The cognisant state

Through the looking glass Narcissus explores, All the workings of one’s own soul, A world enamoured with ruby, sapphire and gold. The eternal wound of the first broken soul, The tale of horses, sons, women and gold. A day without forgiveness, For the farmer’s daughter, A day without compassion, For the butchers son, All in the name of me, I and myself. Alas! Allah! Please forgive me. Until twelve past four. In the shadow of the patriarch, They cry for redemption, They cry for remorse, Justify the common sin, Oh Lord! The times clutch our soul! His eyes perceptively blinded, Until twelve past four. Such is he cursed with his dark materials, Immortalisation so easily shunned, From the hearts of ...

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Fahmida Riaz’s departing present opens up ‘A World of Possibilities’

Today marks the 73rd birthday of Pakistan’s arch-feminist poetess and activist Fahmida Riaz, who left us rather too soon last November. But even during her last days, she gave us two remarkable books as departing presents: Tum Kabeer, her last collection of poetry; and a novella titled Qila-e-Faramoshi, a fictional rendition of the life and times of the first-ever socialist Mazdak, the scourge of Zoroastrian Persia. According to her sister, Najma Manzoor, she also left us with her last unpublished poem Daftar-e-Imkaan (A World of Possibility). This was written during her bed-ridden days in Karachi, just days before she moved to her daughter’s house in Lahore in 2018, on her final ...

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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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To my Karachi, the city of sin and believing

To Karachi, The one that I see, As I walk across the kachi mitti, Right next to the bustling streets. Walking amongst people, Each so different from each other and from me, But united by a common identity, a common home, Karachi. To the Karachi with pain, Hot, humid and sticky with lack of rain. Where the sidewalk is filled, With people who mill about – purposelessly. Wasting through their day, Hoping someone will have the money to pay, For a meal or two for their family, Maybe new clothes, maybe something sanitary. To the Karachi of the poor, of the hooker, of the whore. The one that’s unforgiving and harsh, Where with finding another job and ...

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Green Town

Where the church bells don’t ring, Where the billboards don’t shine, Where there are no street walkers, Or hints of the divine. Green Town, Green Town, Green Town. The mosques are out of order, The synagogues flooded to the brim. Where the clothes have no glitter, And the bracelets no gold. Green Town, Green Town, Green Town. Where the karma is tipped, Where the shore is no more. Where the sex has no pleasure, No guilt or no pain. Where the people are selfish, So utterly vain. Green Town, Green Town, Green Town. Where the sky is shining, And it’s raining too. Where the earth is so tilted, Titled to the moon. Where the ordered disorder, Is always so true. Green Town, ...

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The dream that could never be – part 3: A wolf at every turn

She had woken up sweating heavily, vividly remembering his foul ragged breath on her neck and the abnormally large splinter just a step behind her. The next day, her baji had sent her to clean her late father-in-law’s old study in the formerly off-limits part of the house. The place was covered under ages of dirt and was teemed with insects. Samreena had been extremely scared to even step foot there until she found that golden brooch. “Samreena! Kiya halaat hain uper? Neechay aa kay batao jaldi. So gayi ho kiya?” (Samreena! What is the situation up there? Quickly come downstairs and ...

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The dream that could never be – part 2: Her freedom had its own thorns

Opening her eyes, she saw the boy backing off of her scared and watched as Rahim chacha held him from the scruff of his neck. Teeth grinding, he took his chappal off with one hand and started hitting the boy. An hour later, Samreena sat in the front seat of Rahim chacha’s Suzuki. He hadn’t said a single word since he had beaten the boy senseless. Leaving him in the empty house, he had signaled Samreena to come with him. She had tried asking him where they were going but he remained quiet. She gave up asking after a few attempts. She did not care that much ...

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The dream that could never be – part 1: She thought God had come for her

O’ sweet mother, don’t send me away, I am but so young; it is late in the day. Dogs on the street shall pick me apart, They’ll chew on my bones and tear out my heart. Then he shall come to claim pieces of me, My soul in tatters, my dreams and debris. But his smile is what I fear the most, His touch, his stench, his breath I loathe. Just let me stay in your warm embrace, Silent as death, I’ll quietly stay. In your lap I’ll sleep a dreamless sleep, No dogs, no wolves shall come to steal. In your sweet grasp, I shall gladly stay, Till it’s time to ...

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I got dreams, dreams to remember

“I got dreams, dreams to remember.” I repeated this for hours on the soft prayer mat that cushioned my knees. My hands were cupped close to my chest, a tear falling occasionally on the lines of my palms. I got dreams, dreams to remember. There was a quiet drizzle outside my window. The wind picked up and the branches brushed across the glass. The tapping of the water on the window pane was the only noise I could hear, apart from my own breathing and that of Zamzam’s. I opened my eyes into darkness. I felt as if the blur from my tears hindered ...

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