Banned Books Week: Rahi Masoom Raza’s fight to never stop swearing

This week (September 23rd-29th) is being celebrated as the Banned Books Week around the world, especially in the United States, where this tradition took inception during the Ronald Reagan era back in 1982. Concerned about violation of freedom of speech, rights activists raised the issue of banning books and their censorship, as well as the persecution of writers. Hence, it was decided that every year, the last week of September would be celebrated as the Banned Books Week. Perhaps it is no coincidence that International Translation Day falls immediately after Banned Books Week, on September 30th. At least for this humble scribe, ...

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The endless fascination of a window

Windows are fascinating. Many adventures have started with a gaze, a deep alley, a train station, or an intriguing stranger. We all share the secret hope that there is something better, across the river or over the hill. A universal wish, that we were out there somewhere, and not on this side of the window. Yes, windows are fascinating. Why else do we, as schoolchildren, stare out at the sky, yearning for the bell signalling the end of class? Cradling our chins in our pulpy hands, we looked out a pane of glass and let our imagination drift as we awaited the ...

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The silence that kills us

Perhaps it isn’t the discomfort of the narrow streets which makes liberty unbearable for us, It isn’t the sharp scents of sweat which disgust us, It isn’t the crowd which suffocates us, In fact, it isn’t the noise, the crowd or the obvious lack of quality in products, It’s the silence.   The unsaid hush when I turn to speak up to the unwanted hands up my clothes, The constant background whistles of frustrated middle-aged men, It’s the toxic masculinity which suffocates us, The vulnerability when your body turns into a canvas, Painted by obnoxious stares, Held by unholy hands.   It’s the desensitisation, the normalisation, the silence, The echoes of shameless name ...

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September 9, 2018
 Izza Malik
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It was meant to be, yet it wasn’t

On this beautiful summer morning in the Sultan Khel village, everything was in bloom. Flowers lazily tumbled along the pathways, butterflies and bees buzzed at blossoms, and the spindly green trees rose impossibly high into the clouds. For this day, Noor chose a pale lilac shalwar kameez strewn with floral embroidery, and wore her sparkly new golden heels underneath. Her black hair cascaded down her back in waves, and her big brown eyes twinkled. Noor looked beautiful – a vision to behold. No wonder all the village boys were after her. She opened the windows of her room, and breathed a lungful of ...

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Remembering Qalandar Momand: 3 short poems for the colossus of Pashto poetry

Qalandar Momand (1930-2003), whose 88th birthday fell yesterday, is regarded as an epoch-making and trend-setting personality in Pashto literature, journalism and politics in the 20th century. The most gifted of a generation that also includes contemporaries like Ajmal Khattak and Khatir Ghaznavi, Momand made his mark as an enlightened scholar, progressive writer, political thinker, social thinker, scientist, researcher and historian. It was thus rather unfortunate that Google chose to commemorate the late Urdu playwright Fatima Surayya Bajia – also born on September 1st  88 years ago –  with a Google Doodle, and not Momand; though the latter’s diverse contributions far outstrip the former, ...

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Munir and Ali needed a goat like Raju

“Mama! Mujhay subha uthana please aath bajay. Baba kay sath mandi jaunga,” Ali pleaded with his mother. (Mom! Please wake me up at eight in the morning. I have to go with dad to the cattle market) She nodded as she tucked him in lovingly. Ali had been looking forward to the Bari Eid since Ramazan. He had been extremely disappointed to find out that the Eid after Ramazan will not involve getting a bakra (goat) and bringing it home. He had insisted though. “Hum le aatay hain na! Hum bakra isi wali Eid pe le aatay!” (We should get it! We should get ...

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Happy 84th Birthday to Gulzar: 5 short poems for the 21st century revoluntionary

Gulzar remains one of the most influential, intellectual and cultural figures in the Indian subcontinent. His towering contributions as a poet, short-story writer, filmmaker, scriptwriter, lyricist and a story-writer for children are well-known. What is less well-known is the fact that he was born in the city of Dina, near Jhelum in Punjab, 13 years before the Partition. Today marks his 84th birthday, and thus the month of August is synonymous with the Partition of India as well as the birthday of Gulzar. Equally well-known is Gulzar’s love for both the Urdu language and Pakistan. As a birthday tribute, I have ...

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Kamran, a soldier eternally

The heavy breathing, bewildered expressions, and tears welling from the eyes of the three people surrounding Kamran saddened him. He didn’t know what to say, how to respond, what reasons to give. After all, he was clueless himself. The silence was silently injuring everyone’s hearts from within. This silence had to be broken, and thus Kamran spoke in the most wavering voice. “Why won’t any of you say anything?  Isn’t it enough for you all that I’m finally here?” No one knew how to answer. Finally, after a long pause, Ammi spoke in an almost inaudible voice. “Yes beta. Of course, we’re ...

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What is the language of rain?

Like all mutinies, it begins as a whisper in the air. The sky turns tar-black as the dark clouds, ominous and threatening, negotiate an evil conspiracy… A coup against the sun. I hear a tapping on the window, announcing a much awaited arrival. Rain floats in gentle waves, as if gravity is a soft music from the Earth, a sweet seducing serenade. People run for cover; umbrellas are opened, temporary shades are sought, as the clouds spit out their beads of water. Puddles begin plinking, as the drops huddle in groups. Monsoon dew dances on the darkening pavement, as I hear the murmuring ...

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From Zahid to Bubbly

“So you have decided to keep humiliating us in front of people,” he said with a roaring voice. His beloved Baba had slapped Zahid on wearing red lipstick again. “You are a boy, a man! The only waris (successor) of our hundreds of acres of land. I will beat you black and blue if I ever find you doing anything girly again.” Zahid had tightly clenched a broken red lipstick in his hands. Baba was continuously lecturing him about masculinity but surprisingly, all this scolding was appearing so rhythmical to him. Baba was admonishing him but he was dancing in his mind, wrapping red dupatta and responding ...

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