Feeding Desire: Parveen's Glorious Future By Samiha Fariha

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            It was mid-morning and Parveen a 10-year old Azawagh Arab, lay sleeping exhaustedly on a mat in a corner of her families tent. She has a giant figure with body stuffed with milk, exhausted with fat; she has rolls of fat covering and pouring out of her stomach. She knows it is time to wake up and deal with the tiring task of fattening for the day with her aunt, but cannot seem to find the energy to get up on her fat little legs. Mid-morning and mid-afternoons were when eating to fatten usually took place because this was the time when regular means were consumed by Azawagh Arab men, women and children.

            Parveen is a shy little girl who is scared of the day ahead, she keeps her eyes tightly closed as if she could freeze today from taking place. Dark blue bruises covered Parveen’s shoulders, arms and torso the handiwork of her aunt Nusrat. Nusrat is a tough looking lady who takes her job of force feeding Parveen very seriously, and sometimes if Parveen is not swallowing her milky porridge, her aunt will not hesitate to punch her on the arm to make the arduous process of swallowing down her meal easier. Nusrat an important women in the village she was admired by both local Tassara women, and respected and sometimes desired by most Tassara men. She was monstrously large with thick fat legs that she could barely lift up let alone walk on. She has large rolls of fat hanging out of her torso with stretch marks covering her whole body including her arms where it was most appreciated by both women and men. She is a woman of very less patience but has a very nasty temper, onetime she through a pot directly at her own daughters head and the poor thing had a concussion for a week, all because she was taking time swallowing her dry couscous. Eating food feels like performing another different sort of labour, the amount of energy that goes into eating the atrocious milky porridge and swallowing the dry couscous by the handful will just about drain the energy out of you, but also add to that getting beaten by your aunt when you refuse to consume the disgusting meal.

            The previous evening Parveen was beaten by her aunt Nusrat black and blue when she refused to consume anymore porridge because she was feeling nauseous. Her aunt hit her with a ladle and bended her four fingers until she was eating her porridge like a starved animal. Parveen complained to her mother once or twice about aunt Nusrat’s severe sometimes brutal treatment of her. But her mother just shrugged and told her if she was not such a bad girl, and ate her meals like she was suppose to than the punishment should not have been necessary. Aunt Nusrat used to be a sincere and kind woman during Parveen’s childhood; she had a very deep and loving bond with her aunt once. When Parveen was two years old her aunt used to tell her stories from the Quran about the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Once when Parveen was three she had a really high fever, but Nusrat took her to her home for one week so she could recover safely with love and care. Nusrat used to treat Parveen as if she was her own daughter, she spend more time with Parveen than she did with her own daughter. On the other hand Parveen looked at Nusrat like a second mom, but all that changed when her fist two baby teeth fell out. When before Nusrat used to indulgently feed Parveen porridge, now she yells at her or sometimes hit her to eat the porridge. Furthermore when before Nusrat used to encourage Parveen to go out and play with her friends, now she restricted her from completely going and mixing with her friends. Before Parveen used to love her beloved aunt and could not imagine a world without her, but now she fears her aunt, and wishes herself to be in another universe but here. Parveen no longer has the secure and loving bond with her aunt Nusrat she once had in her childhood, that secure bond and loving feelings had been long ago demolished by the presence of approaching adolescence.  

            Aunt Nusrat had three husbands, the first died due to a heart attack, the second died due to some unknown illness and the third she is still living with. She had no children from her first husband, she had a son from her second husband, and she had a son and a daughter from her third husband. Nusrat’s daughter Salija is 19-years old and is married to her cousin Mustafa from her father’s side. Salija has three daughters and a son with her husband, but her daughters have not yet reached the age of fattening yet. Nusrat is an indulgent grandmother to her grandchildren, she is affection, caring and most importantly patient. But all that patience and affection will slowly disappear one day when her grandchildren came of age, especially when it came to fatten to attract a mate. Fattening symbolizes power and confidence; the process of fattening was a process of sexualizing women’s bodies, the physical change signifies that young Azawagh Arab women were ready for marriage. Most Azawagh Arab women were married at an early adolescent age in which they were proud, if a rather shy bride. Parveen knows some day she will follow in her cousin Salija and other Azawagh Arab women’s footsteps to become a proud and confident bride, but until than she will have to suffer her aunts constant beating, pinching and occasional slapping when she is being force fed the atrocious milky porridge her aunt, mother and many Azawagh Arab women seemed to prefer. The milky, gooey porridge which looks and tastes absolutely disgusting, when the silky meal goes down your throat it feels like you were consuming poison which you would rather vomit it out, than ate in a million years. The four items that aunt Nusrat usually force Parveen to consume is milk, grain, millet and sorghum. These are the key ingredients that are needed to fatten young Azawagh Arab women; milk is very important because this substance flows into a girl’s body nicely and makes her bones strong. Second ingredient that was very important was grain usually taken with water or milk, this substance flows into the cavities of girl’s bodies, and also one of the main ingredients to gaining weight. Azawagh Arab women do not eat fruits or vegetables but rather consumes a very high carbohydrate diet with nutritional food that is rich in healthy fat.

            Many years ago an 8-year old Parveen once asked Salija, why did Azawagh Arab women have to be larger than a tent before they get married. Salija told Parveen that men desire big, beautiful fleshy females. Men desire women who have thick fleshy skin because it is sexually attractive and desirable. Also being monstrously large symbolizes status, once position in society and how much wealth they may have. Parveen is from a very influential family because her father and aunt are very important people in the village, they are respected by both Azawagh Arab women and men. Parveen knows someday she will be married of to a man who is of similar status of her family, but also knows that day is not very far. Parveen is 10 years old now, but will soon be married of at 16 years of age when a respectable dignified proposal comes along. She already received several proposals by the time she was 9 years of age, but her mother turned it down because she was too young and also she had just been started get fatten properly. Aunt Nusrat once or twice hinted at Parveen’s mother that one of her eldest son may be great for Parveen. But Parveen’s mother never considered the proposal seriously because she did not want Parveen to get married to one of her cousins, but rather wanted her to marry local Tassara men with similar status of her family. Parveen’s mother got along with Nusrat perfectly, but however she’d much rather preferred not having Nusrat as Parveen’s mother-in-law. Nusrat and Parveen’s mother have known each other before Parveen’s mother’s marriage to Nusrat’s brother. Parveen’s mother and Nusrat used to play together as young children before their mothers put an end to that friendship, when they began fattening both girls up to prepare them for marriage. Parveen laid in bed and thought about the day ahead, it was a bright morning today and she could hear her aunt Nusrat’s loud voice from outside talking to her mother. She knew if she did not get up now her aunt was going to come inside the tent with a stick and beat her to wake. Today was going to be a long morning and also a tiring one, Parveen was so large it took all her energy out of her to sit up on the mattress. In front of Parveen’s eye she could see her mother had already prepared the milky porridge for today’s consumption with a bowl of milk on the side, neatly set on the silky sand. Parveen went to the large bowl of porridge and began making faces at it while she too began to eat the atrocious meal while washing it down in same time with milk. Parveen like many other Azawagh Arab women have a difficult and stressful childhood because from the time their two baby teeth fall out and the appearance of pubic hair, their innocence from that day is lost forever because they are being groomed to be a women, not just any women but women with fleshy rolls of fat and stretch marks covering their torso, shoulder and arms.        



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