The Prize


People were on their feet clapping and cheering. There must have been at

least six hundred guests in that capacious room. Their crescendo was almost

deafening. Doctor Shaukat had reached the stage on which a line of

appeased, gratified and what I can only describe as vain and egotistical

grey-beards and fossils perched.

They and Dr. Shaukat greeted each other feverishly and got through a

considerable amount of hand-shaking and back-slapping before the

crowded hall consented to settle down. Speeches were made and 'spoils'

presented. Another standing ovation followed this.

I was probably the only one in the room who wasn't smiling, on my feet or

partaking in the celebrations.

"C'mon, Hakim!" uttered my brother Hamza as he encouraged me to join in. I

didn't budge. "This is life. Face reality," said he.

I stuck to my sombre and stubborn stance.

Even my wife, Riffat, had submitted to tradition and had dutifully joined in

the revels. She had told me while we were getting ready to attend this

symposium that I wasn't to expect her to receive any laurels.

"Some men," she had asserted, "no matter how minor or insignificant his

labours, will definitely outstrip me - and, romp home with the prize. It's an

unfair world - be warned!"

"I can't imagine," I groused, "how they can unashamedly omit the truth and

hand over the accolade and prize to anyone other than you."

"Well..." she dismissed with a laugh. "You know, how it is."

"Still!" I objected. "After all that you've done to alleviate the plight of the

poor women in our society, it would be an injustice if your actions weren't


"I'll be gobsmacked," she argued, "if an inactive Minister or Big Noise lost

out to an insignificant little woman like me."

"How can you call yourself an insignificant little woman?" I told. "The

evidence is there - all over the Press and TV..."

"I know, but..." she interjected. "How many women in our society have you

seen win anything of significance?"

"None!" I accepted.

"The male chauvinists in Pakistan won't stand for a 'mere' woman's efforts

being recognised," claimed she.

"True!" I lamented.

So, that' s exactly what happened. My good wife had been by-passed in

favour of a mediocrity. Was I really supposed to behave as though nothing

untoward had happened....? I guess, nothing out of the ordinary had.

You put up the name of an able person you know, who deserves an honour.

This person also happens to be a woman....and ten times out of ten an

insignificant little man is lauded over any and every female candidate.

Humza began tugging at me to stand. "Hakim - you can't beat them. Rise!"

I paid no attention. "It's a conspiracy among the males," reasoned he. "No

woman is allowed to win - and no man worth his salt is going to vote for her,


"It's so unfair," grumbled I as I rose with reluctance.

"It doesn't happen only in this Country," hissed Hamza. "It happens the world


"True!" I grudged as my hands began a slow clap.


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