that you were religious!”
“Oh, I’m not, not at all. Can’t abide religion, most dull indeed.”
“Then why make me live in purdah? Only religious men expect their wives to live in purdah.”
“Oh no Shami baby, you’re wrong there, very wrong indeed. There are two reasons why one should restrict and control a wife. One is very virtuous and holy indeed. The other however is more inspired by Shaitan, not Allah. Some men like to see suffering, to force unwilling girls into bondage, to rob them of their dignity and freedoms and turn them into items of bondage, lovetoys as it were. Some men are very sick, sick like that.
And I’m afraid my dear, that you’ve just married one of them…”
P.S. Although this tale is finished, if anyone wishes to write an account of Shamira’s veiled bondage and her new life with Faisal, please feel free to do so and don’t forget to send it to Tales of the Veils afterwards!
In August 2013 the request above has been answered by Den Sethos. Click to read his story “A Preacher for Shamira“.