I Don't

by Maliha Bari

 

 

Characters:

Shagufta: A tall, chubby

Pakistani mother, in her 40s.

 

Rabia: A thin, petite

Pakistani girl, 14 years old.

 

Shano: A six month old baby,

Rabia’s baby sister.

 

Setting: The palace is huge and grand, covering ten acres of land and as tall as ten-story building. In Rabia’s room. It has a woven bed, with a big window, dressing table, mirror, carpet, and dividers. 

 

At Rise: Shagufta is 46 years old. Strong headed and bold. She is insensitive and is focused on what she wants. Rabia is 14 years old. She is naïve and innocent. Rabia is standing in front.

 

Loud knock on the door with loud male guards announcement: Shagufta Bibi is approaching. Door opens, guards stand aside and Shagufta enters and looks around. She slowly walks around the room and sits on the messy bed making a disapproved face.

 

Rabia

Puts her shawl on her hair and looks down

 

Shagufta

Arent you going to greet me? I come with good news for you.

 

Rabia

(looks up suddenly all cheerful) You got me my birthday present!

 

Rabia runs towards Shagufta and jumps on to the bed beside her

 

Shagufta

Gets up in shock and stares in disapproval
                                                                         

 

Rabia

Scared by Shaguftas reaction looks back down

 

 

Shagufta

(clears her throat) A girl must know her place. You may sit down here.

 

Points towards the ground beside the bed

 

Rabia

Yes bibi sahiba.

Looks down and sits beside Shaguftas feet and plays with the hem of her skirt

 

Shagufta

(shouts loudly) Rabia!

Scared, Rabia quickly places her hands on her thighs and doesn’t move an inch

 

Shagufta

Clears her throat and speaks softly

 

Rabia, my sweet Rabia. Dear, it looks like your mother didn’t teach you well before she passed away. But its ok, your new mother will teach you all.

 

Pause

 

Shagufta

Softly holds Rabia by her arms and helps her sit on the bed beside her

 

The family you are about to enter may be a little strict with rules and regulations but we are not bad at heart Rabia.

Rabia is silent and looking down

 

Shagufta

My dear, I am such a sweet lady. You will not be troubled in my house. Don’t you worry child.

 

Rabia

Your house? (asks innocently) So my birthday present is at your house?

 

 

Shagufta

(laughs softly) Na na dear.  I did bring you a present, but not your birthday gift. After all, since your parents were murdered, they have left this whole village under your name.  Now you just have me and your fathers brother to look after this village. (clears throat) I, I mean to look after you. To help you look after this village.

 

Rabia

(speaks softly) So what’s the present then?

 

Shagufta

Opens the knot on her shall and takes out two gold bangles

 

This my dear, was given to me by my mother in law when I got married. And she got it from her mother in law when she got married.

 

Rabia

 (confused) But why are you presenting these to me bibi sahiba?

 

Shagufta

Traditions are traditions Rabia, and we must never forget them. I have come here to select you for my son and so I present these bangles to you.

 

Silence for three seconds

 

Rabia

(stuttering) What do you mean by that?

 

Shagufta

I have come here to choose you for my son Rabia. Here take them.

 

Offers bangles to Rabia by holding out the bangles towards her.

 

Rabia

(stuttering) What do you mean by that?

 

Shagufta

Listen child, I can only repeat myself so many times. Im here to take you. (pause) For my son.

 

Rabia

(shaking voice) Shagufta bibi, what do you mean by that?

 

Shagufta

Rabia, listen to me carefully, for I am repeating this for the last time. You are getting married to my son.

Rabia

(shouts) How is that even possible? I am just 14! I don’t want to get married. No. No. No. (pause) No. No, this isn’t possible. No. No. I mean, how… wait, but no. No. This cant happen.
 

Shagufta

(talks calmly) No body has come to ask you for your permission.

 

Rabia

(shouting and panicking) But no. No! NO! This cant… No, but mama and papa said…

 

Shagufta

Your parents were murdered. They no longer have a say.

 

Rabia

No. No. Then… then aaa my aaa then the aaa… MY UNCLE! He is the one ruling this village now. He has a say! And he wont let me. No!

 

Shagufta

(calmly) Your uncle and I have made this decision together. He gives me you and I will allow his trade caravans to pass through my village.

 

 

Rabia

(confused) What? No! This cant happen. I am just 14.

(gets on her knees) Bibi sahiba, I am begging you! Please don’t do this to me.

This cant happen. No. No.

 

Shagufta

I don’t owe you any explanations Rabia. But if it comforts you, then know that you owe this to your people. To the people of your village.

 

Rabia

(shouting and crying) But how? This doesn’t make any sense. My people? What people! No! I didn’t do anything wrong. Please! Don’t punish me!
 

 

Shagufta

(calm voice) After your father was murdered, the people of your village have been suffering. In exchange for you, I will allow trade and this village will once again be able to do business. Their life depends on you.

 

Rabia

 

I didn’t do anything wrong, I promise. Please. Please. Please. (holds her palms tied together towards Bibi Sahiba, begging) You cant do this to me.

 

Shagufta

Listen Rabia, I am not here to ask you for your permission. I am here to tell you. You are getting married to my son next week.

 

Rabia

(shouts) No you listen! You cant do this! You cant! (crawls away from her)

 

Shagufta

(shouts) Get back here Rabia! Get back here right now!

 

Rabia

 

Shivering, she is holding herself tightly and just shakes her head in denial

 

Shagufta

(Shouts) Listen to me little girl, come here right now!

 

Rabia

Whispers in a shaky voice, puts her head between her knees while she rocks herself back and forth.

 

(slowly) No, no.

 

 

Shagufta

(calmly) Rabia, I am calling you nicely for the last time child. Come here. I am not your villain. I don’t wish ill for you. Listen to me, do what I say and your life will be colorful again. Go against me and you will regret it forever.

 

 

Rabia

(shouts) No! This cant happen!

 

Whispers in a shaky voice

 

Mama wont let this happen to me. Mama wont let this happen to me. Mama wont let this happen to me.

 

Shagufta

Shouts very loudly

 

Rabia come here this instance or I will beat you so hard that you will remember it for the rest of your life! I will not spare you or your baby sister.

 

Rabia

 

Looks up slowly. She is still crying and is hardly able to catch her breath. She slowly gets up and walks towards the bed in slow motion. She sits on the floor by the bed but further away from Shagufta than she was initially sitting at the beginning of the play.

 

Shagufta

(slowly and sternly) Never. Ever. Disobey me again.

 

Rabia

 

Her head is down and she is listening quietly.

 

Shagufta

(shouts) Do you understand me?

 

Rabia

 

Still looking down, nods.

 

Shagufta

(shouts) I said, do you understand me?

 

 

Rabia

(shaky voice) Yes, Bibi Sahiba.

 

Shagufta

(calmly) Good. Very good. Now… lets not make a fuss over this Rabia. You don’t have a say in this matter and you just have to accept it. In our villages we can never say no to an elders decision, we never say no to the ruling family, and we certainly can never say no to our mother in laws.

 

Rabia

 

Listens quietly for a while as she just looks down on the ground.

 

No. No. I am really sorry for this, but I wont do this. Mama would have never forced me. She has taught me well, you can never force me for this.

 

Shagufta

 

(shouts) Your mother is dead Rabia, and she no longer has a say in your life. From now on I will make all your decisions.

 

Rabia

(shaky voice) No. I will not let you. I will run away, or or do something, but I will not marry your 30 year old son!

 

Shagufta

He is only 27! And you should be lucky that he will take you in. Listen to me young lady, I will not have you talk to me like this. Not under any circumstances!

 

Rabia

Gets up as her knees are trembling. She gathers the courage to stand and takes a few steps back.

 

(shouts) I will never marry your son!

 

Shagufta

Shouts and gets up from the bed and rushes towards Rabia

 

I have had enough of this behavior from you!

 

Shagufta

 

Pulls Rabia by her hair and gives her a tight slap.

 

You must learn how to talk to your elders! Don’t you dare utter another word!

 

Rabia

Pushes Shagufta back and shouts

 

I said I wont do it, and I will not do it. Mama told me no one could ever force me! I wont do it! You can leave now! 

 

Shagufta

Pulls Rabia from her hair, gives her a slap and pushes her to the ground

 

You will only understand one language Rabia, and today I will not leave till you beg me for an apology.

 

Shagufta leaves the room in a rage. Rabia is left sprawled on the floor as she sobs loudly.

 

Rabia

(cries out loud) Mama! Papa! … Please save me…Please come back… Please send someone to save me.

 

Shagufta storms back in to the room holding Rabia’s baby sister in her arms.

 

(shouts) Today you will pay! You will pay!

 

Rabia

What are you doing? No! Leave Shano out of this, you witch!

 

Shagufta carries Shano over to the window and holds the baby out the window. Rabia screams and rushes towards Shagufta. She throws herself at Shaguftas feet and places her head on her feet.

 

 

Rabia

I beg you! I beg you Bibi Sahiba! Don’t do this! I beg you! I will marry your son! I will! I will do what you say.

 

She looks up to Shagufta and joins her hands while begging

 

Shagufta

So when the man comes with the court papers right now, and ask for your willingness to marry my son, what will you reply?

 

Rabia

(looks away) I do. I will say, I do.

 

Shagufta

(sternly) Just what I thought. Now,I will go bring him from downstairs. You better be at your best. 

 

She kneels down near Rabia and Rabia flinches as she comes close. Shagufta places Shano in Rabias laps, gently strokes Rabias chin.

 

Fix your scarf and clothes Rabia, you are about to get married in a few minutes. This is your big day. Now put on a smile and behave when I come back with the marriage papers.

 

Shagufta places the baby on Rabia’s lap and exits the room. Rabia stares at her sleeping sister and cries quietly.

 

Rabia

 

My baby. My little sister. Forgive me for what I am about to do. But they will not let you live in peace and they will not let me live in peace. It is best if we go to mama and papa. They will love us. They will take care of us.

 

 

Rabia gets up with Shano in her arms, hugs her tightly and covers Shano’s face in her shoulders. She walks towards the window and steps on the windowsill. While holding the baby by one arm, she covers her eyes with the other hand and takes a deep breath.

 

Black out.

 

Maliha Arshad Bari is a Pakistani almnus from the American University of Sharjah who majored in Mass Communication. She hopes to one day open her own design-consulting agency. 

Contact us 

asrarjournal@gmail.com

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