aruna papp's (with barbara kay)
A PUNJABI DAUGHTER'S MEMOIR OF HONOUR, SHAME
Hassan is the author of Prophecy
and the Fundamentalist Quest. Please visit
her website at: www.farzanahassan.com
are a pariah if you are a Christian living in India. You are
an outcast if you are born with darker skin pigmentation. You
are hated by all if you are fat and ugly. And all this gets
much, much worse if you are a child born with the wrong set
was Aruna Papp’s lot growing up in East Punjab, India.
She describes the horrendous physical, social and emotional
abuse she suffered at the hands of her own parents, family members
and friends in her book entitled Unworthy Creature
published by Freedom Press Canada, Inc. The author explains
that the culture of honour pervading Punjabi society holds young
women responsible for any misfortune that may befall the family.
the eldest of six sisters and one brother whom she refers to
as the family’s saviour, Papp recalls how boys were prized
and girls despised in that society. She recalls her father’s
beatings and her mother’s coldness toward her. The mother
treated her eldest daughter more like a glorified maid. Papp
helped her mother clean the house, cook the food and mind the
children almost incessantly, thus effectively robbing Papp of
her childhood. It was not until she was nine that this despised
child was sent to a boarding school, where once again, she was
subjected to bullying and chastisement for being dark, ugly
and low class.
school she was even accused of carrying on with a boy. Her father
was hence summoned by school authorities to give his daughter
a piece of his mind. He beat her so violently that she swooned
to the ground and recovered only after two days of being unconscious.
Just being female would have invited this type of physical abuse.
Girls in the Punjab and other patriarchal cultures are routinely
terrorized by family members so as to keep them in check. They
dare not transgress.
one of her visits home from boarding school, Aruna was repeatedly
raped by a close family friend. She would never disclose the
agony and shame of that experience to any one. No one would
have believed her. And even if they did, she would have still
paid for her rapist’s crime. The misfortune of being raped
would have brought shame to her family and they would have had
to kill her. In a culture obsessed with honour, the only thing
parents and guardians of girls hold dear is their own image
in society and how it must be preserved at all costs. And the
thing that can damage it most is the conduct of girls or what
they might experience. Hence patriarchal cultures place the
onus entirely on girls to ensure no vice, moral turpitude or
even disgraceful acts committed by others ever come to be associated
recounts how she was once transported back from school by the
principal for a ruptured appendix. Mother and father both suspected
pregnancy which could only be disproved through medical examinations.
Family members were invited to witness the doctor’s diagnosis
which would confirm that Aruna was not guilty of moral turpitude.
the surgery, Aruna was sent to a local school attended by Hindu
girls. She once signed her name as Aruna instead of Irene, so
as to be accepted by the majority of girls who were Hindu. That
mistake was never rectified and she remained Aruna for the rest
of her life.
was packed off to be married to Ralph, an Anglo-Indian, while
still in her teens. The initial months of their marriage went
without incident but Papp would soon realize that Ralph too
was obsessed with his honour. The names of her abusers had changed
but Aruna’s plight as the unworthy creature had not changed
was only after arriving in Canada that she would slowly begin
to realize her self-worth. In Canada Aruna embarked on a mission
to educate herself. There was much opposition at home and as
usual Ralph was given preference, but she chose not to bow down
to family pressure. She completed her studies with two graduate
degrees. She also found the courage to end her loveless marriage
and marry a second time, for love!
Creature is a well written and insightful book. It provides
first hand insights into how a culture of honour can destroy
a young woman’s self-esteem. The book is co-authored with
Kay, as English is not Aruna Papp’s first
language. It is an important and worthy addition to feminist
I'm fascinated with books and stories about the plight of women
in the Middle East and Asia in general but by the second chapter,
I was bored to tears. It rambled about the scenery and about
her family, every single member in detail and didn't really
speak much at all about honour killings, which is why I bought
the book. I was very disappointed. It was a waste of money.
I can't wait to read this magnificent story! And pray that women
who are subject to this kind of abuse,open their eyes and realize
that they are not alone.
In her acknowledgment
she mentions “my parent were hardworking people who sacrificed
everything they had, to give their children better life in Canada,
for that I will be eternally grateful; my father was a proud
and honorable man who I adored.” Later in her book she
also mentions that my parents were committed to higher education
for their children. Aruna did go to school and graduated with
metric which is equal to grade 12 and then she went to Spicer
college (she mentioned this in her book). So why did she advertise
that she was only grade 3 when she arrived in Canada. I read
this book three times and I am surprised no one has caught on
could this be a false memoir? There are too many contradictions
in this book.
by Farzana Hassan:
of Rock Humour
Catholics Are Right
the War Against Jihad
Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution
Jew Is Not My Enemy
Ban the Hijab? (essay)