The Story of Dalal

When the mighty men came back from faraway places, they were strangers in their own homes. They were catered to and kept in the dark. At some point the fathers had to be brought in, implicated if you will, in the deeds of their sons and their daughters, but until that day dawned, until a daughter’s transgressions became too public a matter to be ignored, or a son’s ways could no longer be indulged, the men were pampered and left ignorant. In the dark hours, when a reckoning could no longer be avoided, when the code of the place had been stretched to the breaking point, the women had to do things of great cruelty. It was their burden, their task. “She is the sister of men” was the highest compliment paid a woman who had to keep the world intact. To the women fell the task of smuggling diamonds from Sierra Leone because the skilled man of affairs who insisted that the high officials of the customs office were in his back pocket had gotten himself deported out of the country. The women were the ones who kept the constituents of a member of Parliament from finally having it out with him. They were the ones who prepared their sons for the duel and who stiffened their backs, reminded them of the hidden defects and capricious ways of their fathers. And it was their responsibility, of course, to keep the daughters in line. It was but a short distance from the daughter’s conduct, after all, to the mother herself. Better grieve for a daughter than play havoc with the order of things. This is the way things were understood here. It happened among us that a woman of radiant strength had to “do something” about one of our daughters.

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