October 15, 2017
 Fatima Raza
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That night she became Riffat Bai and everything changed

“Kokhla chapha kay jumairaat ayi hay… jaira picchay murr kay wekkhay odhi shaamat aai hay… kokhla chapha kay jumairaat ayi hay… jaira picchay mur…” their chanting went on and on. (I have hidden the dupatta behind you on Thursday and if you turn your head around, you’ll be in trouble) She dragged herself from the pile in the corner. Steadying herself against the wall, she looked around for her cane. It was in the other corner of the room. She sat back down, sliding against the wall. The paint crackled as she moved, falling down the feeble wall. Holding herself against ...

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Salam and Shanti

Being in the army is like being caught in a revolving door. You see that settled life you so desperately want on the other side of the glass, just within your reach, but before you can join in, you’re on the move again. So there we were, posted to yet another place, to a pleasant city but a gloomy cantonment. I paid no heed to the eerie stories that our cook Abdul told me about the street we lived on. There were banyan trees lining the street, reminiscent of bearded men leaning on their sticks. I was sure the sight was ...

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Series 8: The Green Thumb Part 3 ‘He did have a green thumb after all’

“Ali!” Zareen nearly screamed in exasperation. “How could you even think about saying all those things to Faizan sahib? Do you realise you are taking advantage of someone’s kindness?” She was extremely vexed. “Isn’t it enough that you are going there for free and that he is tutoring your brother at such low a price? Now you want to take your sister too?” Ali stood there meekly with his head down. All the children were quiet now, frightened by their mother’s anger. “But Mama, he said…” Fahad tried to intervene. “I’m not talking to you, Fahad,” Zareen quieted him immediately. “From tomorrow onwards, no one ...

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Series 8: The Green Thumb Part 2 ‘They wanted money, he wanted memories’

“Where are you going?” Zareen asked Ali as she saw him getting ready to go out. “I’m going with Fahad,” he told her. “Faizan Sahib said I could come with him and sit in the AC since he couldn’t sit without it and it isn’t fair for Fahad to enjoy it if I can’t.” Zareen couldn’t believe her ears. “Are you out of your mind?” she asked incredulously. “You think I can pay for the two of you? I only send him there because he needs help. You are not going, and that’s that.” “No Mama, I’m going,” Ali was adamant. “If Faizan ...

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Series 8: The Green Thumb Part 1 ‘Death changes everything, even innocence’

The house at the end of the street was possibly one of the most spacious and attractive ones in the area. With its tall French windows, red bricks, and magenta bougainvillea covering the carved front door and climbing to the roof of the second floor, it was as lovely as it was mysterious. Friends of the owners were also aware of the fruit trees in the open, spacious lawn at the back. The gardens had been lovingly cared for by the now deceased, green-thumbed Mrs Faizan. Mr Faizan did not have a green thumb and he was least bothered by the fact. His wife had enough of it ...

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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 was desperation that won in the end

“Manji di baoun waaj aandi… Bakhtu di jaag khul jaani.” (This charpayi makes too much noise… It will wake Bakhtu up.) Allah Ditta thought as he struggled to get up while making as little noise as possible. He glanced back at his sleeping son. He bowed down and planted a kiss upon his brow. Rushing out, he turned down his wife’s offer for breakfast, “Bakhtu jaag gaya te tenu pata fer…baharoun kha laisan kujh.” (What if Bakhtu wakes up? I will eat something there). These past few weeks had been nothing short of an ordeal for Allah Ditta. It was still dark out as ...

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Waking up on Eid as a broken and crippled orphan

I could hear the noise saying the moon was sighted, Joy all around, the festival was tomorrow but I wasn’t excited. I stared at the moon, they all found it jubilant and bright, It was quiet, too dark and for me, it felt like any other night. Was it something I did or was it something I said? That I don’t know of happiness with you now, it all feels so gloomy and dead. I imagine celebrating with you, I picture how it could be, And someday when we meet, I’ll ask you, mother – did you ever think of me? Should I learn to live these times completely on my ...

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Take with you all that is yours

“What is it like migrating to another country for work?” I asked a middle-aged, growing old, worn out man. There appeared deep wrinkles on his forehead, deep like incurable scars. His eyes blinked, as if trying to capture the escaping moments, and he heaved a cold sigh. “What can I say?” He whispered in anguish. “I came here to earn just enough money, to run a home with dignity. A home with my parents, brothers, sisters, my wife, and our children, But I’ve increasingly fallen short of making that home, Let alone running it. Having spent some 15 years here, In this foreign land, Which is still foreign to me. I would say– If there’s no other ...

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I could smell it, I could breathe it – Pakistan was near

It was very chilly for an August night. The moon played hide and seek behind pregnant clouds of white and grey but the winds were strong and the clouds did not stay above us for too long. We had travelled nights like these before and swayed many times during the course of the journey, but it had led us here and we were close. The town we had stopped in was unknown. It once had a name but it had long been abandoned when the news of Partition circled the country. They were smart people or maybe superstitious for no one really ...

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