Do You Know The Story Of Maria Toorpakai – The Sister Of Ayesha Gulalai
As Pakistan was celebrating the successful dismissal of Nawaz Sharif from holding the PM’s seat, the nation was rocked by another scandal courtesy of Ayesha Gulalai. Gulalai, a PTI MNA quit the party alleging Imran’s inappropriate text messages to her as the cause. In a nation where political parties have the most die-hard supporters, Imran Khan supporters flocked to defend him against this defamation. For them defending Imran’s honor meant maligning the woman who dared to accuse him. The attacks on Ayesha were not just limited to her but also to her sister Maria Toorpakai.Maria Toorpakai became the pawn in a war between a powerful man and a woman who was allegedly wronged by him. Gulalai was shamed for having a sister who made the nation proud but committed the cardinal sin of wearing clothing that offended the delicate sensibilities of the nation.
The nation took the cause of shaming Gulalai’s sister to heart without realizing what an asset to the nation she is. Maria Toorpakai is counted amongst the greatest squash players of the country. How a girl hailing from one of the most conservative regions in the country managed to excel as this sport is a tale worth reading. Born in Waziristan, Maria had to brave many odds to become the woman that she is today. She had to disguise herself as a boy as girls did not play these kinds of sports from the area she came from. She kept playing even when her family opposed her and people from all over threatened her. In the first month she played squash, people assumed she was a boy because she had to dress up like a guy. For the first twelve years of her life, Maria had to conceal her identity as a girl so she could continue playing a sport in a region where girls were not supposed to get out the house lest play sports.At the age of four she started dressing up in boys clothing and by age 7 she had spent life as a boy for three years. Her father’s incredible support for this transformation stemmed from grief from his sister’s death who had died suddenly one day when she had not been allowed to live life according to her own terms.
In 2002, Maria’s father put her into weight lifting with the name Genghis Khan. While weight lifting she observed the squash and instantly became smitten. Admitting her to a squash academy meant producing a birth certificate and letting everyone know that a girl from Waziristan had stepped out of the house and dared to play sports, a hobby reserved exclusively for men. After word broke out about this, she was shunned by everyone from training partners to her coach and had to train herself.
Toorpakai said she used to receive a lot of flak from everyone for playing the game.
“They used to tease me, even used bad language. It was unbearable and disrespectful – extreme bullying”, she said in an interview.
“My hands were swollen, bruised and bleeding, but I still kept playing. I locked myself away, trying to create my own shots, my own drills”, she said.
2006 saw Toorpakai finally gaining the fruits of her labor as she turned into a professional athlete. In a country where everyone takes up the job of being the upholder of morality, Maria playing squash without a veil and in shorts instantly branded her as a target. Her actions were perceived as un-Islamic and she was constantly called names for shaming her country. In 2007, Taliban threatened to kill her and her family if she did not stop playing. So for three and a half years, she locked herself in her house, writing to clubs, players, and schools so she could escape the wrath of Taliban and train internationally. Eventually, help came in form of former professional squash player Jonathon Power who agreed to train her in this Academy in Toronto, Ontario.
She became the recipient of the Salaam Pakistan award in 2007 and the Canadian Voice of Hope award in 2012.Now Toorpakai has made Canada her home and hopes to receive academic training in music as well.
The downtrodden mentality of this depraved nation drove a woman who has made Pakistan proud on countless occasions, out of the country. Maria’s story is nothing short of completely inspiring. She braved all odds to do what she wanted to do and didn’t let the ramblings of a conservative nation stop her. Maria Toorpakai coming on television to play squash in shorts is not shaming the nation. The nation is being shamed when Jirgas use rape as a punishment. The nation is being shamed when women are killed for honor. Maria is telling the world that as long as you want to make your dreams come true , the voices of others will never deter you from your path. Maria is an inspiration to girls everywhere and instead of shaming her , we should be celebrating her.
So don’t tell young girls to sit down , shut up and do whatever tasks the patriarchy doles out at them. Ask them to look at Maria and take a lesson in courage and determination from her. The world needs more people like Maria Toorpakai Wazir and less like those women from PTI who shame her for becoming the person she was always meant to be.