Stories about literature in Pakistan

I could smell it, I could breathe it – Pakistan was near

It was very chilly for an August night. The moon played hide and seek behind pregnant clouds of white and grey but the winds were strong and the clouds did not stay above us for too long. We had travelled nights like these before and swayed many times during the course of the journey, but it had led us here and we were close. The town we had stopped in was unknown. It once had a name but it had long been abandoned when the news of Partition circled the country. They were smart people or maybe superstitious for no one really ...

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The runaway bride

A thousand stars glittered in the charcoal black sky. They were magnificent, almost magical. Rani loved the stars, the sky and the night. Every night she would wondrously gaze up at the sky and try to count the stars as they endlessly spread into the deep velvet of the night. But tonight was even better, mostly, different. It wasn’t usual for girls to sit outside a train station in their bridal gowns and stare into the endlessly starry sky. But Rani’s life had always been different and she made a bride the same way too – a different bride, a ‘runaway’ ...

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‘Exit West’ and ‘The Golden Legend’ could be Pakistan’s literary game-changers

This is a strong year for Pakistani fiction. Two excellent novels, ‘Exit West’ and ‘The Golden Legend’, by two excellent novelists, Mohsin Hamid and Nadeem Aslam, have been published to great critical acclaim. Another, ‘Home Fire’ by Kamila Shamsie, is forthcoming in August and is already being endorsed by a plethora of writers. Historically, the Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the world, has been won by Indian writers five times. No Pakistani writer has won it and only three, including Aslam and Hamid, have been nominated. This year, with two strong and worthy contenders, Pakistani writers have a great chance of featuring on the long ...

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You should expect nothing

There are days of glee and sorrow, There are days of wonder and freight, There are days of worry, insecurity — Thoughts that you’ve been victimised. There are protruding, menacing, cutting eyes, Staring. They watch your every move. It’s not some higher power or satan or big brother, It’s just all the people who expect something from you. And the days will pass you by. You will find new shores and highways. You will look beyond the roofs of Karachi, and the markets of Lahore. You will breathe in the stink of cities, leaving the Big Apple behind. You will see the world — not really, But it will be enough. They will wonder where you’ve gone, maybe they really do ...

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O’ Father, your prophecy lives on no more

O’ Father, your prophecy lives on no more. The men with daggers for hearts walk the blood-soaked streets free and alive, With eyes colder than the Kashmir winds and veins warmer than Thar, they thrive, And all your children can do is close their eyes as the blood seeps into the roots, and from society, they drive. The women afraid of walking into the vegetable store, of all ages, Succumbing to the prying eyes, the filth that lay within the savages, They yell and scream, yell and scream, into the newspaper pages, And all your children can do is turn it over as a mere casualty in the inevitable collateral damages, O’ ...

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She was never little miss sunshine

She sat there staring outside her balcony, watching the heavy, thunderous downpour tear its way through the dark clouds and fall to the ground, like it was the last time it was falling. She realised how it was a metaphor of her own life – a life so full of passion and rigour, but slowly dying down – phasing out into the everyday nothingness. It’s not like she suffered through depression or some mental disorder or experienced anxiety attacks every now and then. She was an average, 30-year-old struggling to get by, just like many other 30-year-olds who had started off with big hopes and dreams to fulfil and life ...

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“It’s Chand Raat. He would want to be with family”

He looked again at the big slab of ice, big no longer. It had melted here and there, there and here. There was the memory of ice spread across the table. In zig zag lines, in the air around the table. In the future that was taking a leap into the past. Sometimes he thought his business was not really selling ice but buying time. And the sun was the vendor. The greater the sun’s heat, more the customers, but also greater the probability of the ice melting. Profit, loss. Loss, profit. On the hottest days, people flocked to him and in Ramazan, he naturally became the most important person. For those few hours, at least. He could ...

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The midwife of Delhi

The Quran has acknowledged the existence of djinn, but the proliferation of stories revolving around these creatures of fire often delves into the realm of horror. In 19th century Delhi, to counteract children’s perceptions of djinns as fearful creatures, city elders recounted folk tales recounting the kindness and generosity of the djinn in order to remind children that djinn, just like any of Allah’s creatures, could be good and bad. What was important were one’s own actions, good deeds were rewarded, and pleasing a creature of Allah was equivalent to pleasing Allah Himself. Long ago, back when Delhi was a quiet city with horse carriages dotting the ...

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The sheila from Pakistan

There was not a single person in sight. Not a single one. My father asked me to describe the first thing I saw when I went out on the street early in the morning. Perhaps I could make up something. “I saw a bunch of kangaroos coming down the road, Aba. It was like a mela.” I was always an early morning person. My father called me his alarm clock. He never needed another while I was in the house. It was my sounds that woke him for morning prayers, not the muezzin’s call from the mosque. My bedroom door opening and then shutting ...

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Her smile, was it real or illusive?

Was she an empress, whose command was ultimate? That echoed through the outstretched lands? Or was she an ordinary being but not a commoner? Was she soul thirsty, bewitched, and engrossed in depths? One who could correlate to the enormity of the oceans? Nevertheless, she wasn’t incapable of being envied. Her eyes were buried with deep secrets of time Her smile, a mystery, was it real or illusive? Was her forehead overshadowed by a gloomy darkness? Whoever beheld her sight tried to unfold these truths. In light, her expressions easily changed, Thus, one could misperceive into it anything It all depended on the one who entered her soul, As though it was ...

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