Zain Murtaza Maken

Zain Murtaza Maken

A teaching fellow at Teach For Pakistan, he loves to write and read.

A teacher’s response

No, beta, the trees can’t talk and sing, Nature doesn’t invite you in, And the wind certainly doesn’t give you wings! No, no, colours don’t melt, Transcendental emotions you pen aren’t felt, Word in your poems, Are sounds, lines, and curves, Not pillows, crutches and memory reserves. And please, people are people, Can’t see a rose in a person and person in a rose, A void exists only in space, Not in her eyes! Her hair, how can it be like a fall? Her smile like a fresh stream, And laughter like a heart’s somersault? Sorry, beta, but the dead are dead. Their love and laughter, you can’t store, And their memories, time will ...

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What are you wearing to the funeral?

“I’m wearing a three-piece suit. You?” “I haven’t decided yet. Who died?” He says ‘its‘ name. They smile. “Oh, finally. A lot of people will appear there, will wear my sherwani.” “Just hurry up, not good to be late to funerals; attention gets diverted to the deceased.” When they reach the place, they see the most beautiful of faces. Each face with a bright mask of pity stitched perfectly on them. The two walk together, fantasising the faces and being fantasised, until they approach the host. After a series of words stuffed with a big scoop of sorrow, they ask, “How did ‘it’ die?” The person looks at ...

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The night and the child

“Can you go out to get groceries?” “Nai, nai. Don’t send him out at this time,” my mother responded. “It’s okay,” I said. “Saath hi tau hai (it’s nearby).” “Okay, at least take the cook with you.” “It’s right here. I’ll be back in 10 minutes.” “Please keep your phone on.” “I’m 24-years-old,” I sighed to myself as I got the car keys. I got into the car and drove into the night. Driving in the night gave me a high. I loved how the headlights ate up a specific amount of the night. Just above the reach of the headlights was the darkness, pressing in from ...

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In between the waves

“Please inform them in Lahore.” “Sure, Baba. Have a safe journey.” She said after tucking him into the window seat. ‘Seat #2’ it said in black. She was glad it was in the front. He won’t have to walk too much to get off. “Tell them that I’ll be there by 8:45pm.” “Sure, Baba.” She hugged him and ended up hugging part of the seat. She went to stand with her mother. The mother and daughter walked to the other side of the bus. Two eyes followed them, and as the bus made his daughter and granddaughter momentarily disappear, he brought his eyes to ...

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That radio was what he craved

6:56pm “Will I see you on Thursday?” “Yes!” She smiled and hugged him before exiting the car. As he drove away, he turned on the radio, and waited. FM100. “Welcome back, listeners!” That voice. Why did she say those words just when he turned on the radio? Did she know that he would be waiting to hear exactly that? He felt a strange form of pleasure, and embraced it quickly. Wholeheartedly. As the radio show progressed, he slowed down his car and parked it on the side of the road. And listened. As she spoke, rambled, ranted and laughed. He laughed with her, from the comfort ...

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“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 ...

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Who should we write about?

Are the people we write about, The only ones that exist? These days, They say, It’s impossible to be alive, Without a voice, A presence. You’ve stopped asking why, But still they say, It’s important the world remembers, Remembers that you exist. But there are those, Who exist (and have existed), Without a word, Who think and act, And prefer not to write. Who live, And stand comfortably next to death, Unafraid, Unprotesting. These people, Hold on to their thoughts, Peeking at them at nights, And pushing them deep inside long overcoats during the day. They derive pleasure in the most insignificant things, And belittle the most significant ones, Who are these people? Who leave without a trace, Without fanfare, Or memorials, Or movies that display their pictures, Nor can people trace the length of their smiles, Nor are children named after them. And not even the bench has their imprints anymore. But maybe, we should call back our eyes, And search, now, in other places. Which ...

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Unafraid

“Sir, it’s him again” “How many times has he come already?” “This is the seventh time, sir”. “Okay, might as well listen to him now. Bring him in”. “Yes, sir”. The man that came had a hunched back, as if the world around him had shrunk and he had adjusted accordingly. Adjusted perfectly, actually. It was the most comfortable hunch he had seen. “Salam sahib”. “Haan, what can we do for you?” “It’s about my son, he’s been detained by the police for over three months, and he hasn’t committed a crime. We just need your help sahib”. His personal assistant (PA) flinched around him, “Sir ...

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Deceptive lines

For a moment, Imagine, How our faces would look, If the lines, That our tears leave behind, Never went away. Imagine a skin, Which refuses to absorb, Any of these lines, And allows them to pave paths, On the cheeks, The lips, chin, and stretch till the neck. Would we, then, love one another more, Seeing, finally, the amount of grief. Would our fingers, Trace these lines, From head to toe, And feel the pain they carry. But would it then be impossible, To lift our faces, With the weight of each line, And would that hide half the world. Also, would we love less, Those who are unable, And/or disabled, From shedding tears. And it may push us to think, Those who don’t shed ...

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A servant’s dream; to be like Chris Mukhtar

“Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves.” – Imam Hussain (AS) “Let’s go from a shorter way today. Take the second left, next to the barber shop.” “Yes sir.” As they turned, a group of mud houses came in sight, where children seem to be playing the same games they were years ago. She smiled. She glued herself to the right window and tried to take in each expression as a car passed with two inquiring eyes. The car slowed down as the road suddenly thinned and her sight got stuck with an oddity. A house unlike any ...

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