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Stepping out of your ‘Comfort Zone’ is the real challenge. Little did I know what this sentence meant until I myself stepped out of my comfort zone and took challenges in my life.
So, I was a super happy BBA grad, like every other girl in my university, ready to take the next big step in life. Thanks to Allah, I got my first job before my convocation and started to plan my life ahead. It was a decent job in Sales department, with good package and a car for commuting within Karachi as traveling and maintaining clientele was part of my job description.
With uncountable perks, best work environment, healthy opportunities and ample growth, I took the job. However, what came next, turned my life upside down.
My reporting branch was situated at Korangi Industrial Area, near Jinnah Medical and Pakistan Steel Mills. My day at work started from 9am, where I’d drive to work daily and return around 7ish pm.
I did not have the slightest clue that the experience I was going to gain from this organization or in this specific role, will change me a person. And so my way of thinking regarding a lot of little things including my perception changed.
I had always been a pampered child of my family. Too protected, too polished. Not going to far flung areas of Karachi because of the usual ‘halaat kharab hein’ or ‘garmi bohot hai’ or ‘Tyre uncture hogaya tou?’ etc.
So as soon as my rotation ended, I was asked to report to Branch 1 at Korangi, which by the way I’d be referring to as ‘my happy place’ throughout this article.
First day, I was on my way to ‘my happy place’, with closer on full volume and shades in place. As I reached Brooks chowrangi, I realized I had something on my face. Something huge. Maybe near my eyes. Maybe on my forehead. The first thing I did after reaching my office was rush to the restroom and check if my “no makeup look” was on point. And the hell it was! I was confused, blank and totally lost.
If my makeup was fine, if my forehead did not have any huge black spot, then what was it? Why were some eyes glued to me throughout my journey? Why were they following me as I drove past each one of them? Looking as if they were trying to tell me something. Say something. Or maybe give a signal?
I pushed these thoughts away and chose to continue working. Little did I know the horror show is yet to start!
Next day, worse!
The eyes pierced through me. The abysmal bus conductor standing near Imtiaz’s bus stop, or a bike rider on Shaan Chorangi’s signal, had their skin piercing sharp looks and their bee-like huge eyes stuck on me as I passed by them. Chills running down my spine, I did what I did best, imagined my Mehran as a Ferrari and drove as fast as I could, to reach my happy place.
Same like the previous day, I rushed to the restroom, hoping to find SOMETHING on my face just to justify those stares. But no, nothing..
As soon as I was turning around to continue with my daily routine, my eyes fell on my shiny gold pendant that I wore everyday to work. Suddenly my father’s reminder popped up in my head. He had given me heads up a few days back and had asked me to avoid using my phone when I enter Korangi area and to avoid wearing or carrying anything super valuable as mugging was a very common practice in this locality.
And this is it! I got it! Mystery solved!
So all those desperate looks were after my little gold pendant! Wow. Ta-daa! Problem solved.
Well, I was stupid enough to think that leaving my pendant on my dressing table before coming to work, would leave all the evil stares somewhere far away from me too.
And yet again, they followed me. Each stare, with a tiny sharp smile, at times a short quick wink was all that I witnessed every morning. I felt exposed, and that’s it! Mom’s voice rushed in my mind “Sar pey dupatta le lia karo, drive kartey huye”
Oh yes, Sana, how can you be so stupid! One piece of cloth on your head, and you’re good to go. Nobody will stop you, nobody will wink smile or even look at you. Problem solved, right? WRONG!
Dupata didn’t work. Well, if covering myself didn’t work, maybe covering the car would work?
Next day, Sana’s covered – check, car covered with shades on each window – check, no necklace or gold pendant – check and lastly, EYES LOOKING AT YOU AND MOUTH GIVING YOU SMILES WITH GUTKA COMING OUT OF THE WHITE-TURNED-BLACK TEETH? CHECK!
And that’s when I sat back and realized. Its not us, girls. It’s our society.
Not everyone is the same, agreed. But we cannot deny how easy it is for a man in Karachi to look at you without blinking his eyes and smile/wink or even bite his lips alongside. However, all a girl can do is look down, elsewhere or just pretend she didn’t meet any eyes whatsoever.
It was hard for me to adjust with this environment. Environment which, neither me nor my family or my company could change. Because this? This runs in their blood.
I thought of asking the usual “tumharey ghar mein maa behen nahi hein kia?” to the culprits, but is it worth it? Its not. This mentality can only be changed through education, because with education comes respect.
So, whoever is out there, driving on the roads getting all the worlds attention, from a hawker in kameez shalwaar, or a paan wala passing a wink, or a bus driver not letting you over take and smiling from his rear view mirror, well trust me, that’s ALL they can do. And you? You can learn to be indifferent about it and make a little prayer for these people who have taken “deikh magar pyaar sey” too literally that yes someday, they will change and we girls, will get our share of respect.
Let the games begin.
Sana – who still drives to her happy place every day, with confidence x100.