A short story by Gulchaman Rahmani
Ashraf did not have a son. His wife, Naz Begum, had given him five daughters and was pregnant again.
He warned his wife, “This is your last chance. If you deliver a girl again, I will take a second wife. I will marry another woman. Someone who can give me a son.”
Naz Begum was a pretty, kind, optimistic woman, and a loyal wife who loved her husband. Whenever Ashraf talked about having a son, she would say, “God is kind and he will grant us a son one day. Please do not worry. And remember, our daughters are also God’s blessing. They are human like boys.”
But, Ashraf was not a reasonable and compassionate father. He did not love his daughters and he believed that a girl never could equal a boy.
“Even though Ashraf and all men like him have mothers, they refuse to respect girls and women,” Parwin said. She was Naz Begum’s best friend.
“Ashraf always says to me that women are weak and helpless and when a woman marries she should be her husband’s servant for life.” Naz Begum said and began to cry.
Parwin hugged her friend and said “Ishshsh…, everything will be okay, never mind.”
On one cold winter day, Naz Begum asked her husband for some money to buy warm clothes for their daughters, especially the new baby girl she had just had, but he became furious.
“Let them die,” he said. “I do not care. They are not worth spending money on.” He added. “I am no longer the father of these worthless girls because they just drain me of my money.
Naz Begum went to the kitchen and sat and cried for hours because of Ashraf’s harsh words.
After several days, she made a decision to be a tailor so that she would not have to bother her husband by asking for money anymore. She sewed clothes for her neighbors and saved some money. After that, she did not ask Ashraf for money. Now Naz Begum was an independent woman. She was still very kind to her husband even though he was thinking about a new wife, a new life and having son.
Friends and family blamed Naz Begum for not having a son and they supported Ashraf marrying another woman. Naz Begum and Ashraf went to doctor to find out how they could have a son. The doctor told them that the baby’s gender depended on the man, not the woman. But Ashraf and the people on his side, who were uneducated, did not want to accept this truth.
Naz Begum decided to find another wife for her husband. She did not want to watch her husband be harassed by his family and friends. Naz Begum talked to Ashraf about this and Ashraf was thrilled with the idea, and saw it as a great chance and excuse to get away from Naz Begum and his daughters. He accepted without much thought.
Naz Begum was heartbroken by how delighted Ashraf was but she pretended that she was okay with the plan.
After some weeks Naz Begum found a lady, Halima, who was twenty-five who agreed to meet Ashraf and marry him. Halima was pretty and when Ashraf met Halima he accepted the marriage immediately, not giving a second thought to Naz Begum or their daughters. After their marriage, Halima had two more daughters. Ashraf was a shopkeeper and he was not able to support the expenses of two families. Naz Begum felt sorry for him so with her six daughters left Ashraf’s home and went to another town to live.
Ashraf still had only one wish — to have a son — so he got married for a third time. This wife, Nargis, delivered a baby boy. Finally, Ashraf got his wish at the age of sixty. He celebrated his son’s birthday by inviting fifty people to a party for one week in his home.
Meanwhile, Naz Begum and her daughters continued sewing clothes. In this way they earned money and could provide a calm and peaceful life for themselves.
When Ashraf was seventy, he became very weak and ill. He was in bed for most of the time. He began thinking about his whole life, all his memories, and about Naz Begum and his daughters. He realized that he had not lived well and he never could be a good husband for Naz Begum who gave him so much. He could not be a good father for her daughters either, and now it was too late. Death was calling Ashraf. He wished he could see Naz Begum one last time and say, “My loyal wife! I am so sorry for not being a good husband.”
Ashraf died and his son who was just ten was carried to an orphanage. Ashraf’s second and third wives were poor. They could not raise him. When Naz Begum heard about Ashraf’’s death, she became very sad and went to his grave. She cried and said “Ashraf! I am so sorry we could not have a better life. I tried to provide you a better life but I failed. “
After some weeks Naz Begum convinced her daughters that they should invite Ashraf’s other wives and children, including their half-brother, Ali, to live with them. They brought them all to their small, shiny home. Certainly, now they were a complete and beautiful family.
About the Author: Gulchaman Rahmani is a graduate of Kabul Medical University where she studied stomatology. She is also a Star Educational Society alumna.