Towards Strong Female Characters

14Nov - by Sadiq Sadiq - 2 - In Opinion Piece

kulsoomabdullahpakistani
Image: Kulsoom Abdullah of Pakistan at the World Weightlifting Cahmpionship

Hello Friends,

We’ve had some time to reflect on the election results. Some are happy that their candidate won others are not. To be honest I am just glad its over. What happened, happened. This election cycle has been insane. I stopped watching after the first debate and relied on Stephen Colbert to keep me up to date. After the results were announced I went through stages of shock, reflection, and analysis. 

My findings? as Neil deGrasse Tyson so eloquently tweeted  take the cosmic perspective. Some would say that this is high-brow and only an aloof fool would look to the stars for solace when fires burn around him. I beg to differ. I would encourage each and every Man, Woman and Child to take the cosmic perspective. Humble yourself and draw closer to your creator. 

Didn’t work? You still want to move to Canada? Or even better, how about a posh Gulf Country? Sure why not, would be easier. Heck while we are at it why not leave this rock altogether? We could join Elon Musk on Mars and restart civilization. Give it a few generations and we will be right back where we started! But then again, what if?

Remember last month’s post where I gave you story prompts from Islamic History? Well, prompt number six really resonated with me.

  1. Pakistan was a nation formed on the basis of Islam. People of different ethnicities banned together to form one nation. In an age where space colonies are within practical reach, what would a colony populated by Muslim refugees look like?

I decided to explore this notion. At the same time, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. You see I am an adult male I can write characters similar to me easily. So I decided to join a unique writing course. Storied Women, is an online course being offered by the University of Iowa. The point of which is to create stories with female protagonists. My first assignment was to write a scene with a female child. The end result was custom made for ISF readers, so here goes:

A Hiss at the Front Portal

BY SAQIB SADIQ

Sidra woke with a tear in her eye. It rolled down her plump cheek, softly nestling itself behind her ear. The sensation drew her out of her sleep. Through blurry eyes, she tried to comprehend her surroundings. “What was that?” she thought to herself. Still cringing from the image her mind’s eye gave her. She knew it wasn’t real, it’s hellish cry was gone.

Her eyes began to focus. The bright colors of her ludo board greeted her. It was just the way she left it last night. Her pieces had all safely finished while her brother’s hadn’t. And it better stay that way or else baba would know.

She rubbed her brown eyes and gave a satisfied yawn. Where was Ummy? She was always doting on her. Brushing her hair, washing up for breakfast. Her hair was already pretty tangled. And would tug when she ran her fingers through it.

Another yawn and she slipped out of her warm bed. Still groggy she carefully made her way to the mirror. Seeing no sign of Ummy she decided to brush her own hair. And why not? She needed to learn. She was getting older after all. Yanking old hairs from the spikes she began to brush. First one side than the other. All the way to the ends. She slipped on a hairband and walked out the room.

The capsule corridors were strangely quiet. There usually was a clattering of plates from the dining node. The morning breakfast already consumed. Thinking nothing of it she made her way to the bathroom. Soothing pulses helped to get rid of grime that had formed on her earth-toned skinned.

Peeking out in the corridor she called out “Ummy?” hearing no response “Baba?” still no response she considered calling her brother’s name but decided against it. She needed her breakfast first. Skipping along she made her way to the dining node. To her surprise breakfast was neatly laid out. The fluffy stack of parathas beckoned while the savory chickpeas tantalized.

Pinching off a small piece of fried batter she scooped up some chickpeas. The warm spices and buttery goodness melted in her mouth. Her stomach rumbled and she fed it more. Having her fill, she stepped out of the dining node.

Where was everyone? It wasn’t even Friday afternoon, so where could everyone be? Feeling annoyed she returned to her room. Her crayons and pencils neatly laid out on her desk. She began tracing figures. Images of people fleeing. Running scared through the streets. Shattered glass. And it. She stopped unable to continue. How dare it invade her daydream? Wasn’t it bad enough to possess her nightmares?

More tears. She made her way to the ludo board. Maybe she should let her brother finish. Maybe that would make him come back. I should get up early to help ummy in the kitchen maybe that’s why she isn’t here. And baba I should help him with his books more often. I promise to do this I just want everyone back.

But she was alone. And now she knew it. What do I do?

Beep…beep…beep…

The family’s com panel was chirping. She made her way over. Lines of text scrolled by. Baba knew what to do with that. She walked away and headed back to her room. She didn’t want to draw anymore. She didn’t have anyone to play ludo with and her dolls were boring. She sat on the floor head slumped and propped up by her arms. She rolled her eyes looking around the room. Not sure what to do next she closed her eyes.

She woke to a darkened habitat. Panic stricken she hollered for lights. In response, the rooms and corridors were illuminated. She still couldn’t breathe right. She swept her eyes back and forth. “Ummy, baba, bhai!” no one replied. She bawled. Knocking the ludo pieces across the floor. Tearing her drawings asunder.

Beep…beep…beep…

She screamed smashing at the panel controls. A face appeared. “My dear are you alright?” she bawled some more. “I thought this sector was evacuated…standby” and just like that, the face was gone. She slumped against the corridor wall, too weak to cry too tired to scream. Her legs gave out allowing to slide down to rest on the floor.

Sniffling she wiped her tears. Now, what? She drew her knees in and rested her cheek. She must have done something really bad for everyone to leave her. Maybe she shouldn’t have yelled when baba asked her to clean her room. Or maybe she should have cleaned up after she spilled salan on the kitchen floor. And she definitely shouldn’t have called bhai names.

Sirens began to wail. Kinetic rumbles, blinding light. The habitat stood. She didn’t like the sounds. Not one bit. She had heard them before. But that’s when she had baba to read her books. She would tell her not to worry and that it would all be over soon. She wished he was around to tell her now.

A hiss at the portal. White suited figures. Engulfing her. Helping her with a suite of her own. Whisked away. She could see the habitat falling out of view. More kinetic rumbles followed by horrible flashes.

“Ummy!”

“Beti!” the two hugged each other. Clinging to one other sobbing relentlessly. Bhai and baba comforted them both. Sterile white lights and sanitized floors did nothing to lessen the warmth of the moment. Surrounded by loving arms Sidra was home again. Even bhai was a sight for sore eyes.

“You can beat me at ludo anytime, ok?” She laughed for the first time in a long time.

“Okay.” She nestled her head in ummy’s lap

“Who did your hair?” she mumbled on stroking long black strands

“Sidra.”

“Baba?”

“I am sorry.”

“Don’t be. I was supposed to clean my room and I didn’t that’s why everyone left me”

“No Sidra.” He chocked, a finger placed on his lips “I am just glad they found you.” Confused by the outburst she did not know what to think. Kissing her father’s cheek, she told him not to worry. In return, they all huddled together hanging onto each other for dear life.

Let me know what you thought in the comments below. There is more to Sidra’s Story, I plan on learning more about her with each assignment. I will let you know where to find her complete story in the coming weeks. But more importantly tell me what you came up. Which prompts resonated with you? Why were those your favorite prompts? Let us know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Towards Strong Female Characters”

  1. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the story, although I was hoping to see more discussion or analyses of strong female muslim characters.

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