Dealing with customers, Samina takes a quick glance outside her beauty parlour’s window to look for her 11-year-old daughter Sumavia. She spots her playing with the children outside and smiles reassuringly.
“She is the light of my eyes,” the mother says. “When I held her in my arms for the first time, I understood raising a child with a congenital disorder will not be easy.”
“But today, she is 11 years old and none of my efforts have gone to waste,” Samina says with maternal instinct and love oozing from her expression.
She calls Sumavia into the parlour and washes her face as saliva drips from the child’s mouth. The 11-year-old is busy spreading it over her face with dusty hands.
“Handling a child with special needs is not easy and they become more stubborn as they grow up,” she says. “I can’t even scold her even when I am angry. Special children need special love and she is very special to me.”
The mother helps the girl through every step of life. She takes her to the toilet and cleans up after.
“Sumavia can’t even eat [on her own],” Samina says. “I feed her with my hands even if I am busy. If I don’t, she will go hungry and thirsty the whole day.”
Samina, a mother of two, started working after her marriage and used to sell beauty products by visiting different salons to make ends meet. She then started running a beauty parlour in a local market of Peshawar.
Combing Sumavia’s hair, the mother proudly says, “This girl is my life and I cannot think of an existence without her.”
The beautician says she sometimes cannot concentrate on her work when Sumavia is out playing with the kids.
“It’s a given that she is always around me,” she says. “My other child is normal and he can take care of himself, but who will take care of Sumavia when I am no longer around?”
Samina gave birth to her daughter in the presence of a dai (midwife) in Peshawar as it was not only traditional, but also economical. Due to insufficient medical treatment and lackadaisical attitude of Samina’s in-laws, Sumavia developed a congenital disorder. The mother had already lost a baby and was not prepared to lose another over what society deems as normal.
“I was very young when I gave birth to Sumavia and didn’t know how to treat a newborn,” she says. “My in-laws knew that this girl is not normal, but fed her with ghutti (a traditional syrup for newborns) for a whole day.”
After a day, they took her to the hospital where the doctor said Samavia can never been a “normal child” as she was not given timely treatment.
Samina, who has dedicated her life to Sumavia, yearns for the day her daughter calls her name. “Doctors are saying she can never recover, but I just want her to speak. She can’t talk which makes it more difficult to understand what she needs.”
“Her father cursed her every day as she had become a burden for him,” Samina says. “He didn’t even pay a penny for her treatment, but she has never been a burden for me. I gave birth to her and she is a part of my body.”
She added, “Life goes on and all I want to do is spend all of it with my daughter. She is my strength and I know I am hers.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2016.