Sawera Choudary: At the Edge of Dawn

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”

                     -Henry David Thoreau.

 

I am a morning person. Something about the dark sky before the break of dawn gives me a sense of peace like no other. All my troubles seem nonexistent and all I think about is being mindful of my space and myself. The best part is that there is no odor of marijuana or any other unpleasant thing because no one else in my building is awake. On one of these tranquil instances, I was in the middle of a stretch when I heard the front door close. I was immediately on edge because I knew it could only mean one thing, my father had gone outside to smoke a cigarette and would be back soon.

My heart went from it’s calm state to a racing cheetah in no time. I tried to convince my body I wasn’t in any danger but it refused to listen. The sink was filled with dishes I didn’t clean and I knew I would have to bear the consequences for not doing so. When my father returned, the first place he went to was the kitchen, much to my dismay. I braced myself for the commotion that would follow and sure enough in a few seconds he yelled out my name loud enough to wake up my mom and brothers. He scolded me for not cleaning the dishes and when I calmly said that since they were his, he should clean them. To this he reacted as if I was the unjust one and said that it was a female’s job to do the housework.

This sent my blood boiling and all the fear left my body. I angrily stated that each person has to take care of their own responsibilities. He took this as disrespectful and called my mom. She groggily came to the kitchen rubbing her eyes and asked what was going on. My father proceeded to tell her that I was being disrespectful towards him and this was the result of her upbringing. At this point I knew that no matter what I would say, my father would never understand me. I went to the bathroom to escape the noise coming from the kitchen. I felt defeated. It seemed like every time I tried to tell my parents my views on things, they always took it as a sign of disrespect and I frankly didn’t have the energy to fight them all the time. I just did the things I deemed right and then braced myself for their reactions.

That instance made me think of the things I always have done just for my parent’s peace of mind. Despite never truly understanding the meaning of wearing a piece of cloth on my head, I have worn the hijab since third grade. I have remained quiet while they have yelled at my younger brother for displaying feminine qualities and I have ignored their hints at me that as soon as I have completed a few years of college, they will have me married off to a distant cousin. My parents and I will probably never see eye to eye, the side effect of immigrant parents holding tightly onto the values and traditions of their homelands. But I can’t deal with this constant tension anymore. I want to make decisions that satisfy my morals and principles as a 21st century teenager and not those of my parents’ that suffocate others and their existences. And I know to do this, I will need to make the choices that seem right to me no matter how difficult they may seem.

On November 5th, 2017 I finally took off my headscarf. Though the first few days after I took it off were unnerving, I eventually adjusted to the prolonged looks of both affection and anger. The wind in my hair and a lightened responsibility of representing the Muslim community brought me the peace I used to only feel in the mornings.