Stories about literature in Pakistan

“It’s Chand Raat. He would want to be with family”

He looked again at the big slab of ice, big no longer. It had melted here and there, there and here. There was the memory of ice spread across the table. In zig zag lines, in the air around the table. In the future that was taking a leap into the past. Sometimes he thought his business was not really selling ice but buying time. And the sun was the vendor. The greater the sun’s heat, more the customers, but also greater the probability of the ice melting. Profit, loss. Loss, profit. On the hottest days, people flocked to him and in Ramazan, he naturally became the most important person. For those few hours, at least. He could ...

Read Full Post

The midwife of Delhi

The Quran has acknowledged the existence of djinn, but the proliferation of stories revolving around these creatures of fire often delves into the realm of horror. In 19th century Delhi, to counteract children’s perceptions of djinns as fearful creatures, city elders recounted folk tales recounting the kindness and generosity of the djinn in order to remind children that djinn, just like any of Allah’s creatures, could be good and bad. What was important were one’s own actions, good deeds were rewarded, and pleasing a creature of Allah was equivalent to pleasing Allah Himself. Long ago, back when Delhi was a quiet city with horse carriages dotting the ...

Read Full Post

The sheila from Pakistan

There was not a single person in sight. Not a single one. My father asked me to describe the first thing I saw when I went out on the street early in the morning. Perhaps I could make up something. “I saw a bunch of kangaroos coming down the road, Aba. It was like a mela.” I was always an early morning person. My father called me his alarm clock. He never needed another while I was in the house. It was my sounds that woke him for morning prayers, not the muezzin’s call from the mosque. My bedroom door opening and then shutting ...

Read Full Post

Her smile, was it real or illusive?

Was she an empress, whose command was ultimate? That echoed through the outstretched lands? Or was she an ordinary being but not a commoner? Was she soul thirsty, bewitched, and engrossed in depths? One who could correlate to the enormity of the oceans? Nevertheless, she wasn’t incapable of being envied. Her eyes were buried with deep secrets of time Her smile, a mystery, was it real or illusive? Was her forehead overshadowed by a gloomy darkness? Whoever beheld her sight tried to unfold these truths. In light, her expressions easily changed, Thus, one could misperceive into it anything It all depended on the one who entered her soul, As though it was ...

Read Full Post

‘Aadhay Adhooray Khawab’: Exploring the death of creativity through education

Shahid Siddiqui’s ‘Aadhay Adhooray Khawab’ is like a tangible dream you can hold in your hands. You are a part of a chain and a constellation of dreams, only if you believe in the beauty of the imagination. This novel is a dazzling critique of educational practices in Pakistan. It distinguishes itself from other contemporary Urdu fiction through its content, diction, and style. The story follows the journey of a devoted teacher, Saharan Rai, who is selfless and gallant, and uses his heart and soul to fulfil his dreams. This is where it gets interesting. Rai’s dreams are universal and he illustrates the same desire that many ...

Read Full Post

The dancing girls

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Relax your diaphragm. Repeat. This was my mantra, at least, these days it was. I tried to tell myself that these three steps would make everything better, would make the way I feel better. But I don’t really think they do. I can see the city lighting up from my window. I know that outside, people are getting ready to leave their houses, and venture out into Karachi’s beauty. I’d be a part of it too, if I could, if I knew how. But the bars on my windows are too strong. They skew ...

Read Full Post

A lament for Mashal Khan

The trees begin to cry and plead, The vultures touch the inevitable deed, Blood in the bare naked streets, A bullet with the heart meets. The barren walls drown in blood, The teardrops gushing like a flood, The soul still void of all disease, The eyes begin to cry, “Please”. The sticks now mere knives cutting the morning bud, The head, with all its power, begins to climb but is stopped with a single thud, The skull, born from dust, caved in back, The skin trampled, the wounds in life lack. As the wolves begin to deflower the body, Of all dignity, His name surrounds the valley air from the dust to ...

Read Full Post

When they sold my pain for their gains

My scars were still fresh. One could see blood oozing out of my fresh and painful wounds. These wounds are what my age-old enemy bestowed me with. My enemy has got numerous weapons, some pierced through me, while some made numerous holes in my body. Holes may fade away, injuries may heal. But what was done to me, to my inner world, will never fade away. It will never heal. My wounds were still afresh; they smelled like agony. I was withering with pain while my family members decided to hold a grand party and enthral their guests with entertainment, entertainment and entertainment. ...

Read Full Post

Reflecting on Raza Rumi’s Identity, Faith, and Conflict

I arrived in the United States a few weeks ago and the first public event I attended was a bit too familiar. In 2013, I went to the launch of Raza Rumi’s book ‘Delhi by Heart’ at the Khayal Festival in Lahore. Four years later, I was in Queens Museum, New York where Rumi’s new book titled ‘Identity, Faith and Conflict: Essays on Pakistan and beyond’ was released. The book is a collection of essays that Rumi has authored over the past few years. It was strange to see that the introduction described Rumi as an “international scholar in residence at Ithaca ...

Read Full Post

Crooked fingers and final chords

Crooked fingers steadily vibrating on the guitar, Heavy eyelids blur out the crowd, The body trembles as the last chord is recited, The floodlights blind out the distance, until all he can see is just an echo of himself.  His lip buds expose his subtle prophecy, His eyes deeper than the sea that has absorbed all pain, His nose glitters with the little line of cocaine still up that unholy hole, The ocean, at the end of the road, vivid in all its majesty. The eyelids much heavier now, impossible to fight Make it all the more painful to keep playing, even when his body compels him to, The ...

Read Full Post