Stories about life

Trigger happy in Karachi

I grew up in a city where guns were unheard of. People moved about freely. Neighbours, family and friends dropped in without informing. Gates were left open and doors unlocked. We were taught never to point a gun at anyone or even threaten anyone. We were repeatedly reminded of guns being a matter of life and death and a grave responsibility. The only exposure we had to guns was when we went up North during summers. Over there, a man was not a man unless he had a gun hanging on his shoulder as carrying guns signified manhood. Pakistani laws ...

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Afghan malangs: Keeping the country’s mystic roots alive

In Afghanistan, there is a special group of people called the malangs. This is an Afghan word which describes men who live a very austere and dangerous life and who are happy with the hardships they endure. A malang is somewhat like the Afghan version of a shaman. They have been part of the Afghan society for centuries and have been forced to live an extremely hard life. These harsh circumstances are not just because of the wars; these people are neither accepted nor respected in the Afghan society. The main reason behind such ill treatment is that in mainstream Islam, shamanism (or anything like ...

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Mirror mirror, what do you see?

I have a mirror in my hands. Mirror mirror, what do you see? “I see a girl, a black girl, with beautiful eyes… beautiful eyes over gaunt cheeks. Cheeks caved in over thin, crisp lips and a levee against the pointed chin. I see a face festooned by gold; hard earned 18 carats of flimsy artwork. A ritual slaughter of a loved one.” Say more my mirror. Say more. “I see a void in the girl. I see uncertain gestures hiding in her smile. I see an ominous pout and a stoic sarcasm in her gentle nods. She knows what to appreciate. She has a keen eye for ...

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My life… or a poorly scripted story?

My story is one that is not worth listening to. It is poorly scripted and lacks punctuation and depth. It lingers on too long and then stops suddenly, as if looking for a new introduction to an already spoiled plot. It dies too often or does it sleep? I do not know. It becomes dormant so it could be either. Its commas occur once too often and the colons, which are otherwise latent with the charm of novelty and surprise, act as full stops. Its full stops end half-lived sentences which miserably rise and fall, full of verbs which do and die, ...

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Pakistanis, the ‘ustad’ mechanic isn’t always right!

We, as a nation, have one trait that dominates our behaviour in almost every walk of life and that is to follow the crowd. We’d rather do what everyone else is doing instead of using our common sense, even if the majority is wrong. In local terms, we call this trait bhair chaal (follow the crowd). Unfortunately, we do the same when it comes to dealing with cars. Our decisions are almost always hijacked by the opinions of other people; people who have little or no information about cars and yet, they do not refrain from commenting on what they don’t know. And ...

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The day the Taliban attacked my father

Death is very different from finishing a novel; both symbolise the end of something, the emotional attachment to both is poles apart. One similarity, however, between the death of a good person and the end of a good novel is that both leave a mark on your life. It’s hard to realise the importance of some people, until one day you wake up to find out that those people are no more in your life. I understood this reality on June 26, 2013. It was a very strange, sad day for me and my family. The day started like any other. My father, a ...

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Queen: Healing does not come in the arms of another man, Ladies!

“I also want to do something in my life” Rani says in a wishful voice to Alexander. He replies to the bewildered girl, “So who is stopping you?” This dialogue pretty much sums up the essence of the movie ‘Queen’. The barriers and restrictions holding us back in life are mostly the constructs of our own mind. Vikas Bahl’s ‘Queen’ is not a very novel perception of abandonment and coping with it, but there are a few moments in the movie which make the experience worthwhile. Queen, being a low budget film, has grossed almost $10 million in three weeks, without any male lead ...

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: ‘Brilliant, arrogant, autocratic and opportunist’

‘Brilliant, arrogant, autocratic, opportunist’ – these are only a few of the words that have been used to describe the ‘father of popular politics’ in Pakistan. A staunch nationalist and the hero of the suppressed for his local supporters, a naive leftist for his foreign detractors, the man who restored Pakistan’s pride before his foreign supporters and an alcohol consuming corrupt statesman for his local critics. Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore it. Today on April 4, 2014 it has been 35 years since he was hanged following a politically motivated sham trial in 1979. Nevertheless, some facts need to be ...

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Watching Carl Sagan’s documentary ‘Cosmos’ changed my life!

It was sudden. It was unexpected. I was in grade nine when my life took a dramatic turn. Like many of my peers at school, I was planning on pursuing electrical or computer engineering at NED University of Engineering and Technology. My father is an engineer and so is my eldest brother. The path seemed to have been laid out. But then, on a fateful night, Cosmos got aired on Pakistan Television (PTV) and by the time the first episode ended, I had decided to become an astronomer. In less than an hour, a science poet from Brooklyn had fundamentally altered the trajectory of my ...

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Is this what it feels like to be invisible?

There are times in one’s life when one wants to be invisible. And then there are those unthinkable times when one actually is.  Flight MH 370. What does it feel like to be invisible? That is a question that crosses my mind as this story of this plane unfolded. As I close my eyes, I imagine that there I am, in all my glory, looking forward to life, availing all the opportunities that come my way, aspiring to make something of myself and on the verge of achieving what I always dreamt of. I am a professional. Dr Yuchen Li ...

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