The Hijab (2016)
Mariajose Monroy and Chandler Littleford
in India Gales-Grant’s play “The Hijab”
by India Galesi-Grant
SCENE 1: Apartment
(The evening sun has just set. The scene is a modestly furnished apartment.)
KHALANI: A heart break isn’t always as loud as a bomb exploding. Sometimes, it can be as quiet as a feather falling and the most painful thing is nobody hears it except you.
KHALANI: Dearest and merciful Allah, I know my mother is gone. But I still feel her spirit. Something in me is telling me she is still alive. I left Iran kicking and screaming because I didn’t want to leave you. I didn’t want to leave her. I didn’t want to leave me. If you find the broken pieces of my heart, would you send them to me so I can piece them back together? As of now I am a lost child.
KHERA: Sister, stop talking to yourself. It’s creepy and embarrassing.
KHALANI: Khera, I am praying to Allah.
KHERA: First of all, now that we are in America. You call me Kerry. Americans don’t pray to Allah.
KHALANI: Just because we moved to America doesn’t make us Americans.
KHERA: If you get made fun of in school tomorrow because of that stupid hijab, don’t come running to me.
KHALANI: This “stupid hijab” is our heritage. It is who we are.
KHERA: America is who we are. Accept it or get trampled.
KHALANI: Just because we changed where we live doesn’t mean we have to change who we are. Mum would have wanted us to be ourselves. This country is confusing. If we don’t accept who we are, we will never accept each other.
KHERA: You know nothing about mum. You don’t know who she really was.
KHALANI: Of course I do! Just because you knew her for two years longer doesn’t make you closer with her. You’re the one who knows nothing about her or what she would want for our future.
KHERA: I brought us to America.
KHALANI: Yes, well in the process you lost yourself. Look at you, you got your nose pierced, you got a tattoo, you changed you name to “Kerry” and you never wear your hijab in public. What happened to you? Mum wanted us to carry out our heritage until she finds us again, continue to carry out our religious practices, and be ourselves. This is what father would have wanted as well. He died fighting for our religion and people. Do you take any pride in that?
KHERA: What you just said demonstrates how little you know of her. She didn’t tell you, did she?
KHALANI: Tell me what? You talk about her like she is dead, but she is only missing. One day she will find us.
KHERA: Do you even know what really happened to her? (Long pause.) She killed herself.
KHERA: I said she killed herself.
KHALANI: (Long pause. Starts crying. Screaming..) You are lying!
KHERA: She killed herself for “Allah.”(Mocking voice).
KHALANI: No. She said she would see us again, she said she would find us. You’re just blaming her disappearance on Allah because you hate religion. Go to hell Khera, because Allah will never accept you in heaven. You are a disgrace to Allah and a disgrace to our people.
KHERA: What people? Do you see any of your kind here?
KHALANI: You mean people of our kind.
KHERA: No, Khalani, we are no longer the same kind. (Leaves the stage.)
KHALANI: (On the floor, sobbing.) Allah, are you the reason my mother died. Allah! Answer me! (Continues sobbing.)
SCENE 2: AT SCHOOL
(KHALANI and KHERA enter stage on opposite sides.)
(Both enter school unsure. KHERA is not wearing a hijab, but KHALANI is. )
(Spotlight is on KHALANI)
KHALANI: Allah, help. I am nervous but excited. Should I even be talking to you? Did you kill my mother? Should I wear this hijab? Will Khera ever speak to me again? I am excited for school. I am excited to finally have a proper education. I am excited to make new friends. But will they except me? Why am I different? Why cant I be the same as everyone else?
(Enters the building wearing the hijab. The lights dim.)
KHERA: Oh my gosh, I am so nervous. I just really want to make a good impression. I hear America is a great place to learn…girls can study whatever they want. Khalini says I should pray more, that I need to trust in Allah, but I don’t know what to believe. Sometimes I miss praying…I miss believing in something. Are you even there? When I was a child you were there. When I was a child you would answer me. Why is it different now? Why am I different? Why can’t I be the same as everyone else?
(Lights go up on Khalani’s side.)
(Walks down the hall. There is complete silence. People stare at her. Turns the key of her locker. “Click” and the voices start.)
VOICES: “OMG, it’s a terrorist.”
“Be prepared to blow up at any second.”
“She is probably hiding the bomb under her strange hat.”
“Or maybe she is just hiding how ugly she is.”
“She probably doesn’t even speak English.”
“I heard that they get married when they are young where she is from.”
“That’s a nice bracelet. Did your oil rich husband get it for you?”
“Who let you into America? Whoever it was they put us all in danger.”
VOICES: “Oh that’s right: women in veils are silent.”
(Lights switch off on Khalani’s side and switch on on Khera’s side.)
(Khera walks down the hall. There is complete silence and people stare at her. She turns the key of her locker. “Click” and the voices start.)
VOICES: “Hey Kerry.”
“Hi Kerry your hair looks nice that way.”
“Hey Kerry I saved a seat for you in class.”
“Hey Kerry do you want to come with us to the movies after school.”
(Both enter the same classroom at the same time. Both stare blankly into the audience, light is separated on each individual)
TEACHER: (Off stage) H-e-l-l-o student, I am your teacher. (Said condescendingly to KHALANI)
(Both continue to stare off into space)
TEACHER: Is she ok? Is she deaf?
VOICES: No, she is from the Middle East.
TEACHER: Oh that explains it. Shouldn’t you be in the ESL class?
(Spotlight on both girls in the same classroom.)
TEACHER: Child take your head dress off, its distracting my students who are here to learn. (beat) Kerry will you inform this clueless child about the rules of attire at this school.
TEACHER: What’s that? Speak up?
TEACHER: Don’t be sorry, just take it off.
(Khalani runs out of the classroom.)
(Light shines connecting both spaces)
KHERA: Hey! What the hell did you do that for?
TEACHER: Excuse me!
KHERA: You heard me.
TEACHER: Kerry, watch your tone.
KHERA: No, I will not. My sister was excited to come to this school. She was excited to learn. And you just embarrassed her because of your lack of knowledge about my culture and my religion.
TEACHER: That’s ridiculous.
KHERA: No that’s the truth.
Scene 3: AT HOME
(KHALANI enters the stage first and sits in a ball and cries on the floor.)
(KHERA comes in and sits next to KHALANI in the same position wearing a Hijab)
KHERA: Khalani….. Are you ok? (Beat) I miss you. I miss mum. I miss me.
KHALANI: I want to go home.
KHERA: To what?
KHALANI: To you. You were my sweet Khera. So smart, so hard working, and my best friend.
KHERA: I am still your best friend. I am here to stay. I am done pretending. I am sorry. Please forgive me. (KHALANI head still rested on her knees, not answering) Do you remember the last words mum said to you?
KHALANI: Um, “Put the chickpeas in the oven?”
KHERA: No, she said “When you are with god, you are with me.”
KHERA: I think we should pray.
KHERA: And merciful Allah. Today my sister was hurt, and I don’t know how to make her pain go away.
KHALANI: Allah, I have felt feelings I have never felt so deeply before. Betrayal, confusion, and complete pain.
KHERA: And Allah I take full responsibility for those feelings. I have also felt deep emotions today as well. I was confused with who I am and I thought life was about all being the same. But Khalani was right.
KHALANI: I am sorry could you say that again? (laughs softly)
KHERA: (said loudly) Allah the merciful and the compassionate, I say Khalani was right and I am sorry for my disrespect.
KHALANI: And I have done wrong too Allah. Please don’t send Khera to hell. I love her too much.
KHERA: We have learned today that not all people think the same as we do of you, of the world, and of the importance of life.
KHALANI: For in life we will suffer from comments that I always have been shielded from. But I now understand.
KHERA: And we are now ready to take on this new life together.
KHERA: We are who we are.
KHALANI: We are happy with who we are.
KHERA: We are proud to be Muslim women.
KHALANI: We will show the world that….
KHERA and KHALANI: Women in veils… are not silent.
KHERA: I love you Khalani.
KHALANI: I love you too, Kerry.
KHERA: No, Khalani, my name is Khera.