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Analysis Featured Gender

From under the feet of my mother

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. It is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights. After the Socialist Party of America organized Women’s Day on February 28, 1909, in New York, the 1910 International Socialist Woman’s Conference suggested a Women’s Day be held annually. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations. (Wikipedia)

That’s how we in Pakistan also have a Women’s Day. The day might be the same for all but in our case there are a bit curiously different connotations this time.

In Pakistan it has been a couple of things happening as a prelude to this day that makes for very interesting debate. Those were two speeches on the floor of the parliament. The speeches were in the context of Pakistan India standoff. They had got absolutely nothing to do with Women’s Day. But the way they have turned, fed into and especially coincided with the Women’s Day seems surreal. The irony of the coincidence is such that if translated into a hallucinatory world, you’d find a familiar someone smiling down on the floor of the parliament. And that familiar someone would be a woman. An exceptionally strong woman. An indescribably brave woman.

One speech was a cracker. The other one was almost universally trashed, except for those who predominately live on the social media in a ‘Youth Bubble’. For the inhabitants of the Youth Bubble, the first speech was actually trash. As to which speech was great and which was trash is not the point here. The unintended, sub-rhetorical narrative exposed by the two speeches considered together is the exciting stuff actually.

First Shakespeare found himself on the wrong side of literature, and may be even history. He had famously said: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. No dear Shakespeare, may be in Romeo and Juliet, but not at least in the politics of Pakistan. If you stand up and say some great things for the country at a critical juncture, your political adversary will stand up and discredit you for the way you chose to be named and addressed, instead of whatever you said. As if there was a cast in stone patriarchal rules book for names that in no circumstances could be deviated from. Many people would disagree to this patriarchal rule. Some of them extremely important people.

Among the living ones, Amir Khan and Kiran Rao. The Bollywood super couple. They’ve named their son Azad Rao Khan. Azad first takes his mother’s name and then his father’s. Nobody seems to have any problem with their method of naming. Not even Shakti Kapoor. Anyone from the Youth Bubble, please ?

But some might argue it was not just the method or arrangement of the name. We actually meant lineage. How can one not take lineage from his father, and instead from his mother. That’s not how the world works. Really ?


In history there was a man named Jesus. Jesus, the son of Mary. The Virgin Mary. Mary, a woman and a mother. But in the world of Youth Bubble, they are on record to have said that Jesus hadn’t had much place in world history. That the religion he founded has the most followers, around two billion as we speak, does not qualify for a place in world history. But may be I should be careful not giving a Christian argument, lest I attract an edict for Kufr.

In Islam, another man who belonged to the same tradition. The tradition of offering the highest personal sacrifice for the right principle. He was Hussain, the grandson of Muhammad PBUH, whose lineage to the Prophet PBUH, is traced through Fatima, his mother, and a woman of great virtue. In the parliament of a State created in the name of Islam, and on which is inscribed the first Kalma very prominently, how’d the patriarchal scheme of name and lineage be reconciled with this historical fact, which has a critically important matriarchal connection.

Going into the Women’s Day, we see a young man trying desperately hard to evoke the legacy and charm of his mother. And he is getting increasingly successful at that. His detractors trying their best, or should it be called their worst, to disconnect his lineage from his mother and instead connect it to his father. And spare a thought for the father. Sitting by his son while he delivered his Motherish speech, smiling at times at one can only wonder what. From up somewhere above the Dome of the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, some of us could see someone beaming and smiling at her child. She is a mother. She is a woman. Happy Women’s Day!

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