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Firdaus’ Tears

Let me cry, I said.

But I’ve never seen you cry before.  What’s happened?

Nothing … Nothing at all.

There are two specific moments in Woman at Point Zero that are very similar: one in the first half of the book, with Miss Iqbal, and one in the second half of the book, with Ibrahim. In both scenes, Firdaus is sitting in a dark garden with the other character and begins to cry for no discernible reason.  There are small differences in the dialogue between Firdaus and Ibrahim (which is what I quoted) and Firdaus and Miss Iqbal, but the meaning of both exchanges are the same.  Firdaus liked to sit in the garden at her school in the evenings, as well as the garden at her work, and these gardens are the settings for both of the scenes I have mentioned.

In each scenario, Firdaus does not want to go home, whether it is because she is uncertain of her future after school and does not want to return to her uncle’s home, or because she is reluctant to return to her tiny and crowded apartment building for the night.  She also strongly senses both of their gazes in the dark (something that is consistent throughout the whole story), and feels as though she is unable to escape them even when she hides her own eyes.  She claims not to know why she is crying, but I think her feeling of being unable to escape from the eyes that are watching her has something to do with her tears.  In the beginning of the story, she mentions feeling her mother’s eyes on her, watching over Firdaus as she learns to walk.  These eyes are possessive, but in a comforting and motherly way.  As Firdaus grows up, she begins to feel as though her mother is no longer her mother, and thus the feeling of being watched is no longer a comfort to her.  The eyes that she senses in both gardens with Miss Iqbal and Ibrahim are frightening to her, as there is no one in the world whose gaze truly feels comforting to her.

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