Story of “Maryam and Miryana” is the Story of “East and West”
It is heart wrenching to see the fates of lookalike souls who were born on the same planet, but treated differently for who they were.
By M Bilal Awan
In the year 2001, just across the wild lush fields, we saw Miryana, who was busy harvesting the grapes. We snuck up on her and it drew her attention immediately; a wide smile brimmed across her face. Merely a young girl of 17 she was, whose emotional stream was affluent all across her substance.
“Hello Merry, you know you are going to be interviewed”. Cheerfully announced Miryana’s chum, Nina—a lively girl of Miryana’s age—- and who had brought us to her friend, Miryana. Nina turned her neck and gleefully added: “Meet my famous friend gentlemen”.
Ok, let’s sort out first who we are, before taking you to a brisk walk through.
Well, my name is Mr. Cod and with me is my assistant, William, an Irish man. We two are freelance documentary maker. We visited Dorset in 2001—a county located in South West England on the English Channel coast. The purpose for meeting Miryana backtracked to the wonderment that arose when William, my friend, flipped through an amazing best-seller authored by a teenage girl of Dorset. The free hand sketches alongside the poems were worth a watch stuff while letting loose the recesses of the young poetess mind. In her write ups, she tapped the secret chords of a life of a British countryside girl with her long figures and portrayed the most authentic spectacles of the wide grass land and grazing sheep.
“oo my mystical heaven, Dorset, I found you the last night, when the night ushered the moon and the stars to the dawn”
We were struck in awe of her astounding literary work. Being an avid reader, William drooled and pushed me for this trip. He wanted to churn out a short biopic flick.
Miryana genuinely knew nothing about how to handle fame when it knocks hard at door. Certainly not a girl next door she was, but an absolute budding maven to be precise, who would take pride in flaunting her genius more often than not.
“We won’t ask you generic questions. Just let us know who and what inspired you the most for poems”?
“Oook……”she giggled a bit, looked both ways and like any girl of her age seemed confounded. The grapes in her hands were gouged out. ” When I was very young, I fell off a saddle and the pain never went away ever since. I wrote a poem to express my pain and then showed it to my father”.
” Sad to hear that. So felling off the horse was that one moment when you discovered yourself as a poetess”. William asked.
“Yes, definitely”. She lost in the moment again. Her voice echoed in the room.
“Did it hurt? I mean, did you dare to ride the same horse again?”.
“I never rode a horse and neither did I when I fell off. The saddle was in the backyard and while I sat on it astride. I fell off”. Plainly she said. At first we thought it was a joke. But looking at her infringed us from retorting.
“I thought, we all fall. we have to fall. But falling from horse is better than falling off a saddle in your backyard. It’s about gaining experiences, good and bad. I mean experiences are always good if one sees them with a perspectival eye. Due to a natural deformation in my spinal cord the doctors said I must not ride a horse ever. So not being able to experience riding a horse and falling in process haunted me ever since and thence I chose poetry to satiate my unfulfilled desires.”
In later days, Miryana’s talent was recognized by the local borough’s administration and she had been given an opportunity to study at one of the premier schools in Northern England, courtesy to her townsmen who raised fund for her tuition fee. She worked at community media association and remained involved in multitasking. Her first book came out in market and prevailed. Her second and third books’ publishing rights allured tens of publishers.
Time flew by and in 2017, William and me had a reunion for a documentary project laid down by an American digital cable and satellite television network. After a stint of hectic deliberations of the jury over a pile of competitive proposal submissions, the project had been awarded to us. However we were asked to perform in the first stage of the project to had any chances of moving down to the second layer. We were supposed to document a series of human civilization in Pakistan.
While treading across the refugee camps near Rawalpindi, we caught sight of a young women, Maryam. At first we thought she was an Afghan expatriate, but she turned out to be an indigenous to Moosan Shah, a constituency of district Kherpur Sind. Her vivacious vibes immediately caught our attention and we got involved. She looked promising nonetheless lost somewhere inside herself–just like an artist. Her bloom was withering yet her eyes emanate gleam. Though not a verbose speaker of English, she could display a high-level competency in Urdu, Pashto and Persian, which stunned us. She told us she was a writer. A famous writer whose prose was quite lyrical, almost poetic in a way.
According to her, by the time she arrived in the refugee camp, she has had her two books out in the market. Cutting the long story short, she threw light on her journey. Being a part of a conservative family, she had to use a pen name instead of her original name and would send her manuscripts to one of the publishing houses in Sikandarabad. The publisher knew her and encouraged her to write short stories. Upon sheer motivation, she decided to come out of her den and put down some exquisite prose. Her literary work had been lavished by superlatives immediately and got her popular among the literary niche in Kherpur. All the accolades and invitations were being sent to the publisher as no one knew who she was. Her first book received the award for best literary work by an emerging female writer and a cash sum of 25,000 rupees was announced. However, she refused to allow her publisher to reveal her identity.
Meanwhile as is case with most patriarchal society, the publisher, the male chauvinist, started blackmailing her and threatened her that if she wouldn’t succumb to his illegal demands, he’d convey her family what they didn’t know about her till yet. Meanwhile the publisher sent an anonymous letter to her family.
Knowing the consequences of the latter, she had no option but to flee from the scene while making sure to take her mother into confidence before cutting and run. Her mother knew that Maryam’s brother wouldn’t spare her for the “act” she had committed, and that’s why she sent her to Punjab to her relatives. In her absence, the Jirga passed the verdict and ordered the members to hunt her down where ever she had settled. Anticipating the possibility of being caught, she went to seek shelter in Dar-ul-Amaan but had to leave it too after sensing that the high ups weren’t trust worthy either. From thereon, she found the refugee camp as the ultimate harbour refugee, where at least she considered herself safe. She didn’t know how long would they allow her to stay in and what her next destination would look like, but keeping herself alive was the last thing that was there on her mind.
On our way back home, Williams and me ruminate much about the fates of lookalike originate souls who were born on the same planet, but treated differently for who they were. This difference stretched as wider as a difference between east and West.
M Bilal Awan is a research analyst in Islamabad.