From one revolutionary to another: Vladimir Lenin as remembered by Habib Jalib

The figure of Vladimir Lenin exercises a talismanic hold on revolutionaries everywhere, across time and space. The year 2017 was celebrated as the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution, leading to the establishment of the first socialist state presided over by Lenin and marking an important moment in history. Likewise, Urdu literature is also rich in writings about the Bolshevik Revolution. However, writings on Lenin, especially poems, are few and far between. Perhaps the most celebrated poem on the founder of the Russian revolutionary state was Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s Lenin, Khuda ke Huzoor Mein (Lenin in God’s presence) written soon after the revolution ...

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He only did it for him

“You’re an old boy now, you’ll have to work. Azeem is a good man. He’ll take care of you and you’ll learn from him.” “Fine, Abba!” Talha could feel the disobedience stirring within him. Working at a furniture shop was the last thing he wanted to do, but he acquiesced to Abba’s decision. He knew Abba wouldn’t listen to him, even if he told him that he wanted to do other things in life. Better things. Later that night, as he wandered the streets, he thought how it wasn’t Abba’s fault. He was old now and needed someone else to take care ...

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When khudkushi became her only freedom

The sky was a pool of black ink, dusted with stars at midnight. Arsh looked out from the window — she saw many little streets sprawled out below. She had only known these streets from inside the walls of her room. She had never walked on them. She had never been under the open sky. She looked at these streets longingly. To her, these streets and everything else of the outside world was a distant dream. Arsh was thinking about him. He came again tonight. Her caramel skin flushed bright pink as he folded her into his arms. Her heart ...

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Remembering Fahmida Riaz’s ballad on this International Transgender Day of Visibility

Today is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, one of only two days remembering and celebrating transgender people. Although transgender individuals have always been present in society, and have been mentioned in some of the oldest texts of the Muslim world such as The Arabian Nights, they have largely been the source of much mystique, ridicule and discrimination. Even in the 21st century, they have been among the last groups of people to get their rights, in legislation and otherwise. Fahmida Riaz, who passed away last November, has expressed the plight of the transgender in her masterful poem, Hijre ki Sargoshi (The eunuch’s ...

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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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Always remember

“What’s my name?” “My beti.” “But what is it, really?” “My pyaari beti.” “Do you remember me?” I can almost hear you reply – only vaguely.   I watch you every day, In that same seat that you always occupy – With the sun glinting off your bald head. I watch as first you give up your laughter, Then your listening, Then your talking, Then yourself.   As I sit across the room, And become heavier and stronger, I watch you become weaker and smaller. I watch your appetite shrink, And the only food you truly want Is kept away from you, near the sink. It’s meant to protect your health, To ensure you don’t get confusions or even possible delusions.   Delusions of ...

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She was life whispered into poetry

The bright yellow rays of the sun spilled into the room. Kedar sat by the window of his room as he thought about Aizel — the woman he loved. Aizel was beautiful. Her dusky gold skin glimmered in the sunlight, her dark hair carelessly tumbled about her shoulders, and her dark brown eyes twinkled innocently. She was life whispered into poetry. Kedar could look into her eyes forever. Her eyes were profound— they encompassed all the beauty that there was in the world. And all that he saw within them, he put down in words. Aizel made him a writer. When he ...

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Kashmir: Don’t ever call this valley a ‘paradise’

Let me tell you a tale, a story filled with reality. Kashmir destroyed by tyrants and their cruelty. Where women are assaulted and children are not spared. The rulers are the murderers and the ‘security’ men feared. Pellets to blind, tear gas shells to choke you. Jails to languish, bullets to kill you. They’ve empty hearts, their blood is cold. Some among us are theirs, their faith is sold. The children of ours, tormented and in trauma. Then they’ll try to fox you and do all the drama. A little boy, they inserted needles into his eyes. Slapped, tortured him and then came up with lies. India, the most tolerant is what they call themselves. But tales ...

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Silent cries and whispers

She looked through the box as though she were looking for something, some specific piece of information, but couldn’t seem to find it. “Amitriptyline 25mg” it read, bold and vivid. The name seemed daunting enough to prevent her from swallowing the capsule, but she knew she had to. So she unfolded its packaging, fetched a glass of water and finally placed herself on the couch with the medicine in one hand and the glass in the other. She kept the capsule on the tip of her tongue and tried multiple times to gulp it down. It just wouldn’t work. Her body felt ...

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Wake up to sleep

I drew a portrait, And called myself an artist. When I did not have time to draw anymore, Did I become any less of myself?   This skin shedding, This habit leaving. This growing up, This looking back, The self is here. Oh, but look! The self is missing from itself again.   I misplaced myself in time. You are now trying to erase yourself from the past. It just won’t do. This filling of flesh into tomorrow, Leaving today, to tuck itself to sleep, Alone. But wait – Don’t leave just yet. Stay for a while.   Tell me, What did you learn? What did you bury? How did you grow into yourself again? But more pressingly, Did you love? Did you breathe in the green today? Did ...

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