Boti Gate

When others decide what SHE gets to eat.

Hi - it’s me! Your OG Soulie from SSP - Kanwal Ahmed. Don’t worry, I’m not a creepy troll who’s been spying on the community and knows everything going on inside it.

Now that we have important clarifications out of the way, and I’ve saved you from deleting this email or unsubscribing - I wanted to put together some important conversations, that Soulies have been having this week. Some of them have been real eye openers. I think a lot of times we live in such deep privilege (or so we later discover) that someone’s story really exposes us to the lived realities of others.

Generally when we hear a story we haven’t heard before, there’s two ways we can respond to it:

  1. Listen. Hold space for them. Introspect (because it sheds light on toxic cycles even around us that we can break). And offer kind words to the speaker.

  2. Roll our eyes. Loudly invalidate the story by calling it fake/whiny. Share screenshots with friends/public and shame the person. Continue to assume that such stories only happen on wahiyaat women’s groups.

I almost always prefer option 1, although I do know our culture encourages option 2. But that again, is a great opportunity to break a cycle just as Soul Sisters Pakistan has been doing for 10+ years, by giving us space to tell our stories and hear each other out - in agreement and disagreement, good times and bad times.

This week on our Facebook Community, one of the real silence breakers has been the #BotiSalan stories. Through the hundreds of stories told, thousands of comments and so many posts still pending - an ugly truth has been publicly discovered which is that many women are deprived of eating properly at their parents’ home and in their in-laws home. I want to highlight two of the stories I read, below:

On #BotiSalan: I had always looked at my brothers with envy as they got the chicken leg, while I got the wing or the neck. My mother would stare at me when I went for seconds. I was a fat child so I always thought it was because of that. As I grew older, I increasingly realized that Mama preferred my brothers over me. I resolved never to do this with my daughter and save the best boti for her now. I’m writing here because I want to forgive my mother and also pray that God provides abundantly for everyone’s daughters so no little girl goes through this ever again.

- Anonymous Post on SSP (Shared with OP’s consent)

What I particularly loved about the post above, even though it broke my heart into a thousand pieces thinking of her emotional state as a child experiencing this, was that she successfully broke this oppressive cycle as a mother herself.

Here’s another one:

My story started early in marriage. Cooked Chicken Karahi as a new bride, only to be told: ‘next time always leave enough shorba (gravy) so that it lasts for lunch and dinner both.’

Was breast feeding my baby and drank two glasses of milk shake, only to be told: ‘it was to be served in glasses not jugs,’ God forbid I drink more than one glass. I was not allowed to treat myself with my own money. My MIL would hide mangoes and fruits so that I could only be given “one” when she would allow.

Once at my mother’s house, my mother placed a bowl of yogurt in front of me and I began to cry because I had literally forgotten what it feels like to be able to serve myself, to my heart’s content from a serving dish.

Anonymous Post on SSP (Shared with OP’s consent)

The original poster did go on to share that she is now happily divorced and no one gets a say on what she or her child eats. Many are still found arguing in comments that this is not a valid reason for a woman to “divorce” - so I want you to think of what it means when a woman or female child has restricted access to basic nutrition. And how that can ever be normalized or continue to be allowed in our homes.

Restricting food for the woman reinforces gender inequality inside the home (technically a safe space) that is already common in our society. It can lead to nutritional deficiencies and is obviously very psychologically traumatizing.

As a call to action: I want to urge you to speak up if you see this happening around you to any human. And seek help if it is happening to you. There are women out there (us, khatarnaak khawateen of SSP for example) who will listen to you and help you figure this terrible situation out.

This week I am keeping up with the students’ uprising in North American universities including Columbia, UCLA, University of Toronto and others - for Gaza. These young adults putting their futures on the line to stand against their own universities and government are setting an example they shouldn’t have had to.

I spoke to some who were arrested (and have been successfully released as well) and I don’t know what to say. It is wild to me that even in 2024 it is “controversial” to protest against a genocide in Ivy League schools that have always pretended to care about human rights. Ironically, these same universities currently cracking down on their own students will in 30 years, most definitely be wearing these protests as a badge of pride of their “rich traditions of activism.”

I am proud of the brave students holding a mirror to the US empire. At this time protesting and boycotting are definitely two of our biggest tools in the face of this absolute horror. I hope you can continue to do what is in your capacity, too.

The next section is only for paid members of this newsletter so I want to say (an unwilling) goodbye to the rest of you brilliant soulies. Writing to all of you is therapeutic. If you’d like to upgrade to premium - that is always an option for you! Thank you for reading and I hope to continue making this newsletter and our upcoming platform the close-knit, powerful community we have been for the last ten years - without the fear of being shut down. You can collaborate with the newsletter or the instagram page as well by emailing/DM-ing us the idea!

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