The midwife of Delhi

The Quran has acknowledged the existence of djinn, but the proliferation of stories revolving around these creatures of fire often delves into the realm of horror. In 19th century Delhi, to counteract children’s perceptions of djinns as fearful creatures, city elders recounted folk tales recounting the kindness and generosity of the djinn in order to remind children that djinn, just like any of Allah’s creatures, could be good and bad. What was important were one’s own actions, good deeds were rewarded, and pleasing a creature of Allah was equivalent to pleasing Allah Himself. Long ago, back when Delhi was a quiet city with horse carriages dotting the ...

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The sheila from Pakistan

There was not a single person in sight. Not a single one. My father asked me to describe the first thing I saw when I went out on the street early in the morning. Perhaps I could make up something. “I saw a bunch of kangaroos coming down the road, Aba. It was like a mela.” I was always an early morning person. My father called me his alarm clock. He never needed another while I was in the house. It was my sounds that woke him for morning prayers, not the muezzin’s call from the mosque. My bedroom door opening and then shutting ...

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Her smile, was it real or illusive?

Was she an empress, whose command was ultimate? That echoed through the outstretched lands? Or was she an ordinary being but not a commoner? Was she soul thirsty, bewitched, and engrossed in depths? One who could correlate to the enormity of the oceans? Nevertheless, she wasn’t incapable of being envied. Her eyes were buried with deep secrets of time Her smile, a mystery, was it real or illusive? Was her forehead overshadowed by a gloomy darkness? Whoever beheld her sight tried to unfold these truths. In light, her expressions easily changed, Thus, one could misperceive into it anything It all depended on the one who entered her soul, As though it was ...

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The dancing girls

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Relax your diaphragm. Repeat. This was my mantra, at least, these days it was. I tried to tell myself that these three steps would make everything better, would make the way I feel better. But I don’t really think they do. I can see the city lighting up from my window. I know that outside, people are getting ready to leave their houses, and venture out into Karachi’s beauty. I’d be a part of it too, if I could, if I knew how. But the bars on my windows are too strong. They skew ...

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Who should we write about?

Are the people we write about, The only ones that exist? These days, They say, It’s impossible to be alive, Without a voice, A presence. You’ve stopped asking why, But still they say, It’s important the world remembers, Remembers that you exist. But there are those, Who exist (and have existed), Without a word, Who think and act, And prefer not to write. Who live, And stand comfortably next to death, Unafraid, Unprotesting. These people, Hold on to their thoughts, Peeking at them at nights, And pushing them deep inside long overcoats during the day. They derive pleasure in the most insignificant things, And belittle the most significant ones, Who are these people? Who leave without a trace, Without fanfare, Or memorials, Or movies that display their pictures, Nor can people trace the length of their smiles, Nor are children named after them. And not even the bench has their imprints anymore. But maybe, we should call back our eyes, And search, now, in other places. Which ...

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Act like a boy

I asked people around me for thread to sow my wounds close, But all I got was words. Words that had already drilled holes in me like a drilling machine. Words that left echoes in my mind, body and soul, Like a drilling machine making roads through mountains. These words wanted to make me a road to my boyhood Drill Act like a boy Drill Act like a boy Drill Act like a boy boy boy boy *echoing * Always the last to be chosen to play; Sometimes never chosen. Why? Because when I threw the ball, It was obvious my throw was not enough. So when the other boys’ ball hit the bat, The drill ...

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One day, you’ll know

The black wheelchair rolls on the newly swept marble floor, clean as a mirror, reflecting all the dreams that died away, He sits by the caged window, watching the shadows lengthen as his children grow, A fragile grey hand moves with the wind, uncontrollable, making the sacred last letter impossible, He watches the dust settle on the cold bed, the grey waves of light enter from the window, a burden, making him regret his existence.  The seed of love, planted with the youth of his hands into the ground of birth, now matured; a shadow, an image, invisible, Blue and cuffed, the eyes, a war zone, soldiers battling against the inevitable ...

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A lament for Mashal Khan

The trees begin to cry and plead, The vultures touch the inevitable deed, Blood in the bare naked streets, A bullet with the heart meets. The barren walls drown in blood, The teardrops gushing like a flood, The soul still void of all disease, The eyes begin to cry, “Please”. The sticks now mere knives cutting the morning bud, The head, with all its power, begins to climb but is stopped with a single thud, The skull, born from dust, caved in back, The skin trampled, the wounds in life lack. As the wolves begin to deflower the body, Of all dignity, His name surrounds the valley air from the dust to ...

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When they sold my pain for their gains

My scars were still fresh. One could see blood oozing out of my fresh and painful wounds. These wounds are what my age-old enemy bestowed me with. My enemy has got numerous weapons, some pierced through me, while some made numerous holes in my body. Holes may fade away, injuries may heal. But what was done to me, to my inner world, will never fade away. It will never heal. My wounds were still afresh; they smelled like agony. I was withering with pain while my family members decided to hold a grand party and enthral their guests with entertainment, entertainment and entertainment. ...

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Live it now or leave

Permit me to be dead by next morning. A night in passion had been exhaustive, As dreams burnt in their heat; Lost in the ecstasy, As if there were no tomorrow. Live it now Or leave! They bluntly told me. What I’ve done, is what I’ve done. I can’t undo what I lost, Or gained, As we wanted it to go on, And on. Hence, I refuse to wake Thinking it was another dream That faded into nothingness ...

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