Stories about road

The evening train

The evening train, breathless, reaches its destination, The station, bleak and empty, resembles the soul of a dead poet, He drinks the unimaginative cup of tea until all that’s left is the glass, humiliating him with his own reflection, The road ahead is fearful, yet hopeful. The passengers, sound asleep, still glow under the fluorescent lights above them, The towns outside, pass by his eyes in a brief second, reminiscent of his entire existence succumbing to a single moment of clarity, His thoughts still clinging to the ultimate battle of life and death, and during all this torture, all he can think about is, The aisle that still illuminates. The sun ...

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Light lunchboxes

His daughter knocked on his door; only once. It was time for work and her school. He got up, stretching here and there, listening as individual muscles came out of slumber. After he was ready, he headed to the kitchen and opened the fridge. Each item appeared to be dripping. The electricity had been out throughout the night. He reached for the night’s leftovers and packed their lunch, first for her, and then for himself. She came to the kitchen shortly after. She was well-aware of her father’s strategies and how she ended up getting more of the leftovers. However she used to silently weigh ...

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The long road home: A journey from Chitral to Islamabad

It’s a journey that gives perspective to your life. The endlessness of the Qaqlasht mountain meadows, the sky and the snow-capped peaks make you feel very small. The story of Qurban, an illiterate lady in the village of Booni – who runs three shops and supports the education of her nieces and nephews despite having been threatened by an acid attack, makes you realise how quotidian your own challenges are. And the cancellation of the flight to Islamabad with the prospect of being stranded in a dark, brown, tube-lit, hotel room in Chitral – beautiful though the town is ...

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Series 1: “Dreams of Lunacy” Part 6 Humans

Ghaffar was at a restaurant with friends. The food had been devoured, and everyone was awaiting their cars. Somehow he casually looked at his feet and saw a torn piece of paper floating in a puddle some feet away. He looked around, and ensuring no one was looking, he pocketed it carefully. Once he was back home, he began to read it. It was written with a black fountain pen, the writing was cursive, and from far it looked like one large sentence. It read: “Often we constantly sketch dreams in the loopholes of our world. We fit them in, often ...

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Series 1: “Dreams of Lunacy” Part 5 Stroke of darkness

He sits with his feet on top of each other, touching the skin just behind the nails where the tips of his fingers feel the small hairs that have recently grown out of nowhere. He rests his head on the strong shoulders of his father and looks at his hands work on the 12 feet canvas. “Why must you draw, father?” Hearing the voice of his child after an hour of lost silence, his hands suddenly stop midway, as if caught in the middle of an unknown activity, knowing not whether to continue or to retract, just when he was producing ...

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Series 1: “Dreams of Lunacy” Part 4 Identity

“I’m going for a sleepover at Salman’s house.” “What?” “Sleepover, ammi.” “Now? At mid-night?” she exclaimed. “Jee, everyone is getting together right now, please, midterms just ended today.” “Okay, but this is never happening again,” she said, as she shook her head. Ghaffar gave her a hug, and got the keys from Zameer, who was awake, watching a Bollywood movie in the servant quarters. He headed towards his Corolla and was soon on the road. There was no sleepover. He just wanted some time for himself and what better than a drive around Lahore, with nowhere to reach and no one to check upon him. He opened the ...

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Dear Advertisers, no, we do not start dancing in the streets when we sip on tea!

A few days back, while I was on my way to college, I came across the road near Expo Centre, where the traffic was choked. Naturally, I flipped my hair and smiled at the people in the neighbouring cars; and what do you know, they smiled back! After that we got out of our respective cars, started dancing in the middle of the street with cups of tea that magically appeared in our hands. We danced and swirled while others clapped and hooted. Then, all of a sudden, the traffic opened up, everyone got back into their cars and drove on ...

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Not her fault

I saw her eyes as she begged, I said forgive me and she left, I wondered what her life was like, Why she begged, where she slept at night. Because her feet were bare, Her clothes were torn, But was it her fault that she was born? In a family that can’t give her, All the things a child may want? *** Five-years-old when they came, Broke her innocence, broke her to shame, But why should she feel this way? Was the pain not enough, and now the shredded name? She was found somewhere in a ditch alone, Her clothes were torn, Her smile was gone. But was it her fault that she was born? In a world that gives men, All ...

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‘Metronomics’ in Lahore: We may be heading for an ‘F’

What brings economic progress to a country? Social scientists have argued for good institutions, trade-suited geographical placement, favourable climatic conditions, cultural homogeneity among a country’s peoples, and – lo and behold – even their superior genetic makeup. Yet, no sociologist has suggested relegating the laws of economics to history’s waste bin. Endowments of nature (such as those listed above) are important indeed, but their apt utilisation (good economics) is much more important. Fiscally speaking, any new project a public official decides to pursue needs a thorough pre-evaluation by experts. Economists have tools to compare a given project’s usefulness to other potential ones. ...

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The tree trunks of Cambridge and an old people’s home

I have always been an ardent admirer of trees. One of my earliest childhood memories is accompanying my elder sister to watch a parrot living inside an old tree trunk. Very stealthily, we used to approach the old tree, making sure we did not cripple dead leaves or twigs under our feet, thereby alerting the parrot of our visit. It was a surreal moment for me as a child; witnessing a tree being home to a bird, since before that I had only pictured birds either flying or preying upon insects from the ground. Ever since, I started keeping an eye ...

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