Stories published in September, 2012

My encounter with a ghost

I was 28 when I saw this dream. My marriage had just been arranged by my parents; something, having grown up around, I didn’t give a second thought to. I went to sleep untroubled. There was pitch black darkness everywhere ─ like a heavy blanket over everything. Then the shroud lifted to illuminate me sitting on a wooden chair at a small, round, wooden table with everything around me still completely black. Across the table from me there was another chair, and another occupant; a large cloaked and hooded ghostly figure, whose hidden eyes seemed to be fixed upon me. “Who are ...

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Factory fire: When misery repeats itself, but not quite

March 25, 1911: As the closing hours of the day approached, a fire broke out at the Triangle Waist Factory in New York City that resulted in 146 people losing their lives in 18 minutes. The company was a typical textile manufacturing unit based in Manhattan, characterised by long working hours, low wages, and unhealthy, unhygienic working conditions. The fire erupted on the eighth floor. As a standard company policy, managers had locked the doors to every possible exit – a practice to prevent excessive and unauthorised break from work. Workers who could not escape the building jumped from the eighth, ninth, and ...

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The Karachi I used to know

Yesterday afternoon I sat and watched with horror the events on TV, sans mobile phone and only some connectivity via email. Needless to say, it was frustrating, as the main focus of the anarchy was the area around my place of work. How could humans descend to this level in a metropolis where commerce and 20 million lives function together in a place they call home? Is this what humans do to their lives, friends, neighbours, communities and fellow citizens? Having spent two thirds of my life in this city, I know in my heart that I belong here. But this is not ...

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I refuse to lose my religion!

What about the rest of us? Meaning the living; those of us who have to make a living, those who have to get to work despite knowing that there is a fair chance we might get shot at for not showing enough solidarity. How do you express solidarity through violence for a system that is about peace in times of chaos, anyway? I was supposed to be angry today. I was, still am. I am fuming, in fact, because I work for a newspaper and part of my job is to be at work come hell or high water. I managed to do ...

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You can’t defend the Prophet (pbuh) by torching your own city!

Blasphemy is a sensitive subject, especially in Pakistan. A topic so sensitive that it can get governors killed after a cup of coffee, ministers shot after they drive out of their homes and 12-year-old children behind bars for ‘allegedly’ committing it. Victims of blasphemy cases in Pakistan sign their death warrants. Why does it then come as a surprise to know that more than 15 people were killed and 219 wounded in protests across Pakistan yesterday? Because this time, rampant damage was caused to property and life of people who had nothing to do with it. Life and property belonging to the Muslims. Calls for peaceful protests on ...

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Barfi!: A sweet cine-treat for all

For someone who had not seen the rushes, Barfi! was a pleasant surprise. When I walked into the theatre I was unaware that I was about to watch a film where the lead actor had a speech and hearing impairment, and that the lead actress was autistic. About ten minutes into the film, when the audience is told that Barfi, Ranbir Kapoor’s character in the film, had severe impairments, I braced myself to watch another emotive movie that would leave me crying profusely and feeling sorry for the differently-abled. Until the end, I kept waiting for that moment. The film manages to ...

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Noor Jehan: Gone but never forgotten

Today, 85 years ago, a very special girl was born in district Kasur, Punjab. Had fate been kinder to us, she would have still been with us today. Madam Noor Jehan may have left the world but her legacy will forever live on, emblazoned in the minds of her fans as her evergreen songs. Noor Jehan has a special place in my heart. This is not just because I am a fan of her beautiful voice and enviable poise, but also because she belongs to Kasur, where my grandparents were from. In fact, I have been told that my granduncle ...

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I’m not bipolar, I’m not manic, I’m not depressed – I’m not!

A big hello to my fans and haters – it’s been a while! Unlike my usual cutting-edge rants and raves, I’ve dedicated this post to an issue I am familiar with: hypomania, with a healthy dose of generalised anxiety that has come to dominate my life – and yes, maybe that explains why my blogs are just so amazing. I’ve been to over 10 psychiatrists and counsellors over the years and having been diagnosed with everything from clinical depression to schizoaffective disorder to Bipolar II and more (boo doctors). I’ve really just come to live with who I am without the ...

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Violent protests: Islam taught us better

Sir, it was 1995, North Medical Ward of Lahore’s Mayo Hospital, where you famously said in your English-Punjabi accent, “Putter ji, batti uthay balo, jithay hanaira howay” (Son, light a candle where it’s dark). You didn’t want your students to go abroad after completing medical school. You wondered what difference we will make in America, where, compared to Pakistan, there were abundant doctors; where there was so much light. I left, however, as I had no choice, sir. Yet you had a point ─ a point that haunted me whenever I earned a new degree, another publication, or an accolade. For years, the ...

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Balochistan’s plight: Are we even trying to help?

Don’t wash your dirty linen in public. This is a principal that the Pakistani politicians generously endorse when it comes to the issue of Balochistan. From the panic triggered by US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s introduction of a resolution in the US House of Representatives earlier this year, calling upon Pakistan to recognise Balochistan’s right to self-determination to the current visit of the two member UN mission on enforced disappearances, a lot of sore nerves are irked when it comes to Pakistan’s other war.   The reaction is always the same. Pakistan does not need external sources interfering in its internal issues. ...

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