Lahore’s a strange city. Boys hold hands. Girls lock arms. The shopkeeper is your ‘cha cha’ and the cleaning lady your ‘masi’. Curious aunties peep through their windows to gather gossip and ill mannered uncles just don’t refrain themselves from scratching their crotches in public. Men in general are so intimate with the city itself that they’ll loosen the draw strings that secure their salwars to their waists and relieve themselves anywhere anytime nature calls – sidewalks, parks.
As intimate and strange as it is, Lahore is unforgiving to women who live independently. When I went house hunting a few months back, I learned that no one was willing to rent their place to a woman who wished to live alone. The few who did, declared themselves my spiritual mothers. They wanted full responsibility of my social actions. Curfew times were to be imposed and I wasn’t to take a rickshaw after maghrib .
As I scrummaged through limited options, settling for a house with peeling paint rather than one with wooden floors and 9 pm curfew, I realized that in this city a woman is nothing without a man. When a friend’s brother left for another city, leaving her to live alone in the house, neighbors started ringing him. Apparently, his sister was receiving too many visitors. It would be different if he was there. Anyone could come and go. But mixed groups of men and women entering a single women’s house! Astagfirullah bro!
Why is it that a woman living alone is more vulnerable to committing “sins”? Are single woman “corrupt” because they don’t have men ( many of whom pinch asses and oogle) as their guardians to keep a check on them? Why is it that my social actions are your social responsibility? Aren’t we all meant to tend to our own gardens?