Muniba Mazari, Unbroken.

By Rabia Mughni And Farah Haq
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When Farah walked in, I had just logged onto Skype for the scheduled interview call. I ran to the kitchen to make tea for her, and on impulse, made myself a cup too, despite not being a tea-drinker. This cup of tea was my saving grace over the next hour or so. Every month, FUCHSIA’s personal story touches me. This month’s story made me tear up repeatedly – at times because I was so inspired, at times ashamed of my complaints and at times overwhelmed by the determination of a woman that seems to have no boundaries.

FUCHSIA is honored to bring to you Muniba Mazari’s story, in her own words.

“There I was, on the bed with a broken body, half paralyzed with a deformed hand, painting. Thinking that, maybe, someday, these colors will add life to the story of my life. My painting is what kept me alive in the hospital. I was always smiling, I never cried, but deep inside I was scared of the unknown, of never being able to walk again. Doctors had said miracles do happen, but spinal cord injury is disastrous.

When I saw people who were supposed to be so strong, like my father, leaving my mom and I in this condition, I thought to myself, “This is the time; I have to stop looking for superheroes in other people.” I was married at that time, but my father remained my hero. When I saw him leave us, I realized I have to be the superhero in my own story. It’s just me now; others will leave me, time and again. 

My mother, on the other hand, was my pillar. My mother never cries in front of me; she just hugs me and says, “When I see you growing, I feel like days of my life are growing.” My mother is my strength.

 

 

 

These two girls on the other side of my computer screen, on another continent, are listening so intently. They say they want to hear something that I haven’t shared in interviews to date. They want FUCHSIA to tell a different side of the story. 

Seven years back, I met with an accident. After taking me out of the ditch, I was put in a Potohar jeep as there weren’t any ambulances in Baluchistan. I asked people where my legs were, and that I couldn’t feel them. They said, “They are right here.” I was very composed, I didn’t cry. At the hospital, I told the doctors, “I am half paralyzed, I can’t feel anything.” I was in severe physical and psychological pain, but I didn’t cry. 

Where did I get the courage to stay calm? I don’t know, all I know is when you have lost something, you cannot cry. 

Was my courage due to a false hope that I will walk again? NO – I was very clear. I knew I would never recover. I would hear everything the doctors discussed, and all X-rays were in front of me. A person with three missing vertebrae cannot walk. Unfortunately, poor medical services meant I developed pressure ulcers. I was bedridden for 2 years as a result. I used to beat my legs; I was so tired of those sores. I just wanted to be in a wheelchair. Those two years were dreadful. 

Now when I look back, I laugh at the tantrums I’d throw. During the two bedridden years, I couldn’t brush my teeth or make my hair properly. Once, the brush got stuck in my hair. I was so annoyed I took a pair of scissors and chopped it off! I still remember my hair was long in the front, and short in the back. Now I think about it, and laugh.

During those days, when people visited me, I would feel jealous. I would think they are trying to rub it in, that they can walk, and I can’t. I guess when you are down, you think the worst possible of things. Mom used to say, “Har vaqt guzar jaata hai, achcha bhi, burra bhi (All time passes by, whether good time or bad.) This too will pass. There will come a time when you will laugh at what you used to do.”

In the hospital, everything was white and depressing. I saw people leaving me, the doctor said I’d never walk again, people commented “Oh poor girl will get divorced – who will keep a wheelchair-bound wife?” There was so much negativity, such colorless-ness. I was tired of wearing white, of the hospital, of the negativity. Doctors asked my mom if there was something I used to do before the accident. Mom told them I used to draw. 

I laughed when the doctor said “Why don’t you start painting?” 

My hand was deformed; I wasn’t even able to grasp a pencil. He said to draw whatever I want, but just to start. So, 2 weeks after surgery, I asked my mom for colors. She asked if I was sure, and I replied “I will try.” 

When I started painting, I would completely forget the pain, saying that if anyone wants to leave me, they should do it then.

That doctor, Orthopedic Surgeon Imtiaz Hashmi used to come to me, and tell me to stay strong. Some time back, he called me and said, “I am holding Hello Magazine, and it has your picture on it.” Then, he saw my Ted talk video, where I had shown my X-rays that he had taken. He still remembered them. 

 

 

When I painted, my brother used to tell me that one day, I’d exhibit my work in an art gallery. I used to laugh and tell him to stop joking. 

I think I trust men only because of my brothers. 

The first job I got, I faced much resistance from all around me. I decided to call my brother. I said, “I have gotten a job as a content writer. It is the brainchild of Salman Taseer – the first website of Pakistan. I want to do it.” He said, “Nobody will stop you. If you roll out on the wheelchair today, every other girl on a wheelchair in Pakistan will follow you. You have to break the taboo.” If he hadn’t supported me, I would have never done it. 

Salman Taseer had purchased all 20 to 25 of my paintings. I was surprised, asking why he would buy such gloomy, sad paintings. He said that to me they might be sad, but to him they were a source of inspiration. He also told me never to leave art, no matter what I did. 

That is how I started.  

I smile remembering that incident, and the girls from FUCHSIA ask if I miss the old Muniba?  

I used to be a cribber. I was the female in every Pakistani household, spending life making the in-laws happy and thinking about the husband. After this accident, I was reborn. It wasn’t just that I had seen death so up close – Allah has just made me a very different person now. I am strong, and I can sense it. With each passing day, I can feel the strength growing. That old Muniba was too weak to sustain. I am glad she is no more. 

I can see the surprise on the faces of the FUCHSIA girls, as I tell them I never ask Allah to make me walk again. 

I only tell Allah, “You know what is lacking in me. You know what I need, what is best for me, so give me that.” He is giving me everything, except life in my legs. That makes my belief stronger that I am the chosen one, who He has planned bigger things for. 

The day I gave the Ted talk, I realized that words have the power to change people. After the talk, a girl came to me, held my hand and cried. She said, “Your 15-minute talk has solved 15 of my problems. I asked how, and she said “Because you have made me realize that those 15 problems never existed.” The standing ovation, people coming to me, saying thank you for making them realize if we are healthy we are lucky – that was when I decided that if my life can change someone’s life or their thought process, then that is what I want to do. 

 

I hear my name being called out, and I ask the two FUCHSIA girls to give me a minute. It’s Nael, my son. He calls me Muniba. I can imagine how big my smile must be as I introduce him to them. They seem unable to get over his hairstyle.

 

 

When he watched my Ted talk, he told me how proud he was of me. He knows me – when I am tired, he pushes my wheelchair. I remember the day he asked for 2 glasses of milk so he can grow up faster and be the one to help me. “I don’t want anyone else to help you.” 

I have achieved whatever I have in my life at the cost of losing relations at every step. It’s been a 7-year-journey. I have changed, but one thing that is constant is my hard work. I know I don’t have much time, being wheelchair-bound. If I don’t work hard I won’t be able to achieve what I want. People think to themselves that “She looks good, she dresses up nicely; she belongs to a well-off family, so it’s easy for her. Would a girl from a poor family have been able to do this?” 

But, you know what? I am a Baloch girl, living in a country with no awareness on disability, a single mother. I had no job when I started, just one lakh Rupees in my account, and I moved into an apartment. I am now doing 3 jobs all at once, but I don’t tell people all of this. It is my journey. Fame, praise – everything comes your way when you are persistent and you know what you want. Yes, when an opportunity comes my way I never say no.  Allah makes ways for you.

I hope things will change, and people will accept persons with disabilities. Whatever comes your way always changes things for the better.”

If time had permitted, we at FUCHSIA would have continued much longer with Muniba, because there is just so much to learn from this amazing person. She is a South Asian woman to be held in the highest of regard. She is not only a motivational speaker, but a model and TV anchor. All from her space on a wheelchair.

 

 

True enough – Muniba Mazari’s determination knows no bounds. This, too, is a face of Pakistan.

 

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About Rabia Mughni And Farah Haq

Rabia founded FUCHSIA in 2013 with the help of a passionate, determined and aspiring team. She holds a Master in Business Administration with a Marketing Major from IBA, Pakistan. At FUCHSIA, Rabia oversees the Marketing and Public Relations work. She is also part of the Editing Team in conceptualising articles and monthly issues. Farah is one of the pioneers of Team FUCHSIA and feels deep pride for her work with the magazine. Her role at FUCHSIA involves the overall coordination of the Fashion segment, and she is also FUCHSIA’s official photographer. Her fashion consultancy and expertise allows her to put together a relevant, informative and interesting Fashion segment monthly, with the support of Team FUCHSIA. She also co-ordinates the logistics of events for FUCHSIA.

  • Khurram Shahzad

    “منیبہ مزاری کی شادی 2005 میں ایک ائر فورس آفیسر فائٹر پائلٹ سے ہوئی ہے (ائر فورس تمام فورسسز میں ایک ایلیٹ پیشہ ہے اورفائٹر پائلٹس ایلیٹ آٖف ایلٹس مشہور ہیں)۔ 2008 میں کوئٹہ سے اپنے آبائی گھر جاتے ہوئے جیکب آباد کے قریب ان کی کار کی ٹکر ایک گدھا گاڑی سے ہوئی، دونوں زخمی ہوئے، اور جس طرح زیادہ تر ایکسڈنٹ میں ہوتا ہے کہ سیکنڈ سیٹر کو زیادہ چوٹ لگتی ہیں بالکل ایسے ہی منیبہ مزاری زیادہ زخمی ہوئیں، ان کے شوہر نے ان کا علاج سرکاری ملڑی ہسپتال کے بجائے آغا خان ہسپتال میں کروایا کہ کوئی کسر باقی نا رہ جائے۔
    ان کی کوئی اولاد نہیں تھی، لیکن ڈاکٹرز کے مطابق وہیل چئر پر ہونے کے باوجود منیبہ بچے کی پیدائش کے قابل ہیں لیکن دونوں میاں بیوی نے منیبہ کو کسی بڑی زحمت سے بچانے کے لئے یہ طے کیا کہ بچے کی پیدائش کی بجائے کسی بچے کو گود لے لیا جائے۔ 2011 میں ان لوگوں نے ایک بچہ گود لے لیا۔
    شوہر کے اتنے تعاون اور بیوی کے لئے تمام تر مثبت کوششوں کے باوجود منیبہ چاہتی تھیں کہ وہ گھر میں مقید ہونے کے بجائے کوئی سماجی کام کریں۔
    سماجی کام بڑھتے بڑھتے سفارت خانوں، ڈپلومیٹک ملاقاتوں اور غیر ملکیوں کے ساتھ اٹھنے بیٹھنے تک جا پہنچے۔ وزارت دفاع کے کسی بھی ملازم یا اس کے گھر والوں کے لئے غیر ملکیوں سے ملاقاتیں یا کسی بھی ملک کے سفارت خانے، خانہ فرہنگ، این جی او سے رابطہ رکھانا تادیبی جرم ہے۔ منیبہ مزاری اور ان کے شوہر خرم شہزاد جس خاندان سے تعلق رکھتے ہیں وہاں بھی اس طرح کے اٹھنے بیٹھنے کو قبول نہیں کیا جاتا۔
    خرم شہزاد نے جب منیبہ کو ایسا کرنے سے منع کیا تو وہی ہوا جو شوبز کے زریعے شہرت کی بلندیوں پر جانے والی سیٹرھیوں پر قدم رکھنے والی ہر خاتون کو روکنے پر ہوتا ہے۔ 2014 میں منیبہ گود لئے ہوئے بیٹے کو لیکر خرم شہزاد کا گھر چھوڑ گئیں اورچھ ماہ بعد مارچ 2015 میں منیبہ مزاری نے اسلام آباد ہائی کورٹ میں خلع کی درخواست دی اور جون 2015 میں کورٹ نے منیبہ مزاری اور خرم شہزاد کی شادی کی تحلیل کا حکم دے دیا۔
    منیبہ اپنے ہر شو میں کہتی ہیں “میں نے بچہ گود لیا” حالانکہ بچہ میاں بیوی نے گود لیا
    منیبہ کہتی ہیں کہ مجھے میرے اپنے چھوڑ گئے، حالانکہ منیبہ کا علاج اور پھر علاج کے بعد ان کی دیکھ بھال بہترین اداروں اور ڈاکٹرز سے کروائی گئی۔ ان کے شوہر نے ان کے لئے ایسے بندوسبت کئے کہ ان کا وزن نا بڑھے، ان کے لئے گھر میں ایسی آسانیاں پیداکی گئیں کہ منیبہ اپنے کام وہیل چئیر اور بیڈ پر بیٹھ کر ہی کرسکیں۔
    اب معاملہ یہ ہے کہ
    منیبہ کے سابق شوہر خرم شہزاد نے ان پر ایک کروڑ ہتک عزت ہرجانے کا دعویٰ کیا۔ کہ ان کی سابقہ اہلیہ انہیں بدنام کررہی ہیں۔
    خرم شہزاد بیچارے نے جتنا خوار ہونا تھا وہ خوار ہوچکے، وہ اب تپتے توے پر بیٹھ کر بھی سچ بولیں تو کوئی یقین نہیں کرے گا،
    گورا رنگ، دھاری دار نقوش اور موتی جیسے دانت دکھاتی مسکراہٹ والی منیبہ کے ساتھ میڈیا اور این جی اوز ہیں، جبکہ خرم کا ساتھ ان کا ادارہ بھی نہیں دے گا۔

    کیونکہ
    ہم جس دور میں رہ ہیں اسے Post- Truth Era کہتے ہیں، جہاں رائے عامہ اور نظریات حقائق پر نہیں جذبات پر بنائے جاتے ہیں احساسات سے چھیڑ چھاڑ کر کے سیاسی اور سماجی فوائد حاصل کئے جاتے ہیں۔
    (کاپی پیس
    There is another side of the picture also, please read

  • Bettina Ledesma

    Have shared Muniba Mazari’s story. Fortunately, one of her Inspirational “chats” have been translated to Spanish and was tagged from Mexico, to that video. That brought me here.~ Have tagged FB friends in other far away places. Tho I live in the USA, I relate profoundly to the plight of women, wherever they are. Wonderful article, exalts Humanity, Consciousness and Mercy. Best to you all, and to beloved Homeland. Pakistan.

  • Sana Shah

    I needed the date of publication of this article.