“Sahil, can I play with your goat?” Feroza asked nervously. “You can’t touch my goat,” Sahil’s face paled with anger. Feroza’s eyes were suddenly watery with tears. She bustled away, embarrassed. Sahil always treated her disdainfully, as if she were something unclean. He never let her close to his things. He always told her she was ugly and poor and that when he grew up, he wouldn’t let her live in his house. When Feroza was back in her room, she thought that if she had a goat of her own, she wouldn’t have had to ask Sahil. But Abba (father) had clearly told ...Read Full Post
If you start seeing, hearing and feeling things which nobody else can, you are either going to be tagged as having a ghostly experience or be labelled as a dangerous and ‘crazy’ person. And the problem with both of these titles is that they are incredibly dehumanising. As a child, I would see people on the streets and in shrines with no sense of their surroundings. They would stare at you endlessly, talk gibberish, stay in extremely hard-to-maintain postures for long hours and scream at things you could not see. They fought with invisible beings and tried to shut ...Read Full Post
“Please inform them in Lahore.” “Sure, Baba. Have a safe journey.” She said after tucking him into the window seat. ‘Seat #2’ it said in black. She was glad it was in the front. He won’t have to walk too much to get off. “Tell them that I’ll be there by 8:45pm.” “Sure, Baba.” She hugged him and ended up hugging part of the seat. She went to stand with her mother. The mother and daughter walked to the other side of the bus. Two eyes followed them, and as the bus made his daughter and granddaughter momentarily disappear, he brought his eyes to ...Read Full Post
The dark blue sky was aglow with a thousand shiny stars. “How pretty are the stars!” mused Mehnaz. She sat alone on the bench. No one was around, or at least, no one she could see. She took a cigarette out from her bag; it was the last one she had left. She searched for the lighter but couldn’t find it, so she kept rummaging through her bag until she finally concluded it wasn’t there. “Damn it!” Infuriated, she threw the cigarette on the grass, returning to her musing. A little while later, she picked it up and put it back in her bag. She ...Read Full Post
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 ...Read Full Post
A few days ago, I celebrated my 19th birthday without my parents. No, I am not an orphan. But the conflict in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) has ensured I live like one. I was born in Srinagar. My father, Dr Ashiq Hussain Faktoo, spent nine years in prison before I was born. He was briefly released and then arrested within months of my birth. It has now been 19 years that I have not seen him under the open sky. He is one of Kashmir’s longest-serving political prisoners, having languished in jail for 25 years now. Sometimes I want to tear the prison down and carry ...Read Full Post
She stood by the footpath, her shoulders slouched because of the heavy bag she was carrying. I was waiting at the traffic signal in my car and something about her caught my attention. She was a fine kid, probably 10 or 11-years-old, and was coming from the school adjacent to where my car was stopped. She had two pigtails tied with blue ribbons, and yet her face was very tense. It had an unpleasant, don’t-mess-with-me expression, while her body language could best be described as stiff. Every woman reading this knows the expression, because it never goes away. We are taught to ...Read Full Post
In Pakistan, and in my native language Urdu, woman translates into aurat, which comes from the Persian awrah, meaning “parts to be protected”. Literally, too, in my present Muslim, closed-knit, patriarchal society, women like me are guided — by their fathers, husbands, brothers, sons — to be protected from threats against their body and family honour. While these men encourage “western” trends to an extent — like education at reputable schools, recreational sports, or even temporary employment — cultural traditions halt these prospects after marriage. You are born, our men tell us, to marry fast, and vouchsafe both yourselves and your future daughters ...Read Full Post
A trans daughter‘s letter to her family: Will you love the real me and not the man you want me to be?
Dear Abba and Maa, We live in the same house, but you have created a distance between us that leaves me feeling miles apart from you. Who generated this hatred in your heart? You can blame me for it if you wish, but I blame your fundamentalist understanding of religion and your rigid expectations of a gender role that I am unable to fulfil. Tell me, are these things more important to you than I am? I am a human being with flesh, blood and emotions. You are offering your love to imaginary abstractions, meanwhile I am left deprived of it. Abba, you ...Read Full Post
“She’s doing injustice to both by bringing her baby to work” – uh, ok! 1950 called, they want you back!
I don’t remember the last time I had time to jot down my thoughts on a piece of paper. The difficulties of being a full-time working mother played a huge role in my ‘hibernation’ from writing. Recently, I was scrolling through my newsfeed to keep up with the world that exists beyond my hectic routine when a lovely photo caught my attention: it was of a lady bringing her toddler to work and the caption of the news article read: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) woman official sets example by carrying infant while on duty. As a woman, a mother and a career-oriented person, I ...Read Full Post