Strength to Say No

Strength to Say No by Mouhssine Rekha; Ennaimi Kalindi Read Free Book Online

Book: Strength to Say No by Mouhssine Rekha; Ennaimi Kalindi Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mouhssine Rekha; Ennaimi Kalindi
he was supposedly recruited as a private chauffeur. After a few months the mother received no further money nor even any news of her husband. The telephone rings without being answered regardless of the time that Pinky’s mother calls.
    From then on she raised Pinky and her other children by herself. She works with my sister in the brick factory. All day long the women dig clay with their bare hands and make bricks using a mould marked with the name of the owner, going back and forth over several hundred metres to dry them in the sun. Pinky and I first struck up a friendship during these school outings. She knows a lot of things, but her reserved manner makes her seem rather stand-offish. She doesn’t have many friends, and very few children like to playwith her. During playtime she stays by herself in a corner of the yard.
    Arjun, the head teacher, calls us together and asks us to be sure to be at school the next week. I expect another school outing to the museum.

    When I get back home the subject of marriage is the centre of the conversation again. The son of one of my uncles has asked to marry me. Ma tries to convince me to meet him.
    â€˜He’s a relative and is ready to accept the dowry that we’re offering.’
    â€˜I don’t care where he comes from and what he’s ready to accept. I don’t want to get married, and that’s final!’
    â€˜Don’t be selfish. Think of your family. You think that your father can keep on working in these conditions? His back hurts constantly and he has trouble breathing because of inhaling tobacco for years, and he does all that to feed you. Do you realize the sacrifices that he has been making all this time?’
    â€˜I’ll help him. I’m quite willing to work after school so that he can make his daily quota of cigarettes.’
    â€˜You understand nothing, my girl. You cost us too much, and if we don’t get you married while you are young and attractive nobody else will want you.’
    â€˜I don’t want to get married, do you hear me? I am enrolled at the school, and I intend to keep going there!’
    â€˜You’re not the one who decides! The Kalindis all marry at your age. If you want to keep on studying you can sort that out with your husband. Our duty as parents is to find you a husband before it’s too late.’
    â€˜I don’t want to get married!’
    The conversation breaks down into yelling. My father interrupts us: ‘Stop carrying on like that, both of you! Do you want the whole village to hear you?’
    â€˜Your daughter is stubborn and doesn’t understand her luck in having so many marriage offers. She’s only thinking of herself and her blasted school. As if food was free! I told you that enrolment at the school was a bad idea, but you didn’t listen to me. This is the result. You can deal with it. And then you can go and explain to your nephew that he can’t marry your daughter Rekha, because according to the latest news she’s the one who decides not you!’
    â€˜Be reasonable, Rekha, this marriage offer is a chance for you. You ought to seize it, both for your own good and also for the good of your family. Think of your brothers and sisters, please,’ whispers my father in an affectionate tone.
    â€˜I don’t care! I want to go on learning and working at my studies. That’s what you advised me to do not so long ago. Remember?’
    â€˜Yes, but that was temporary. We sent you to school while we were waiting for you to find a husband. Now you don’t need to study any more.’
    â€˜Temporary? But you know how difficult school is! I am one of the best in the class, and you want me to abandon everything just because a boy who doesn’t even know me wants a wife in his house?’
    â€˜When I married your mother I didn’t know her either. That didn’t prevent us from starting a family …’
    â€˜A family that you

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