Remembering Saghar Siddiqui: The maverick who poetically bared corruption and opportunism

Today marks the 44th death anniversary of maverick Pakistani poet Saghar Siddiqui, who died from an overdose of morphine on the streets of Lahore, the city where he found a home after migrating from India to Pakistan in 1947. He was only six years short of turning 50, joining the ranks of legends such as Asrarul Haq Majaz, Saadat Hasan Manto, Miraji and Mustafa Zaidi, who were equally consumed by the callousness and opportunism of a predatory system. Had Saghar lived longer, I have no doubt he would have been as popular among the youth of Pakistan as Jaun Elia ...

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Nadia, the painter

Nadia unlocked the door to the art studio, the hallway was empty and silence ruled. It was really early in the morning but this was the only time she would get to work on her semester project. Trying to balance the coffee holder in one hand, bag on her shoulder and keys in the other, she pushed the door open with her shoulder. Rushing to the nearest table, she put the two coffees hurriedly on the top before dropping her bag on the ground. She exasperated almost as if she had saved the day. Closing the door behind her, she ...

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Cut, cut, cut – sweet relief

The sun was ablaze in an empty blue sky. The city glazed in the dazzling sunshine was bright and yellow and alive. Amal lay supine under the sun, her skin covered in a shimmer of sweat. Today, after work, she didn’t go home. Instead, she came to a park near her workplace. Children and the elderly loitered in the park. Pedestrians skittered and scuttled on the sidewalks. The roads around bustled with cars. All people moved to the ends of their journeys, while Amal was sprawled unmoving on the ground. Air hung lazily in the solid afternoon heat. Amal revelled in ...

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The room of beasts and unspeakable secrets

Mahnaz sat under an ivory sky on the ground outside the library building of her college. A light and wispy summer breeze kept turning the pages of a tattered and well-thumbed copy of Jane Eyre lying at her feet. She had just finished reading the book for the umpteenth time, which was evident from the pages that were all worn and dog-eared, the margins that crawled with hastily scribbled notes, the pastel-coloured post-its that protruded from every page, and the spine that was riven with creases. Every time she finished reading the book, she could not help but cringe ...

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A father’s ode to his daughter on her wedding

As I walked you down the aisle holding your hand, It reminded me of a time when I once waited at the other end, Eyes affixed on the beautiful bride approaching me, Counting each second for the perfect moment to engulf me, I never saw the pleading eyes of the person giving away my bride, Otherwise, I would have the consolation that this was a customary ride, With bitter happiness I saw your groom waiting to receive you, Watching you with love not even a quarter of what I have for you, My eyes moistened, my throat went dry, My heartbeat became faster as I resisted to cry, Pleading ...

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How Laila saved Eid this year

“Could I hit him if he groped me again?” she thought to herself as she made a fist and punched thin air around her. Cursing under her breath, she returned to the pile of clothes she was rummaging through. She could hardly see anything inside the dark tent. Making a blind choice in the dark, she pulled out a piece of cloth and turned around to leave. She was about to miss her truck. Cautious as to not literally step on anyone’s toes, Laila hopped about the tent silently, avoiding crushing her family members who were still asleep. On her ...

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“Allah Mian, thank you for not making me a rich person”

It was only early afternoon and the clear, dazzling sky, void of a single piece of cloud, was raining fire. There was still a week left of fasting before Eidul Fitr. Abdul wiped his hot face with his thick handkerchief as he walked back to the servant quarters at the far end of the palatial home, where he worked as a driver. He had unbuttoned his uniform shirt by the time he reached his quarters. “Assalam Alaikum,” his wife emerged from the other room. “Walaikum Assalam,” Abdul mumbled. “Please turn the fan on.” Sajida looked at him sympathetically. “It is on full,” she ...

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Mehrbano’s dreams, Saleem’s desires

“Abba I don’t want to get married. I want to study and become a doctor. You can’t do this to me. Abba please!” “Be quiet!” “Abba, I promise I won’t disappoint you. Saleem goes to school too, why can’t I?” Abba struck Mehrbano full in the face. That stunned her into silence. She saw her father’s placid eyes scintillate with anger. His eyes unnerved her. His eyes made her feel like a small little girl again. Mehrbano’s defiance crumbled and she agreed to meet her suitor. Saleem was sweating profusely, as the sun beat down on him, relentless. He threaded his way through the ...

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A soldier, lost in translation

An endless wave of nothingness arrives: The storm, the red eye and the golden nose; The plunge of the people and the nosedives; Waving upon the wild cherry crossbows, The warm air in the engine cools me down, The colour changes; from black to nut-brown, The air foresees a mist from the western hallows; The tail of the behemoth creeps upon the shadows.   The jarring men wiry and scathing, Skin measled with scrawling screws; Itching toes rubbing against gunmetal swarf The ears bellow in the wailing sound, sucking the air from the atmosphere. The blades grumbled and crumbled against the flesh that trudged the gruntled wind, The brass that lent itself to ...

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It was time for Laila to go home

The autumnal sky was reddened by the setting sun. Laila gazed at it in admiration. In just a few hours, the sky would turn dark and it’ll be night. And Laila would finally escape her wretched, tormenting, miserable life. She felt all her fear and trepidation melt into thin air as the world around her slowly dyed into a deeper shade of scarlet. ‘A few more hours, and I’ll be gone from here, forever.’ A cool blue dawn broke over the village of Saleh Brohi. From her window, Laila saw the streets of Saleh Brohi sprawling out below. This place was where ...

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