Surviving suicide: My journey of grief and bipolar disorder

People most commonly associate suicide with depression, but it’s a misconception that a person can only feel suicidal when they are extremely sad. The first time I was ever suicidal, it was because I was depressed. For days, I drowned myself in tears, praying that either God would take my life or I work up the courage to take it myself. During the moments that I didn’t waste on prayers for death, I simply then switched gears and prayed for mania. I had never experienced mania before, but to my understanding, it was supposed to make me feel happy, energetic and most ...

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What does your cell phone cover say about you?

Back when cell phones were not ‘smart’, they actually had bodies, personalities and opinions. Similar to how Instagram now perpetuates the notion that the ideal human body must be perfect – slim and smart – phones too seem to have embodied these ideologies. For humans, looking their best is nowadays far more important than how they think, act or what they accomplish. Similarly for phones, all that matters is whether they are smart and good-looking. Consequently, most phones nowadays are smart and they all look the same, like models on a Paris runway. That being said, I’m not here to body ...

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Urdu Bazaar: “We have lavish shops for shoes but for books, we can’t even find space on a drain”

Mild sunlight warms the streets tightly packed with books, stalls and rows of parked vehicles. Shops aligned adjacent to each other brim with colourful books meant to appeal to book lovers. The market chaotically mixes the queries of customers and shopkeepers alike. The ancient Urdu Bazaar seems entirely unaffected by the government’s recent anti-encroachment order. Urdu Bazaar is one of the oldest book markets in the subcontinent and almost every Karachi dweller has some sort of memory associated with it. For many, the book market played a pivotal role in their childhood. For some, the market itself was their favourite play area ...

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Remembering Ibne Insha: The man who wanted ordinary people to bring a revolution

The great poet, humourist and travel-writer Ibne Insha passed into literary immortality 41 years ago. While writing in this space on the occasion of his 90th birthday, I had noted that he was not only a literary craftsman who had imbibed the art of creating natural, effortless humour out of the ordinary, but that his travelling had also exposed him to the Cold War machinations of the newly departed colonial powers, especially in the Middle East. Even before Insha was struck by the disastrous Arab defeat to Israel in 1967, he travelled the Middle East. Whatever tragedy he saw unfolding ...

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#AqalOverShakal: Why is society suffocating me?

I was told to walk straight, shoulders back and, in short, not like a man. I often talk with a natural deep voice and receive raised eyebrows in return. I have 80% male friends with whom I can just be myself and say “Aur jani, chai scene on?”. At least they create less drama in my life. I know how the clutch and gear works in a car and I am pretty quick at learning all the technical stuff (call me when your car gets too hot to handle). I am against the idea of sitting in front of aunties who expect ...

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Why working with the Austrian Mission in Pakistan was more than just another job

A few years ago, I was distractedly skimming through a pile of newspapers when suddenly my cup of tea fell over the classifieds section. It was there that I saw a job vacancy at the Austrian Embassy in Islamabad, and my life changed for the better. Seeing the ad took me back to my childhood, when my father was transferred to Frankfurt during the 90s. At the time, I was enrolled in a German school. Surviving on the streets of Germany without knowing the German language was a difficult task, especially during the early years of German reunification. But I ...

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Remembering Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan: A soldier, a maverick, and a loving grandfather

On June 25, 2002, my grandfather embraced my siblings and me as we carried our father’s body to his home in Abbottabad. In that moment and at the age of 81, he swiftly took responsibility of the family of his eldest son; he remained poised despite the overwhelming grief as familial duty called. At the tender age of 14, I had come under the wing of Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan. My mother and her three children permanently settled in my grandparents’ home in Islamabad. Living a semi-retired political life, he took an active interest in my education, reviewing ...

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In the Karachi vs Lahore food debate, Boat Basin tips the scale in favour of the city of lights

The server quickly refilled my (styrofoam) ‘cup’ of tea, and asked in the most inconspicuous and unassuming of tones if my nashta (breakfast) was to my liking. With such displays of courtesy, how could it not be? This five-star service was not at an expensive restaurant in one of the more elitist areas of Karachi. No, this was at Dera, Boat Basin – one of Karachi’s go-to nashta places. Having recently achieved a significant milestone at work, we decided to have a commemorative breakfast at Boat Basin. It would be the usual halwa puri, and Dera itself requires no introduction. Established in the early ...

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When 2018 brought the death of Burnes Road and marred the spirit of Karachi

Karachi’s recent anti-encroachment drive has caused uproar all across the city over the past few weeks. While some argue that for the sake of ‘development’, it is perfectly justified to remove the illegal establishments that have existed in the city for decades now, others strongly believe that legality should not take pre-eminence over the need to sustain the livelihoods of the poor. Regardless of which side you take in this debate, the repercussions on certain neighbourhoods of Karachi have been unavoidable. One such neighbourhood is Saddar, where most of the illegal occupations have now been cleared, including some of ...

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From “New Year, new me” to “New Year, same old me”: 5 resolutions you hear at the start of every year

There’s a lot of talk and literature on the five stages of grief; you may even know them by heart. It’s great if you know; grief is tough to deal with and people should be introduced to its stages and variations. However, there are other things too which recur yearly, that people should be prepared for. Last year, my best friend Seher called me on December 31st, saying: “Maryam, this is it. 2018 is the year.” I immediately recalled our conversation on December 31, 2016, when she revealed to me that 2017 would be the year. But I love that girl to bits, so ...

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