Stories about literature in Pakistan

‘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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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. ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Epitaph

Memories are sprung up again, like something thick emerging through the air, All the times our bicycles with broken rings crackled on through the friscalating sunset, in infinite happiness, All the times our worn out, unpolished shoes kept us out of the classroom talking for hours, All the times the eraser at the end of the scale lobbed into the free wind, showing who was more powerful,  All the times our collars were held in a grasping fist by our very own, All the times report cards were burnt to a crisp, in rebellion again all the mental oppression, All the times we came to ...

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Series 7: Dada Baba and me Part 3 ‘The downward spiral’

Dada Baba’s funeral was carried out with immense honour and respect. I still do not remember clearly who did all the arrangements, where the money came from, who did what and why. All I was aware of was the fact that, for the first time in my life, I was alone. The only person whose life and presence I took for granted, the person of immense grit and strength, my father, my best friend, my mentor, and practically speaking ‘my entire life’ had left me alone. In between a large gathering of black suits, white shalwar kameez, flowing tears, distant whispers, heavy hearts, and ...

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Why are our children brain washed to become “followers” instead of “thinkers”?

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”  ― Charles William Eliot In the wake of the critical crisis that literacy and education suffers in Pakistan, it is imperative to understand that education and the enlightenment of the mind cannot necessarily be instilled within the caged walls of a classroom. Although degrees and grades can produce suited versions of empty minds vying for jobs in an already saturated market but they can hardly broaden the vistas of learning or enrich young brains with insight and ...

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Why is Pakistan alienated by the global literati?

Arundhati Roy once said: “[…] Writing is an incredible act of individualism, producing your language, and yet to use it from the heart of a crowd as opposed to as an individual performance is a conflicting thing.” Roy, like many other authors of Indian descent has won a multitude of literary prizes, including the esteemed Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Which is why when India wasn’t nominated this year, it came as a blow to the world. This consternation, in my opinion, represented something far deeper for Pakistan: the alienation we face from the global literati, a sentiment the writers from ...

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