Just a maasi

I wished to join them for lunch but I was the maasi. I belonged to the bathrooms and I was to eat there too.

Sonal Arshad Siraj June 30, 2014
This piece is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The child looked at me with utter guilt on her face while I smiled at her. She had spilt water all around the toilet. She felt bad about me having to clean it up. It had been a long time since someone sympathised with me.

So I smiled at her to put her at ease. She flashed a shy smile towards me and hurried out, leaving me all alone in the three cubicle restroom. I looked at my cell phone to check the time. It was 3pm and the next show must have started. Three hours of relative peace till the movie ends.

I should eat something, but I should clean up the mess first. And so I did what I’m supposed to do; I mopped.

I took my lunch out and sat on the floor to eat. Shumaila, one of the security girls, came inside and said,
“Ya Allah! I’m so tired! And it’s hardly four yet. What did you bring for lunch today?”

Hoping she had something good today, I replied,
“Just paratha. I didn’t get time to make anything else. You?”

Hesitantly she answered,
“Oh I didn’t bring anything today. One of the girls made pullao, we’re all going to share. We’re eating at the back of the stairs… do you want to come?”

“No,” and with that I started with my dry paratha and water.

I wished to join them, or even the waiters and waitresses who ate their lunch in the food court. But I was the maasi; I belonged to the bathrooms and I was to eat there too.

The radio app in my cell phone helps me pass the time. I had bought it just two month ago for Rs2,000. I looked at it fondly as it played old melodious music from my past.

And then it began, like it did after every three hours, an influx of women coming and going to the toilet. I call this time period the ‘sailaab’ in my head because the room is flooded with women and children, and the sinks and toilets are flooded with water. For some it was nature’s call, some wanted to fix their make-up and some had to attend to their baby’s diaper.

The oddest of the bunch were the burqaposh transformations. I used to find it to so peculiar when they would take off their burqas and go for the movie in fitted jeans or a kameez with tights and would come back to transform back into the burqaposh after the movie.

As I moved around and cleaned the soap spilt, a couple of young girls rushed inside, giggling away. They would pose and make funny pictures while taking pictures of themselves. Of all the nice places in the mall, I wondered why they would want to take pictures in a lavatory.
“Uff Zara! What’s wrong with you today?” shrieked one of them to her friend in disgust, “fix yourself please, you look like such a maasi!”

The girls laughed and then they left.

Finally alone, I looked at myself in the mirror. It was not what the girl had said that affected me; it was her tone and that disgust in her voice that had stung.

I looked at myself in the mirror again, and then I continued mopping.
Sonal Arshad Siraj A student of psychology and social sciences, who likes to eat and write in that order. She tweets @Sonal_arshad (https://twitter.com/Sonal_arshad?lang=en)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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