Stories about class differences

A peddler’s life in the city of Badin: Making peanuts selling peanuts

My first interaction with the peanut selling peddler was nearly 28 years ago. In those days, I had gone to Badin (a city in Sindh) with my father. My father bought peanuts from him and that’s how I first met him. Just a month ago, I met him again with the purpose of writing a story about him and his life. The kind, old man was honoured and said to me: “I am happy to know that at least someone cares about the story of a poor man.” Muhammad Ashraf Chandio, 53-years-old and not formally educated, runs a roadside peanut cart in Badin. His ...

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Maryam knew she was born poor and meant to be treated harshly

Three months ago, an 11-year-old Maryam sat in my friend’s drawing room, weeping incessantly. My friend and I asked her if there was anything we could do for her, we inquired if she wanted to talk to her mother. All we got in return were confused, big black eyes staring right back at us. Maryam curled herself into a tiny ball and continued sobbing. I felt immensely grieved because the little girl had made a long arduous journey from her village to this new house alone. My friend’s mother had asked a former driver to look for a female domestic helper; one ...

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‘Maid’ is not a synonym for ‘Slave’, Pakistan!

I came across the picture given above on a blog called People of Pakistan and it left me dumbfounded. I have seen many real-life incidents like these in Pakistan, but none have had a similar effect. The photograph shouts out everything that is wrong with our social fabric today and it makes me absolutely furious. Here are a few reasons this photograph disturbed me: 1. The family in the said picture brought their maids to the restaurant with them to take care of their kids so that they could, I suppose, enjoy a ‘peaceful meal’. My guess is that the maids were either ...

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What Pakistani dramas can learn from Pyare Afzal

Pakistani dramas are famous for their practical take on people’s everyday life and its complexities rather than an empty glamorous portrayal. This is why they have gained massive popularity in our homeland as well as across the border. Pakistani dramas have succeeded in portraying family life in Pakistan quite aptly except recently, these dramas have been revolving around marriage and family politics. A helpless daughter-in-law, a heartless mother-in-law and an obedient son: With these three characters, a Pakistani drama can possess reasonable viewership. A number of additional characters can also be included to add more mirch masala, but these three are the main protagonists. A helpless daughter-in-law, ...

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Red Riding Wolf, the child abuser

Red Riding Wolf  I once heard a storyteller say, it’s not about the story… for stories are all the same; it’s how you tell a story that makes it different. Today, we embark on the journey of telling you tales popularly heard and read as fairytales, folklore, plays, novels and poems and give you a new perspective on them – a little something to ponder upon. We take a popular read and bridge it to our surroundings; we play on the nuances, the implied reality between the lines, the obvious being told and the vague that is suggested. The idea behind this concept is to ...

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My Eid in a different Pakistan

I hold the bills and hard earned cash Mentally calculating if I have any left For the new shoes my two sons want For Eid-ul-Adha. But I know I don’t.   My husband had told me quietly in the morning, “Get some good shoe polish. I’ll make the old shoes new. They won’t mind”. But I know they will.   Eid is no longer cheery and blithe, The celebration it used to be For the middle-classes. It has become an ordeal; A trial for the common man. A supreme, exhausting test of nerves, Agonising over where corners to cut, In order to salvage some percentage of festivity In the two Eids At least for our children.   It had never been this ...

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Book Review: ‘Servants of the Goddess, the modern-day devadasis’

Imagine being paraded in a procession of singing men and women on a high slab with nothing on your body except neem leaves as soon as you hit puberty, and being ‘deflowered’ when you don’t even know the reality of what just happened to you. Photo: Catherine Rubin Kermorgant, taken from official website of the author. Imagine being dedicated to a temple at the age of six years and wearing a beaded necklace for the rest of your life. Imagine being a mother of two at the age of 15 (or even less). Imagine never being able ...

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Why Aitchison?

“Don’t you realise this behaviour is unbecoming of an Aitchisonian?” Mr Zafar Ahmad stared at me. Stress on the word Aitchisonian caused extra ripples of guilt. There is a reason Mr Zafar Ahmad, my housemaster, was stressing on the Aitchisonian angle; he knew it would make me feel like a downcast in my own eyes. And it did. Both of us knew I would not repeat that adventure at least. Aitchison College is in the spotlight these days. Pakistani press is not alone this time because The Guardian, one of the leading British dailies, has also covered the latest issue surrounding the institution’s policy regarding ...

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Do you have a Sarah in your house?

Whenever I see her, her eyes haunt me. The sadness in them is unspeakable and the horrors of her life, incomprehensible. She is young and beautiful yet her heart yearns for a minute of peace and happiness. She is Sarah*, a married girl who lives with her in-laws. Sarah married into a family of four sisters where her husband was the only son. The torture began almost immediately. Her three unmarried sisters-in-law cannot stand the very sight of her. They never speak a kind word to her, and always address her with stern and blank expressions on their faces. The very faces that smile ...

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Birth, confusing and perplexing, birth

The August night was frightening, confusing, perplexing. Hot, humid and sweaty… The room was pleasant, comfortable, properly lit and professionally decorated in muted, soothing hues of beige, gold and taupe. Tapestries artfully draped, artefacts tastefully displayed; everything oozed style and grace. The effortless elegance and oomph of old money inherited through generations, mere mortals can only think, or write about. A room, about to witness the first birth… The loudest, metropolitan city of the land of the pure was in complete darkness, thanks to power outage. Energy crisis was at its peak and on that particular night, the shortfall in electricity production was more than many thousand mega-watts. She whimpered in pain ...

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