I’m going to be 34 this year, I thought about it the other day as I attempted to quit my day job before, rather sensibly, taking a 6 months sabbatical. “Go and write a play”, they all said. OK. I said. I will. Take 6 months off to write a play, good idea. Not to have a baby, or buy a house or to get married, but to write a play.
34. That’s about 65 in Pakistani-years, if I’m being generous. Passed my sell-by date, ready to be shelved, nearly. But I’ve still got time! Mum says. To sort that ‘thingy’ out. If I’m lucky, that ‘thingy’ could be a 32-year-old IT guy. No offence to the Muslim IT man. We might be perfect for each other. I said (in English), “Not for me, Mum. Boring.” she said (in Urdu), “What would you like, then”? I said “an Actor”? She laughed. I laughed too, “a Model”? She said. We both laughed. Yes, exactly. Its good we’re laughing. Because I’m still not taking it seriously. But it is serious. 34. And I haven’t always been so well behaved. So I should probably be a bit nervous.
I wanted to write a positive play for and about young Muslim girls for this reason. To off load some cultural baggage. The looming, “when are you going to get married” and the “doesn’t really matter what you do, you’re going to get married anyway”… Everyone is getting married.
Not me. Because I’m writing a play. Not because I haven’t got anyone to marry, (for more practical reasons).
I don’t want to get married, and I don’t have to. Because, I just don’t have to. Which is why it’s important to stand up for what you want, and say no. I’m going to write a play about things I do want, because I want to. The point is having a choice, being free to express yourself by saying and doing as you please. Not to be a rebel, or riotous (all the time), but just to say, that’s not what I want for my life. We are born free, yet freedom is dangled in front of us (Muslim women) like a carrot. It can be taken away, too, if we don’t behave ourselves. Do as we’re told. Do better than our counterparts, be submissive, have no voice, be irrelevant.
We want to give young Muslim girls a voice, to create a world where they can feel safe; somewhere they can have hopes and dreams, be ambitious. Be champions. It’s their world. And it’s surprising, unexpected, colourful, loud, proud, courageous, bold, inclusive, exclusive, fantastical, funny, scary, wild, honest, open…and fun.
I’ve been given too much freedom, so I’m going to make something.
Edinburgh, Bradford, Manchester 2014.