To Take And To Run Away

I have written many short stories in the past but this particular piece is special, significant and close to my heart as it touches on an issue I am very disturbed about. A La Kachu (to take and to run away) also known as bride kidnapping, is an act, a practice that has now become a tradition in Central Asia. Through Restless Beings, I have learnt more about it and as a result I wish to create more awareness and help women who have been affected.

...It has been 6 years.
Six years since I have seen Ainura, my daughter.
She was my youngest. She was my happiest. She was mine.
Then one morning she disappeared.

Ainura loved art and loved to paint. This love of hers bothered me. What does art do for a woman? How can painting be useful for a wife? I encouraged her to improve her cooking skills. I taught her how to sew dresses and showed her how to arrange flowers.
But she never showed an interest. She would sit with me if I asked her to, she would cook for me if I told her to but I could never keep her away from her paints, her colours and her vision for art.

One morning she woke me excitedly telling me how nice the weather is. She didn't give me a chance to stop her from running out the front door. Everything was ready and in hand. She had a bag with her brushes and papers and then she set off for the lake to paint.

Three weeks later, Ainura turned up at my door. I saw her trembling and she had lost a lot of weight. She came to hug me but I didn't respond. I knew what had happened. I had been told by the locals that she had married Nurlan and that he was now working in the city.

There was a time when I really liked Nurlan. He was a good boy but he never did anything productive. Till this day I have never seen him work or produce an income. Soon after marrying Ainura he left to work in the city but not once has he sent my daughter any money. He has never even sent her any gifts. He would always send jewellery and outfits for his Mother and Aunt but never for my daughter.

What did she do wrong? She didn't ask to be taken from the lake that day. She didn't ask to be made his wife. She has tried to stay with him but he hasn't been there to support her. He just left her. Now his Mother and Aunt make her work all day cleaning the house, cooking and feeding the children of the house. It is most unfair. Unfair on her.

Now how can I explain to my dear Ainura that this is how it will remain and that there isn't much she can do. I went through the same with her Father. His Mother liked me as a child and as soon as I turned 14, I was taken. I made the best of my situation and stayed with him. I know that if I had married later in life, I could have had the time and chance to study and do everything else that most 14 yr olds now do. But I didn't have the chance so I stayed and I was a good wife. My three children, my home is proof of that.

I do miss Ainura. She is my child. Every day I think of her, I wonder how she is. I know that Nurlan doesn't treat her well but I couldn't keep her with me. If she continued to stay with me, the people around us would have made her life difficult. She spent the night with him. She is now married to him. She's been with him three weeks. She is now a married woman and nothing can change that. Who would marry her now? She says she loves art but how could she study without being criticised? Without being told that she's not a pure woman and that she's a bad person by leaving her husband?
That day, when Ainura had turned up at my door, she asked me if she could at least stay the night. I had to refuse because I knew that if she had stayed the night, the villagers would talk. I told her she could not stay but that she can come in and have something to eat.
She devoured her food like she hadn't eaten in days. She told me how tired she felt and how weak she felt she had become.

I asked her how Nurlan is and she looked up at me shocked by my question. She told me that he is well and that he no longer lives with her. She then broke down into tears. Her tears fell in her soup and she pushed the bowl away saying she was no longer hungry.
I told her she must leave before it gets dark. I felt a lump in my throat and my heart felt heavy. My baby, my child was home but I could do nothing. If her Father returned to see her, he would be outraged,

I brushed her hair, helped her wash her hands and face and gave her some hot tea. I gave her a little money and told her firmly, trying to hold the tears back that she has no place here and that her home is Nurlan's home.

Ainura wiped her tears, smiled at me and told me she'll never see me again and I smiled back but my heart broke into pieces as she said those chilling words to me.

I watched her every step as she was leaving and I play them in my head every morning, every afternoon and every evening. I sent her away. I sent her to a place where she is treated so badly. But I am helpless. My society, my community, my culture is how it is.

I couldn't change my situation and neither could Ainura.
Something tells me this is how it will always be.
Ala kachuu.
To take and to run away.
Nurlan took my daughter and then he ran away.
All I have left of my Ainura are her paintings.
Her smile.
Her innocence...