Hello, Two Worlds

The story shifts from east to west and back  

Behind the Veil

By Momal Mushtaq | August 8, 2009 | 0 Comment

behind-the-veil (1)

It was a luxuriously furnished room. One door led to the bathroom; the other opened to the magnificent drawing room. The bathroom was elegantly furnished. It was the size of a typical living room. Even the bath alone could accommodate four normal sized adults. At this time of the day, minute traces of Arabian moonlight enlightened the wide room. Two servants slept soundly on the carpeted floor. They seemed heaped bundles. Only when they’d turn and move, you could recognize them. In the center, there stood a canopy bed with flower lamps on its sides. A slim figure snuggled deep in a mattress and fluffy blankets. You could make out her delicate, long hands and slightly wavy black hair. A nightgown, more often seen on movie screen than in life, flickered in the moonlight.

The young girl was Princess Mashal, niece of an Arab King. She was nineteen. Her exceptionally dark eyes left you in a state of awe. You had to fix your gaze on her. She was a beauty. No words could merit her description for her exotic beauty was incomparable.

She was married at a young age. Most of the times, her husband would be away though that barely mattered, for he had no particular liking for Mashal. However, he wouldn’t agree to divorce. Sympathy? No. Actually the love for the details of this marriage was an obstacle. Mashal belonged to one of the most significant and wealthiest families in the world. To end such a relationship was to deny both a grand honor and a grand wealth which, obviously, her husband wasn’t willing for. Consequently, Mashal had to bear the pain of forlornness; in the void; silently.

The young princess resided in a palatial residence. Her days were spent in mere idleness. The soul of the palace, though magnificent, was similar to a women’s prison. The walls were more to keep them in than to keep the intruders out. The princesses, widowed or divorced, had separate apartments. At midnight, they’d gather in a large hall. Hollywood movies were contemplated. Dances were practised. Eventually, the weary princesses returned to their bedrooms and slept till late afternoon. The rest of the day involved visiting a neighbour, fittings with the palace dressmakers, and regular visits to the hairdressers. Even in the bright sunlight, glorious evening gowns were worn and a lot of make-up done. On the contrary, these princesses were incapable of raising a child. The trivial happenings mattered, for e.g. a new haircut. The serious occurrences were unknown.

The privileged Middle Eastern families visited the West particularly for two reasons: 1) medical treatment, 2) shopping. Annually, Princess Mashal visited London and Paris often for the said intents. Probably, during one of these trips, she fell for someone. She wasn’t supposed to. But love happens. And it did in her case. In Arabia, eyes are a symbol of love; not a heart. And there were times when Mashal secretly cried, “My eyes! My eyes!”

Her fate was unknown to her. And when it revealed itself, she was too blind to save herself. She decided to run away with her beloved. Her schemes reflected her innocence. She couldn’t hide for long. It came as an obvious shock when the young princess was caught and executed on the order of her own grandfather.

It leaves me in great pain when I think of the thoughts that occupied her mind, as her eyes and arms were tied. She was left there in the wilderness; to be hurt till she died.

It seems very hard to see a glowing life fading away in the facades of darkness without any glory. The question is who to put blame on: the princess, her lifestyle, her grandfather, or the rules governing the society? Since life is not a fairytale and the earth is also not uniform. As was explained by Mark Twain in his immortal verse, “East is East, and West is West, and never the Twain shall they meet.” The princess must have learned the social structure or fabric of her society in which she dwelled. By not having any second thoughts about her action in a society whose notions of honour and dignity are different from that of the West, I think she must have not taken such a drastic step.

Momal Mushtaq

I am a passionate women's rights activist and an aspiring social entrepreneur from Pakistan. My work in development and media communications, with focus on youth and gender equality, has been recognized by global awards, including a first place award from the United Nations.


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