My Khala is an Honest Woman By Orooj-e-Zafar

My Khala is an Honest Woman

Being an educator is in her blood.
Her school was rechristened after Khaula
so she would live thirteen-hundred-and-
fifty times more after she left us.

My khala put half of her life teaching girls in a village
till it stood eighty thousand square feet off the earth,
unhinged from all the revolutions she started.

She made history in the quietest of places
for the brightest minds to shine colors
while she handed them a glass bottle.

She made the news once, when her school
was renovated after thirty years of its standing
but I pray–

I pray for the day I turn the news on
and don’t see human natural disasters
disguised as reporters.

Those fifteen minutes of fame not once asked for,
not once appealed,
tore down her hammock-dreams
off her whitewashed walls,

spit in her new cooler-filters,

questioned whether her nurturing was enough
for these “village girls”–

my khala is an honest woman.

“Our kids have ambition. I dare you to find
a private school that can breed our discipline,
our morals. We sit on carpets and partitioned halls taken for a library.
I dare you to teach your star-children
humility sitting on a cushioned chair.

Our girls are equal.
Our girls are learning.
Our girls
deserve better

so thank you for stopping by.”

My khala is a grateful woman;
not one story can ever do that justice.

By Orooj-e-Zafar


Orooj-e-Zafar writes to ventilate and is confident only in her ability to try. She lives in Islamabad, Pakistan, studying to become a doctor on the side but focused on being a spoken word poet. Most recently, she was a runner-up in the Pakistan Poetry Slam 2016 and is a poetry reader at cahoodaloodaling. She can be found at:

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