As Meharjan dashes across the football field, dribbling swiftly and dodging the opponents, she’s confident this battle to score more goals than conceding them will culminate at the blow of a whistle, yet some of the clashes she’s inherited don’t simply end at Lyari’s football pitch. They extend far beyond that: her whole life, at least that’s lived thus far, and perhaps till what’s foreseeable.
Making a daily beeline to Azaad Football Club from her house means traveling the 13-kilometer route that involves industrial zones, deserted areas, and graveyards, that, too, in a bus alone followed by walking some blocks at each point. Gulshan e Mazdoor, adjacent to Naval Colony, is where her mother, Kulsoom, moved to after conceding a ghastly acid attack. Her husband, or Meharjan’s father, being the alleged attacker now ‘regrets’ it blaming it all on Kulsoom’s sisters. They provoked me against you, he’d say.
Despite losing both her eyes, and most of her facial skin, she still hasn’t given up the vision of the best lifestyle she can afford for her children. She wants her daughters to make the best out of their passions while still terrorized what if they, too, face the wrath of toxic masculinity or perversion.
Penny by penny, Kulsoom collected the donations arriving from across the world, once her case was made public, coupled with the earnings from her son’s shop that she helped open, and she settled with her six children in the godforsaken area because anywhere else she could neither afford to rent a space nor her family members would own her. She says they still demonize her. They cast aspersions on my character because ‘obviously something must have warranted the acid attack’, shuddering she shared.
“My whole life is a set of unfortunate happenings and disloyal relatives,” Kulsoom said with an unassailable belief. “But my daughters have been my only sources of support through thick and thin.”
Kulsoom’s youngest daughter Meharjan now plays for an organization called Right To Play Pakistan whose operations include making sure youth from underprivileged households doesn’t miss out on the opportunity to make a mark in sports.
For obvious reasons they must not do more than just scratching the surface of this prevalent issue — kids turning to child labour, drugs, falling prey to exploitation and abuse among other vices– but the young players who do end up here have only the good things to say about them.