Touch: The Journal of Healing




    by Naveed Rehan

When I think of my childhood, I remember it being a happy one.  I lived in Lahore, Pakistan, in a house with big lawns filled with flowers and fruit trees.  I was a cheerful little girl who laughed easily, trusted everyone, and loved to play outdoors.

As I grew into an adolescent, I dimly realized how my life was changing.  There were new pressures, new tensions, new hostilities, the most hurtful ones coming from my father.  He seemed to dislike my growing older — as if it was a crime I was perpetually committing — making him irritable, rude and despotic towards me.  He policed my every move, making me feel as if my developing body was something to be ashamed of.  He never explained anything to me; never discussed anything.  He just ordered; and sometimes he thundered, which was enough to send me cringing to my room, hot indignant tears soaking my pillow.

Many days and nights were spent this way before I became conscious of a burning hatred towards him, born of his injustices.  As an adolescent I never knew what a loving father was, even though he kept us fed and clothed.  My mother never said a word.  I kept storing up my tears and my anger.

My father had a passion for mutilating trees.  He thought of it as pruning, but it really was a haphazard kind of violence, to me anyway.  I used to watch out for new buds in the flowering bushes around our house.  One day I woke up to see my favorite pink rose bush mangled just when so many buds were about to bloom.  I could not believe my eyes.  In sheer rage I picked up a small axe my father kept among his tools and screamed: “Why not cut it all out?” hacking at the bush in fury.  Luckily my father was out of the house at the time.  My mother watched me in amazement, silent as always.


The first step in getting out of a nightmare is to open one’s eyes.  Perhaps self-awareness comes only when we have been thoroughly shaken out of our complacencies, our fond beliefs.  We may wonder if mourning ever stops, if we ever stop being angry.  But perhaps healing means replacing anger with compassion.  One can try.  All stories of wisdom tell us that we must first have compassion for ourselves.  Perhaps I would never have rebelled if my arranged marriage had not been so torturous.  It was a transition from a frustrated existence to a claustrophobic one.  Only now it was a family of three: father, mother and son, sawing off my branches, mutilating me, trying to get at my roots.  But they didn’t quite get there.


It was in the summer of 2002 that my son and I first came to Montana State University Bozeman.  The change was monumental.  I felt reborn on the other side of the world into the paradise I had lost as a child.  Here the trees stood proud and tall in their thousands, undistorted.  Men did not belittle or harass you.  You could go out for a walk and no one would stare, or whistle, or start humming an indecent tune to draw attention to the fact that you were a woman walking alone.  On the contrary, men were friendly and courteous.  I forgot to be angry in Bozeman.

And I fell in love with the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.  It was sheer pleasure to look out the window, or walk to campus, or go anywhere at all.  Just staying home on a peaceful summer afternoon was bliss.  Peace flooded through me.  I can still recall those sights, sounds and smells.  I can still recall the feeling of well-being that I had in Bozeman, in spite of being very poor, alone, and sometimes ill.

I have since realized that beauty — great beauty — has the power to move us as nothing else can.  But this beauty is not something objective that one finds ready-made in a place or a person; beauty is created only when we respond to our surroundings in a unique synergy — it’s a two-way process.

When I left Bozeman, the trace I left behind was a pink mini-rose bush that I had planted outside my front door.  It had been given to me by my dear friend Karen, who tells me that the little plant has now grown into a luxuriant bush, spreading in wild profusion against the wall.

© 2012  Naveed Rehan

Naveed Rehan recently completed her PhD in English and the Teaching of English at Idaho State University (2011). Her dissertation is entitled Passionate Struggle into Conscious Being: D. H. Lawrence and Creative Nonfiction. She is now working as Assistant Professor of English at Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan.

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Touch: The Journal of Healing

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