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Went looking for a story - came out with smiles and a thankful heart

I am no artist. But the image of that moment I wanted to cherish

There I was, amidst welcoming faces. Welcoming, but unfamiliar faces! I was on a mission; looking for the perfect ‘woman story’.

I am listing ‘people stories’ to bring to you, to enlighten us all.

I spent 90 minutes of my time listening to a group of active community women. And those minutes were effortless. So many stories unfolded. Some of it was sad. But it was enlightening, liberating and heartening.

I am debating in my head how to bring the stories to you the way I felt it sitting amongst them. I was there to witness their triumphs, hear their struggles, to learn about solutions that can be applied to other women, other situations. In the process, I felt a healing. It was me, the humble I, who was learning from their idea of a solution to women’s struggles. It was not the purpose – but it also was!

A few days before that, I was discussing with a friend about prospective women who I could interview and she told me that sometime back she was on a quest to document women’s work that goes mostly unnoticed, under-represented and undervalued. She said she had been documenting the lives of street sweepers, cemetery attendants (jamaaiytherin), people who made short eats ('hedhikaa')... and the like. They all sounded wonderful. But I wanted the cemetery attendant. Why? Because not too many people are in that profession and I believe it requires a lot of guts to care for the soulless body.

So there I was. I called her and arranged a time to meet. She invited me to her ‘trees’. Said there I could also meet the rest of the people in the ‘farm’. (I use these terms in quotes because in our local terms we say 'gasthaku therey' -- ‘in the trees’ -- to indicate greenery; and we use the word ‘dhandu’ to indicate crops grown for agricultural purposes.

So yes! There I was. And we were not alone. She, Rahuma -- a funeral attendant (I am still looking for the correct English term for ‘jamaaiytheriyaa’, the attender to the deceased body), me -- the seeker of stories.

There also were: a tutor who gives tuition at home for students from grades 1 to 7, a seamstress, a mature housewife, a civil servant in an administrative job, an elderly who I assume to have retired from all aspects called 'work', and another young woman who didn’t say much and I assume her to be a housewife. Everyone except the elderly and myself, were farmers in that community, in that group. [Note: they didn't consider their farming as work. It was time pass, it was a hobby, it was their healing point, their meeting point].

I explained what I was doing with World Pulse, and why I was sitting there with Rahuma. I was trying to zero in on Rahuma. She was comfortable in her group and within minutes I was comfortable in theirs. I did get some insight in to ‘her story’. I will share that some other time. Our talks turned onto the role of women in society, the undue hardship most of us face, and the cruelty we sometimes are subjected to.

On that point, there was an out-pour of emotions, a rush of explanations, justifications, and from there on emerged a tribute to the vocalized women movement. There was admonishment, a gush of advice to have faith in whatever hardship, to have faith that this world is transitory, that the persevering and the humble will be rewarded one day. There was also the power for women to seek help, seek support, and mingle with others in the society.

My subject was now her. Let’s call her Fathimah. This out-pour of emotions was strong and loud and commanded attention. Once she started, she couldn’t stop. It was obvious she had been hurt in more ways than she could voice out or a listener could stand to listen without breaking apart. But what was important was to know she was content and that she had found a way to comfort her soul; the lines on her face radiated the contentment and gratitude. She had a beautiful smile on her face that spoke volumes about what she had endured and triumphed.

This group sitting around me - that group exuded camaraderie. In loquacious out-pours she constantly sought agreement from her more silent soul mate (let's call her Sabira), sitting shoulder to shoulder with her. It was obvious that the strength of the group was our Rahuma who was sitting across them. Fathimah, now and then also tried to bring in the soul perched on the border, the elderly woman who sat a little to the side outside the circle and listened intently, with a face that said she had carried the world on her shoulders, and as ‘we’ talked, she just silently re-lived her life flash by flash that only seem to have held sorrow. I saw that on her face. I so wish to talk to her, to reach her. Alas…

All in all it was a therapy group; they were their counselors, their therapists, and their support mechanism. The message they emitted was the importance of a communal spirit of sharing sorrows, seeking a laugh, and being there for each other.

When asked how our women can overcome the varying levels of abuse, Fathimah vehemently said ‘we cannot cure it by pointing fingers at the partner, by humiliating him in the public, by putting him in custody. What we can do is show unmatched kindness and be the best we can be with also a strong foot. Eventually they will break and eventually you will win. If not on this world, in the hereafter you will win. The most important point is not to lose oneself into a place of self-oblivion.’

I applauded her loquaciousness, and our serene Rahuma quietly said “Fathimah has changed. She was meek as a mouse earlier.” And Fathimah, with love and respect shining in her eyes, thanked her group for being her support, for holding her hand, for showing her that life is bearable when one can laugh off the sorrows with people who cared.

I was so moved and so humbled. I left them with a lightness in my heart, thankful for all that I have.

Images of their 'farm'
Kopy leaves - a popular trade item
Beautiful souls

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Comments

Potter's picture

There is a huge circle...

This is a lovely piece of soulful writing. As I was reading it I thought of the entire World Pulse community and realized that all of us,. wherever we are...are part of that circle of support and caring that you so lovingly describe. The circle is huge and powerful. Thank you for your eloquent tribute!

Aminah's picture

We need that support

Thank you Jana for your kind words on my writing.
And about the circle of support - yes it is much needed.
Going there, sitting with them, listening to them and then reassuring them that I have been wronged too somewhere in my life was a liberating feeling. To actually reach out to others has a healing in itself.

And yes, World Pulse is doing just that. It's a huge circle packed with support. It's powerful and huge. :)

Salaam
Aminah

SanPatagonia's picture

A circle of healing...

The word ‘healing’ immediately caught my eye. Your story took me to that circle. I sat next to you all, and felt the energy flowing.
You're so right - life is so much better when we can share our sorrows, learn to laugh during hard times, and just walk the road with people who care.
May there always be a special place under the trees for those magic circles...

@SanPatagonia
Be a voice, tell a story, start the fire. | Sé una voz, cuenta una historia, enciende el fuego.

Aminah's picture

Very humbled by your kind words

Wow. I am glad you felt that and so glad you were were able to enjoy the circle yourself.
That day I was made so light. Light as a bird in flight, as a feather falling from the sky :)

This writing was an attempt to capture what I felt that day so that I can come back on rough days to remind me how to feel the lightness.

Salaam
Aminah

Y's picture

You have caught the spirit of

You have caught the spirit of the old women of your story very well. My concern is that the old are often correct that we/they can't change once so many decisions have set their lives on a path that has more steps behind us/them than in front of us/them.

It is important that we have circles with whom to laugh, cry and rest, but we also have other ways to vent our emotions, which is through thoughtful action that will benefit generations coming after us.

I have many sisters who have no marketable skills and have never learned to plan for their lives on earth. They, too, accept that their destiny is set before their births and their reward is in the hereafter. Men should be our partners, not our adversaries in our life and family journeys. I believe this can happen when we learn about each other from an early age. If we begin early teaching people to think for themselves and about understanding each other, perhaps we can begin to build toward a world that is rewarding in the here and now.

Blessings to you, Aminah,
Yvette

Y

Looks like you understood exactly what I meant by the mention of the elderly woman in the group.
Sometimes we do feel that we have walked the path for too long to take a step back.
But that day sitting with them, I wanted to tell them that it is never too late to take a detour, to even take a step back if needed.

Fatimah in our story was very adamant that, it is better to keep walking - taking stock of what has already transpired and keeping a straight head with that knowledge -- but forging forward. I wanted to tell her that it is alright to pause, to turn back and find an alternative path. But her conviction based on her experience, made me let her speak and listen AND I saw the beauty in her words. After all, there can be many solutions to the same problem.

But then again, you are very right. When people don't have marketable skills, the paths that can be taken are made much narrower and this can be confining.

So much to learn from any circle we can sit in as long as we are ready to listen. :)

Salaam
Aminah

Greengirl's picture

Always!

Aminah, thank you for sharing this very interesting, revealing and soothing story. There is so much to learn from the cycle of support the women have built. I can imagine what you mean by "I left them with a lightness in my heart, thankful for all that I have". The pictures say much about the setting and company of women you were with.

The pictures are GREEN, and I am sure you know too well that I would love it!

I always love to hear your stories. Keep sharing.

Greengirl

And I am very sure that the soothing and healing is multiplied by the greenery they surround themselves with.
I'm all for Green dearest :)

I paid them a visit again yesterday just to give them printed photos I took that day.
And I selfishly borrowed little pieces from some of the plants to plant in my own garden.
Now I have greenery from them, sitting right in front of my eyes.

Thank you for continuous feedback Greengirl. Much appreciated.

Salaam
Aminah

JaniceW's picture

Circle of love

Thank you for sharing this heartfelt story of love, support and caring. I felt as if I were sitting in the circle with them, crying, laughing and commiserating with them. Belonging to a community is so important and with modern technology, we are losing a sense of companionship. That is why online communities such as Pulsewire are becoming increasingly vital for collaboration, support, friendship and exchanging ideas.

I love reading your stories and look forward to your next post.

Very true, Janice.
With the online world we do lose the sense of community and companionship. Behind the screens we don't see the emotions - the emoticons can only show what the person wants to show.
But sitting there with them in person, showed me so many stories at the same time - from the different woman in the group, and also the mixed emotions going through each of them...

But those kinds of groups has the limiting factor to the physical boundary of the place. That's where online communities have the advantage. Sitting here right now I am able to reach so many different people, great minds, strong women, all over the world. An I am able to read and understand and grasp the variety of social issues facing different communities. Simply a wonderful circle of love this is too.

I am so glad to belong.

Salaam
Aminah

Y's picture

I have learned that often it

I have learned that often it is cruel to assume that people should change. My challenge to be brave enough to silently stay in the circle while they suffer.

Y

libudsuroy's picture

Interesting lives

Aminah, such interesting lives your search has (re)covered. The job of the woman ''undertaker'' is un-traditional in my society. Reading your entry made me search for the etymology of that word. What I found is also interesting.
(here: http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20001206).

It seems that in your search for women's stories you also have gained more knowledge in dealing with your own issues. I can see how that strategy used by the woman in confronting her husband must have resonance in your own quest for answers to your own dilemmas. Hang on, Aminah.

Blessings,
libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

In our Muslim faith, we have to follow certain rituals on the dead body in preparation for burial.
Washing, shrouding, funeral, & burial. The funeral really is the prayer for the body and everyone takes part in this, the burial is carried out by another group of people.

Washing and shrouding is usually the job of family members. But here in the Maldives, there are trained people for this work. In local terms they are called 'jamaaiy'therin". They lead the work of washing and shrouding in the presence of family members.

Washing and shrouding of men is done by men attendants, and for women it's done by woman attendants.

The woman I wanted to profile has been in this line of work for 20 or so years. She is a unique person, the first person to have started doing it at such tender age. Hardly anyone starts this in their youth. So I wanted to really understand her story.

Anyways, thanks for looking up the word for me. But it looks like undertaker also might not be the word I am looking for? :)

And as for dealing with my own issues - yes, I was very thankful to have met the other woman in this quest to seek out the 'funeral attendant'. The meeting has helped.

Salaam
Aminah

libudsuroy's picture

Hi, Aminah, If you think that

Hi, Aminah,
If you think that the word, ''undertaker'' does not mean the same as '‘jamaaiytheriyaa’'; then, use ‘'jamaaiytheriyaa’'. You might not need to look for an English term at all. The English language has been enriched and made more dynamic by absorbing/assimilating words from other languages and dialects.

Blessings,
libudsuroy/Lina Sagaral Reyes
Mindanao, The Philippines

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

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