Sugra and I

Sugra and I: A Semi-fictionalized account

~Marium Sattar ‘09

At the age of 4 and 5, my first memories are of my servant Sugra.  She doted over me day and night.  It was Sugra who played games with me when I felt lonely as my older siblings were at school.  It was Sugra who bounded after me, while I practiced my dangerous hobby of ‘pull the cat’s tail’ and ‘chase the butterfly.’  Sugra often laughed at my execution of these facetious games, asking me why I enjoyed hurting innocent animals.

When I was 6, Sugra left our home in the heart of the cosmopolitan city of Karachi for her village of Gharo just outside of the city.  Gharo is located within our shared province of Sindh.  At the age of 17, she was leaving our home to start her own.  The period of adjustment without Sugra in my life was not hard as I had many other attentive relatives who sought after me.  Yet they could not provide the same 24 hour surveillance as Sugra had done.  She protected me from the outside world.

Sugra’s name was never forgotten in our household, especially when my parents reminisced her dutiful service in comparison to the ‘servants nowadays’ who have to be replaced constantly.  My mother faulted this cycle of replacing servants due to the constant influx of migrants from other provinces who come to our ‘city of lights’ seeking work.  Ami sometimes attributed their quick turn out to the congenital defects inherited from their ethnicities.

In fact, my parent’s insights were not restricted to servants but also to beggars.  From the back of our air conditioned Honda Civic, my siblings and I noticed the divisions between our world and the balmy one outside.  I remember waiting for a signal to turn green off Shara-e-Faisal main road, when a lone arm stretched out its palm through the window of our Honda, interjecting itself between our two realms.  It belonged to an old man in a shalwar which was once white.  Now it was gray due to the heavily-polluted road where he begged for money every day.

I am not sure whether he was prompted to cross our window due to his courage or desperation.   It was an act of intrusion, suddenly reminding us of the dirty world outside.  My parents ignored him. We were told to avoid contact with him, to save our money, for he is like the beggar women with babies by the roads.  We listen closely as the truth about beggars is exposed to us.  We are told in lurid tones: the women steal their babies to use them as props, dousing them in cough syrup to make them ‘appear sick’.  It is all an act.  We oblige dutifully.

To be continued…

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