Meiryum Ali

Meiryum Ali

A freshman at an ivy league school who writes a weekly national column in The Express Tribune called "Khayaban-e-Nowhere".

Why saying ‘Scene On Hai’ is more important than you think

July is here and I know this because my friend N came barging into my room and aimed straight for the fan. “It’s so hot, God you can only wear shalloos.” “Shalloos?” “Shalwars, obvi.” And Kay for kameezes, obvi (That’s obviously shortened). This same friend owns a Jenny (generator), gets picked up by her perpetually late D (driver) and has a severe dislike of “meylas” because, you know, they’re such “shady boiz”. Welcome to Burger-speak. We don’t laugh, we LOL. We take English words in Urdu context, and mix and match as we please. It started out as misspellings on the internet and on ...

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If Harry Potter were desi, his broom would be a jharoo and his Snitch a laddoo

Harry Potter’s last film is coming out (in Pakistan) on July 22 and somewhere in semi-peaceful parts of Karachi, not shown on TV, a couple of kids are getting ready for the biggest event of their lives. If their city will allow them to. When Harry Potter’s last book was released, bookshops around the world were told to release Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at exactly the same time, lest some overeager fan typed up the book on the internet and ruined it for everyone by not operating on GMT. That meant at 4:30 am every book outlet in Karachi ...

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Inside Africa: Why the Indus is longer than the Nile (for some Pakistanis)

Pakistani expats are a strange breed. Their passports are as green as yours and mine but something still sets them apart: their perceptions. Their comparisons between Pakistan and their country of residence are more objective and less cutting. Expats are essentially loners, travellers permanently stuck in places, who still attend functions thrown by the Pakistani embassy, but speak the local language more than Urdu. They’re not amusingly confused like American desis and they won’t bring you back gifts from airport duty shops like your Dubai cousins. The only thing they’re good for, in fact what they’re best at, is breaking ...

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Halal pencils, and other things my Islamic Studies course forgot to warn me about

There’s one rule you just don’t break: never discuss politics or religion with people you don’t know. You never know whose toes you’ll step on or which lines you’ll cross. I’m about to ignore this rule for this column because in a moment of epiphany I realised that my government disregards this rule too. And it comes in the form of those neatly colour-coded textbooks that ensure that whatever my personal beliefs on religion are, my approach to religion will always be distinctively Pakistani-coloured. Poor old Islamiat. Within the great triumvirate of Unique-to-Pakistan subjects of Pakistan Studies, Urdu and Islamiat, the ...

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Taking the ‘bad’ out of Nazimabad

At a gathering in DHA a girl walks in. “Hey, how come you’re so late?” I ask. “I just came from… well, really far away,” she says. “How far off?” “You wouldn’t know where it is,” she dismisses in an ugly voice and with an embarrassed face. I press on. “Like what, Nazimabad?” “Yeah, how’d you guess?” She tries to laugh it off. I guessed Nazimabad because I’ve stayed there and I know the ‘distance’. And I wanted her to stop acting weird about it! I should have yelled at her but decided to leave her to her own paranoia. A boy listening in to ...

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For summer interns, a crash course in becoming a daakter saab

‘You have many career options. They all end in medicine.’ This is a joke from a viral Facebook group called Desitips, which as the name suggests imparts advice to ‘Desis’.  The joke is not far off the mark: the ‘Daakter’ [doctor] is a goal coveted by many ambitious parents, borne by their unsuspecting children. The Daakter is also my medical student of a cousin, who once visited straight from university to throw a bone at me. “It’s called the Humerus bone!” she yelled excitedly, while I searched for disinfectant. No one lives and breathes medical science more than her. Then ...

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You say OBL, I say CIE

Bin Laden found hiding in Abbotabad! School ID card found hiding behind desk. Explosions heard at PNS Mehran! Explosions heard and felt in the Chemistry practical exam. Should the ISI chief resign? Nope, the History invigilator should. CIA conspiracy theories won’t bother us, but change that A grade to an E and the riot begins. That’s the way it works around here. You can and will forgive me for waking up suddenly on this side of June to find the world crashing down around my ears. That’s because while you were busy frantically watching the news (or ignoring it in a ...

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Dolled up to say goodbye

Nothing will hit us more than the prospect of leaving school. We haven’t even sat our AS levels, but we can already feel the pinch. And no event sums this up more than the end of year farewell. Whether your school farewell takes place in a fancy hotel, or whether it consists of you passing around biscuits in the science labs, whether it’s for the Matric, O’ Level, Inter and A’ Level, the fact that you will be this dolled up to say goodbye must strike a chord somewhere. Hence this conversation in Physics class: “Do you think orange would be too ...

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Girls just wanna… go to Risalpur

My best friend wants to be an air force pilot. She (yes, it’s a she) has wanted to be one since she first watched Top Gun. She can tell you the model number of any jet and its year of make by just looking at a picture. While everyone else our age stalks the Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums) website, she has the Pakistan Air Force website as her ‘most visited’. Risalpur is her future home. During the past six months, I have been forced to memorise the lyrics of “Highway to the Danger Zone” and google its 1980s Pakistani ...

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Why worry? These exams will come and go

Final exams are starting. Poor school kids, you think. So glad I’m over that, you muse as you reminisce about the hours you spent cramming text, the shock of your last year reports. And even if that’s not exactly what you went through during school, it’s what most of your friends did. Part of being a student is being equated with some clichéd exam story. So it’s totally understandable if you’re wondering why this time you can’t spot the telltale sleep-deprived puffy eyes, or why students aren’t clutching each other in corridors, weeping about how horrible the exam was. It’s ...

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