The load that you carry

My dear brothers.

Put the loads you carry down for a little while.

For the space of time you sit at my table, be easy: you are safe.

You think I do not notice that you are exhausted when I open the door. You smile, I am barefoot and you tug on my braided hair; to see me this way is, for you, home. I define your inviolable space. This does not offend me; I am happy to give you peace. But I am troubled by the exhaustion you bring to my door.? The life you lead beyond this threshold should not be so hard. But it is.

There is so much for you to reconcile. I fight for my rights; you fight for something much more abstract. The blank-eyed men want to cover me up, cut me, keep me out of the way, but it is your impulses they demonize; your desires they call satanic, your gaze they use as an excuse to smother me within the walls of my house. You hate me for my weakness because I remind you of yours. In making you a slave to my body, the blank-eyed men are slowly eroding your dignity, as surely as they have acquired mine for their own use. I am trapped between religion and the undefined space that is the future; you are trapped between religion and me.

You think I don?t see how this hurts you, but I do.

My dear brothers, I owe you an apology: I have been complicit in my own oppression. When your anger and frustration, the narrowing space in which you are expected to live, made you a tyrant over me, I did not help you, I did not comfort you, and I did not confront you: instead, I made excuses for your behavior. I retreated farther and farther into myself. When you were hostile to me in the street, I covered my hair; when you were aggressive toward me in the mosque, I covered my face; when your helplessness spilled into our home, I agreed never to leave it. I agreed.

Under the scrutiny of outsiders, I defend anything you do. Though I might ache from the confines of my cage, I become furious in defense of its builder; though you take wives behind my back, though you humiliate me, I am passive. To be anything else is to admit that I have let chance after chance to right the wrongs between us slip through my fingers. I have been wronged. But I have also wronged myself. And in doing so, I have wronged you.

The damage we have done is all the greater because we have shared in its creation.

Do not rescue me. I have a little strength left. Cross the threshold and set your burden down, and in the inviolable space I have created for you, be honest with me. In this place, there are no outsiders. There is no one to watch you here but me, and I have put away my weapons. I do not sit in judgement, though I demand change. You are safe here. I will rescue you.


I had originally found this piece on this blog: Sadly the site has been deleted and I have no further reference.

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.”

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