Words have tremendous power to shape perceptions, influence people, manipulate representation and transform reality. We not only tend to see the world through the lenses of narrative but also translate the narratives, which serve as guiding principles in shaping our belief systems, into reality, through our distinct conduct. The decisive power of narrative in shaping and reforming belief systems and consequently manifested behavior patterns cannot be denied on domestic, economic, political or academic grounds within specific cultural realms as well as in delineating certain images of those realms cross-culturally. In fact, narrative is the driving force, the zeitgeist, which also serves as a window to peep into the norms, practices and ideals of a particular culture. Words, in short, can make, shake and break norms and ideals by shaping, reshaping, and transforming realities, representations and practices. 

For instance, recently the world sees Muslims as terrorists because of certain narrative targeted at a specific kind of portrayal. In the same fashion, people, through utterly generalized and stereotypical narrative, have been made to believe that women are oppressed in the Muslim world; India is a rapist country or Pakistan is a terrorist country etc. Similarly, the stereotypical narratives concerning patriarchy, racism, pseudo-feminism and imperialism have stamped the history conspicuously with an indelible mark.

If the same is applied to domesticity, our narrative, "aurat ghar bnaati hai", "bohat jahaiz diya ha unhon nay" "baita ho ga to shaara banay ga", "larkay rotay nahi", "mard ka kaam hai kmana", "larki gori honi chahiay" etc. have done more harm than good. Similarly, the association of words, such as majboor, kamzor and nasamajh with women; and laaparwah, taaqatwar and izzatdaar with men create an imbalanced society where women have to perform some sort of jugglery to get accepted while men are not made to mend, bend or change, if needed. On the other hand, misusing the majbooraurat card, can get certain men exploited.

As we grow up, listening to this narrative repeatedly, we internalize it consciously or unconsciously. A narrative that strengthens the idea of, for instance, "aurat ghar bnaati hai" puts massive responsibility on a woman's shoulders only; and in case of any domestic or marital loss, often the victim is treated as a culprit. In the same vein, "mard ka kaam ha kamana" puts excessive pressure on men and we have heard news of men committing suicide just because they couldn't find jobs or support their families well; while this particular emphasis on "kmaana" also deviates men from "tarbiyyat krna". 

So far as ‘tarbiyyat krna’ is concerned, we sometimes tell the kids, "yeh to apni phhupho/khala/maamun pay gya ha, while whining over or boasting about the traits, we think, they mutually share. Such kids never learn to be themselves. They unintentionally react to the negative images of relatives with whom they are associated or have to struggle in justifying that they are or are not the positive or negative reflections of those relatives. 

By labeling the kids with "yeh hai he ziddi", or isolating by "yeh wala zara badtameez hai", or affirming and regulating certain behaviour; we give children a sense that they ARE ziddi and they HAVE TO BE or HAVE to prove that they are NOT. It can only be a draining experience for a growing child; especially when he or she has to listen to our favourite one that has shaped many realities: log kya kahain gay. 

Similarly in the professional domain, "mera baita doctor/ engineer banay ga" is a commonly used expression. So this baita or baiti who, for some reason cannot become doctor, engineer or an army man, suffers from the pang of not being good enough. We use jobs as labels instead of means to serve the community or earn a living. Consequently we look down upon labourers, rikshaw walas or maids and even contemptuously consider them less human. KooRay wala, for us, is kooRay wala not sfaaiwala; maid is maid, not a cleaning lady; and servant is servant, not a worker. That's why we don't respect the person but the Kursi they are sitting in and the tag they have on their dress; because, we have not developed a narrative that may reinforce positive feelings and develop positive mindset about any kind of work. 

Just like brands and organisations have their mottos, slogans or power statements that they use to channelize behaviour; we also have a pervasive, overarching social narrative that forms or ruins personality. On close observation, we can easily examine such narrative that is built upon and simultaneously causes negativity, social injustice, hierarchies, differences, contempt and exploitation, in all walks of life. Jokes about naive Pathans or Sardars and other communities, for example, if repeatedly planted as the only realities and modes of judgment, do nothing but divide and dissatisfy. Such jokes and text messages have soft power that enables people to get comfortable with their eccentric and inauthentic beliefs about certain groups. 

The ‘sneaking-freaking’ questions we politely ask a thousand times to the same person are another manifestation of this kind of dissatisfying narrative. For example, questions like, "larki ho k pilot bano g?", "mard ho k ro rahay ho?" "Tumhara weight ziada nahi ho gya?" Firstly, there are better things to inquire about; secondly, why ask if you cannot help.

Societies naturally evolve but certain interventions and measures can change the course of action. In addition, it's Satan’s job to divide, debilitate and destroy through pessimism. We are human beings and our job is and should predominantly be to soothe, alleviate, heal, support and create. Therefore, counseling, negotiation, proper grooming at school and college level, parental support, awareness seminars and campaigns can help develop a collective understanding that every situation is different and these old "hakeemi formulas" that we have been memorizing and internalising since ages may not work under certain circumstances. Moreover, people should be taught problem solving skills. They should be taught the value of apologizing, taking responsibility and accepting differences. Textbooks, especially at school level, along with domestic narrative should help promote equality and peace. TV dramas should also play their role in this regard. We need a narrative unequivocally concentrated on “insaan bano”, “mard rulaatay nahi”, “kindness is manly”, “Jahaiz maangna begairti hai” and “Emerging Pakistan” etc.