Stories about stories

Bloodstained honour is not honourable at all

More often than not, I come across distressing stories about women  who are beaten, tortured, maimed, and in some of the worst cases, killed by male (and sometimes even female) members of their families. It never fails to surprise me when I learn that many of these cases are on account of an honour that was supposedly ‘stained’. This ‘staining’ hence serves as an excuse for people to resort to violence – violence against women, in particular – which has always been a global pandemic. One of the most recent of such horrid stories, or so-called ‘honour-killings’, occurred in Darra Adam ...

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Remembering Ashfaq Ahmed: Through his stories, he will live forever in our hearts

On September 7, 2004, while sitting in my office and doing my routine work, I received a call from a close friend. Without the usual ‘Salam dua’ he exclaimed, “Ashfaq sahib is no more; just got the news.” It was a short sentence, but it had many aspects attached to it. The feeling of a great loss, sweet memories of so many stories, dramas and plays, of colourful travelogues, funny incidents, thought-provoking quotes of Sufis and other baabay (mystics); nostalgic recollections of a life well spent, and fully lived. So much came to mind and passed like a breeze, leaving me numb and motionless ...

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Why you should pick a college away from home

Unlike the West, where living away from home is a norm, a large part of our traditional Pakistani society is new and rather averse to this notion. Most parents are overprotective by nature and are unwilling to disrupt the family dynamics. Thus, they are reluctant to even consider the possibility of sending their children away from home. Sure, attending college in one’s hometown is an experience in itself.  However, I think that the purpose of college education entails character-building, ability to deal with copious amount of pressure and exploring the person that one is or wishes to be. Dorm-life, in ...

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Writing versus editing: What’s your pick?

As a writer and editor, I have a tough time deciphering what I like doing more: writing something from scratch, with my name under the headline, and the promise of a growing readership? Or ripping someone else’s work to shreds and rebuilding the story. Writing is like making a dish from scratch (not reporting, where you basically state facts): you choose the ingredients and the recipe. You are responsible for the end result. The credit is yours as is the criticism. But editing is like fixing somebody’s half-cooked dish. You can renovate it, rebuild it. You can add a ...

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Doctor Who – The madman with a big blue box: Can’t wait!

“I hate endings,” proclaimed the Doctor as he sat reading a book out loud to his companions Rory and Amy Pond, in a picturesque view of Central Park, New York; the city of a million stories. Sadly, that was what we got in the final adventure for the Ponds in The Angels Take Manhattan. But before we tumble down further into the wormhole world of “Doctor Who”, let me give you a little gist of the show itself.  BBC’s “Doctor Who” is the longest running science fiction television show in the world, which originally ran from 1963 until 1989, churned out a ...

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Thanks for making me who I am, dad

I was gently awoken by the stroke of a warm and affectionate hand on my forehead. I felt someone remove my glasses and put away the book I was reading. As I tried to get up while half asleep, I heard my father say: “Beta, you should avoid staying up so late. It’s not good for your health.” This same man, while crossing the road today, held my hand reassuringly. However, his hands are different now, the wrinkles and veins are more prominent – he is getting old. Even though they show a mark of the years that we’ve left behind us, ...

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Fear and loathing for military coups

Three unrelated stories reported in the mainstream media recently gave me an emotional high — and a low. The first story was about a decision by a court in the Turkish capital of Ankara to indict and charge the leader of that country’s 1980 coup with crimes against the state. Bravo! This was a high. But a sudden low came with a news piece on a tribunal’s decision in Bangladesh to send 90-year-old Ghulam Azam, the country’s most prominent Islamist leader, to jail, pending trial for war crimes. The 90-year-old was accused of helping the Pakistan Army in the 1971 ...

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Saving Face at the Oscars

In the midst of all the negativity that seems to be coming out of our country, every now and then a bright spark emerges. Sometimes it’s a win against the best Test team in the world of cricket. Sometimes it’s something a little more enduring – like Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. This remarkable woman’s documentary “Saving Face” has been nominated for an Oscar. Yes – you read it right – a Pakistani is going to the Oscars on the basis of a project which highlights “acid violence”. Instead of showcasing the negative, the documentary shows the resilience of its Pakistani victims. ...

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Video blog: Why Toffee TV is awesome

I’ve always been concerned about what children watch on TV every day. The absence of quality, locally-produced cartoons in Pakistan has always been disheartening for me. I remember a teacher who went through a lot of trouble and spent a huge amount of money only to order a Spanish cartoon TV series Pocoyo for her pre-school children, because the ones that are aired here in Pakistan are not appropriate. A recent laudable effort by Rabia Garib and Talea Zafar, called ToffeeTV, was a welcome sign. The online initiative is based on promoting our ...

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Uninspired grandmas, dusty fairytales

I don’t mean this to be a newsletter. In fact, I really mean to discuss a poem by Agha Shahid Ali, but a plug here and there does a reader only good. Besides, how else would you know there is a charming new fairytale out there waiting for you — or that there is a writer in this country who writes fairytales for a living? And to be fair, I am big on fairytales for another reason as well. You see, I am quite aware, given the evidence of evolutionary psychology, that irrespective of the stories we hear when young, ...

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