Pakistan’s obedient daughters: Nice, calm but never angry
Girls in many Pakistan households are supposed to be nice, calm and pretty and in doing so they need to suppress their anger at all costs: this is the central theme of a new quirky graphic novel.
“The Suppressed Anger of the Pakistani Obedient Daughter” is designer, illustrator and improv artist Ayesha Tariq’s take on hurdles faced by Pakistani daughters.
Girls there often suppress their anger.
“Because girls are supposed to be nice, calm and pretty. It would be a crime if she were to displease somebody. Our society and religions emphasise a lot on respect of authority figures. Sometimes this creates such a divide that it either causes fear or a great distance in communication. A lot of words remain unspoken,” says Tariq.
“The Suppressed Anger of the Pakistani Obedient Daughter,” published by Penguin Books, was originally the author’s thesis.
The book’s central character is Sarah, a 17-year-old girl from a conservative urban family who has to do all the chores of the house, keep her family members happy, keep her reputation clean, so that people don’t gossip about her and always look good so that she can be a good candidate for the marriage proposals that come her way.
All this really upsets Sarah, but being an obedient daughter, she can only suppress her anger. However, this time Sarah’s patience runs out and she cannot hold it in any longer.
“I had proposed a few ideas to my advisors and this being the third one that I scribbled down because I had gotten scolded by my parents and didn’t think much of it. At that time, I had almost zero belief in my own ideas. I used to browse online and look at various works and always wanted to be as good, hence thinking that my ideas and skill are not good enough,” said Tariq.
“I’m lucky that my advisors urged me to think more about the theme. So, I reflected over my own experiences, talked to different girls and conducted some surveys in order to draw a more relatable picture.”
Everything in the book is from observation and collected stories, she says.
“I had spoken to other women as well. Each character is an amalgamation of characteristics of different real people practising similar roles.”
The book’s cover has a glass bottle with a stopper and it conveys exactly what the title suggests – the suppressed anger of the Pakistani obedient daughter.
“The glass bottle is used throughout the book as a metaphor for anger that is suppressed on a daily basis,” Tariq says.
Asked how common it is to see a Sarah in Pakistan’s households, she says, “I would not say that everyone has the same set of challenges, but yes, I think a lot of women will be able to relate to some of Sarah’s challenges, because they themselves might have faced similar ones. I have been witness to that.”
Tariq has herself backed her text with illustrations, a process which she terms as very challenging.
“It takes me a great deal of effort to make these illustrations. I keep going through a cycle of ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I really love doing this’. My process is a mixture of digital and analogue. The first thing was to decide the theme. Then comes mind-mapping, lists and brainstorming. Then I conducted surveys. Then I made a moodboard of inspirations, this can consist of visual styles, color schemes and content, even fashion trends.”
“I finally got to making my characters, which were quite a few drafts, this was on paper. Simultaneously I would also list out the different instances in Sarah’s life and just mapping out the entire book.”
Then she starts taking things to the computer.
“Friends and family would pose for me to draw various postures. I would roughly draw out scenes on paper and work on them digitally. Final prototype involved printing, sticking and binding. This is obviously a brief explanation, I am completely skipping the blood, sweat and tears,” she says about her work.
Karachi-based Tariq, who is the creative head at the Citizens Archive of Pakistan and the managerial director and improviser with The Platoon, currently has no plans to take Sarah’s story forward.