The Needle Woman’s Calendar by Aamer Hussein: Summary and Analysis

Read below our complete notes on the short story “The Needle Woman’s Calendar” by Aamer Hussein. Our notes cover the background, summary, characters, themes, and analysis of the short story.

The Needle Woman’s Calendar Introduction:

The needle Woman`s Calendar is great piece of literary fiction. The plot of the story is built around Tabinda, a middle class girl, who becomes the victim of Taboo of giving birth to a baby girl. The story is of survival of Tabinda. The story tells about the struggle from nothing to the making of a very bright future. This story sheds light on women folk, their issues and problems, but, the brighter side is that Tabinda stands out these problems and becomes a role model for other ladies who suffer under these tabooed rules. She becomes a voice of resistance and success.

The Needle Woman’s Calendar Summary:

Tabinda is a needlewoman. Marrying Suhayl is not her choice but it is a decision taken by fate with paving pay the way by her mother`s cousin who selects Suhayl for Tabinda. Tabinda an eastern girl had to accept the decision of the family as it is required from her to obey and be submissive. Seven weeks pass when her husband leaves for England and she expects a baby. She gives birth to a baby-girl Nasreen which changes the whole course of action of her life. Her in laws don’t like her because of giving birth to a daughter as giving birth to a girl is not considered a good thing in this society.

In the meanwhile, she gets to know that her husband got married to another lady abroad. This wrenches her life; she starts planning to leave the house and to get an escape. One day, she gets the chance; she dresses up Nasreen and pulls the burqa. She sends the gate keeper for Tonga. She leaves a message that in order to repair some jewelry she is visiting the family jeweler. To purchase a ticket from Lahore to Karachi, she sells two heave gold bracelets and a gem to that jeweler for paltry amount and hurries to Karachi. After a journey of one day and night, she reaches Karachi. She does not disclose the second marriage of Suhayl in her family but is annoyed by this act of Suhayl. She decides to write to Suhayl for divorce.  Suhayl`s family asks for the custody of Nasreen but as she is below seven years so her custody is given to her mother.

Now starts the problem, because she does not want to be a burden on her family and wants to earn living. She starts thinking about doing something for earning. She decides to teach Koran but then declines the idea. She starts sewing business and soon gets famous for the quality work she produces. Her business grows very rapidly and her customers increase day by day: she shifts her business from room to veranda and then soon she rents a room and makes it her shop which holds the sign board as NAUBAHAR; ladies and children garments and fancy work.

After two years, she sends some money to her ex in laws for the gold bracelets and gems. They also send her the money in lieu which she keeps in the bank. Naubahar`s business increase day by day. It also gets difficult for the customers to come to her home in Lalukhet so, after years of hard struggle, she decides to take Naubahar to P.E.C.H.S neighbors’ town in Karachi city where she rents a building. Tabinda leaves some of her workers in Lalukhet to continue working for her as it is not feasible for them to go to city. And for the new setup she hires skilled female workers.

Six years pass and Tabinda never thinks about re-marriage. She lives in a furnished room in her building with Nasreen. She visits her family on weekly basis. In March, she meets Shamim- a school teacher whose duty is to take Nasreen along with her to school and drops her back. Tabinda and Shamim become fast friends and Shamim introduces Tabinda to her brother, Omer Baig, who is a writer. One day Shamim tells Tabinda that her brother takes her to sea shore which is a very beautiful place to enjoy. Tabinda expresses her to wish to go as well and Shamim assures her that her brother who has already been introduced to Tabinda through his poetic work by Shamim, will take them there. One day, they visit sea shore. Nasreen and Shamim take camel ride while Omer talks to Tabinda. He tells her about his job, his family background and then he offers to marry her. Tabinda remains silent and then turns the conversation towards sea and waters.

In June, Omer sends marriage proposal to Lalukhet where Omer`s family meets Tabinda`s family. They agree to the proposal and a simple marriage ceremony takes place. Tabinda is dressed in red Chiffon sari and is forced to wear jewelry. Omer gives her mehar of twenty five thousands. The only condition from Tabinda is that Omer will live in her own furnished room with her. After the marriage, her life totally changes. She waits for Omer to come and he comes around dusk. They usually sit on the balcony and chatter about daily routines. Twice Omer took her outside parties as well.

It is a rainy night in Karachi when she waits for Omer to come but he does not come instead comes two policemen and search the whole house. She gets to know that Omer has been taken by police because of writing revolutionary poems against government. She share the news with Shamim but urges her not to share it with the parents. They tell them that he is gone to Sukkur for job. For twenty nine nights, Omer does not come. She even visits Omer`s newspaper office where he works and requests the editor, Ashraf, to help her in getting bail. On thirtieth night, the door is knocked and Omer is found at the door badly injured. He is entered to the house; he takes bath and then narrates the story to his wife. He tells her that he was taken to Hyderabad jail and due to lack of evidence, he is set free.

The life, after this incident, comes to its normal routine. Tabinda is expected to have Omer`s baby. Omer starts bookshop after renting a shop in a nearby place. Shamim carries on the same job of taking Nasreen to school and drops her on way back home. Omer`s parents decide to perform pilgrimage and they go to Mecca. Omer wishes Nasreen to become a scientist.

The Needle Woman’s Calendar Themes:

Struggle:

The story conveys a core message of hard work and struggle. Aamer Hussein illustrates that hard work never goes in vain. Tabinda- a grief stricken lady struggles to achieve a good life and she gets succeeded because of her sincerity for work.

Identity:

The story gives a very clear perspective to recognize identity and not to compromise identity in any situation. Tabinda whose identity gets in trouble because of giving birth to a lady daughter strives for her identity in Karachi. And she stands out all troubles and tribulations. She develops her identity in the city and is revered and respected everywhere.

Feminism:

The story is fact depicting feminism; it tells that women have got equal rights in every walk of life and they must not be considered inferior. The writer is if the view that woman had to realize her identity and should strive for their existence in the society. They can be equal to woman if they recognized their self.

The Needle Woman’s Calendar Characters:

Tabinda:

Tabinda is lead character of the story. Tabinda is the one who suffers and then comes out to be victorious. She falls victim to the eastern norms and is made to obey the family decision which bounds her to marry Suhayl. She silently marries and starts living her life with accordance to the life standard set by Suhayl`s family.  Suhayl soon leaves for England leaving Tabinda at the mercy of her family. She, then, give birth to a daughter which brings calamity her life. She is considered ‘other” now as she has not gifted the family with a baby boy. She suffers all these four years with her daughter Nasreen. In the meanwhile, she gets a horrible news that Suhayl has married abroad. She firmly decides to leave the family and takes some jewelry in order to get a train ticket. She sells the gold bracelet and leaves for Karachi her home town. After taking divorce and the custody if her daughter from the in laws, she start earning a living. She starts sewing business and soon gets famous for her quality work. Her business increases day by day and she has shift her business to a rented building. There she meets Shamim a school teacher. Shamim introduces Tabinda to her brother Omer who is poet and writer. Omer proposes her and afterwards they get married.  Tabinda is the name struggle and commitment. She stands as coive of resistance to the outdated standards where a lady had to give birth to a boy otherwise her life becomes a living a hell. The story sheds a light on the identity development of Tabinda.

Suhayl:

Suhayl is a typical eastern husband. He comes from England just to get married. Once, he gets married through a family arranged marriage to Tabinda and leaves for England. She seems not in a mood to give any attention to Tabinda. After getting the news that his wife has given birth to a baby-girl, he marries another lady in England leaving Tabinda flabbergasted.

Shamim:

Shamim plays a pivotal role in making Tabinda`s life smooth and comfortable. She is the one, who introduces Tabinda to her brother Omer. Shamim helps Tabinda through every thick and thin, she supports Tabinda in every step of her life. When Omer is in Hyderabad Jail, Shamim stands by Tabinda and becomes a moral and physical strength for her.

The Needle Woman’s Calendar Analysis:

  • Aamer Hussein tells the readers that the world is developing rapidly but in Pakistani Society women is still not given any importance not even in the choices of her life as well as marriage.
  • The story is a satire on the typical and stereotypical mentality of eastern society. Aamer Hussein exposes a Pakistani elite family having typical approach towards Tabinda when she gives birth to baby girl.
  • Aamer Hussein wants to tell us that Tabinda in considered guilty for the act while she has no control over it as it is the decision taken by fate.
  • Amir Hussain also wants to espouse that life getting entered in to 21st century, the Pakistani mentality is the same as it was a century ago.
  • The story is a story of feminism; Aamer Hussein wants to clarify that women shall not be looked down upon rather they are to be treated equally as the can stand in competition to man.
  • The story also gives a look to Pakistani political conditions as those who raise voice will be thrown to jail. It was such a conservative army set government.