Stories about taboo

Being bipolar in Pakistan has not been easy, especially when people call you “pagal”

The squeaky voice of a trolley passing by woke me up. I was on a hospital bed. I slowly tried to get up while still trying to remember what brought me here. I was alone in the room, and the bed next to mine was neatly made up, with fruits and snacks lined up on the edge of the wall. ‘I had to be somewhere really important’ was all that I could remember. But where exactly? Nowhere! It was all just an illusion, a very dangerous one. I later learned that I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or maybe it was ...

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Zainab Kay Qatil: Capitalising on the rape of a child in the name of raising awareness?

Four months ago, the news of Zainab Ansari’s rape and murder surfaced. The entire nation, our neighbouring country and international celebrities spoke out against child sexual abuse, especially showing sympathy for Zainab and her parents. There were several protests held all over the country in order to urge law and policy makers to bring the perpetrator of this act to justice; some even called for public execution. Feminist men and women alike organised vigils for the 7-year-old rape and murder victim, hoping that their prayers would bring her soul some peace. Even though the alleged perpetrator was sentenced to capital ...

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When did dancing go from a form of art to a taboo, dishonourable act?

I am blessed to enjoy rhythm in my life, and blessed to have parents who put no restrictions on my body’s movement to music. I grew up as a typical uninteresting teenager; music blaring from my room, no matter what time of the day or night it was. I was so obsessed with music that even my telephone conversations with my girlfriends mostly consisted of singing along to the lyrics of the latest popular songs. All this was made possible due to growing up in a home in Lahore which provided space and privacy without disturbing the peace of other family members. My ...

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13 Reasons Why S2: Secrets will come out, lives will change, spirits will be broken

The first image that I think of when someone mentions ‘13 Reasons Why’ is an empty high school hallway. I don’t know what it is about empty high schools, but they always cause me discomfort. It makes me think of endings and the lack of something. I’m not sure what exactly. But that’s one of the feelings I got while watching the first season of the show. The show just announced its release date for season two and dropped the trailer. It was interesting watching Mr Porter (Derek Luke) playing a role in the trailer. We didn’t get much insight ...

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In a society where you are either heterosexual or just “messed up”, is there any room for asexuals?

My great grandmother had a cousin who spent her whole life single. She had a successful life, to say the least – she was a practicing doctor, she had a wonderful social circle and she indulged in numerous hobbies. And she was really, really content. Contentment is a strange emotion; you can be happy but not necessarily content. She, however, was tremendously satisfied with her life. She had everything, except a husband, and not because she wasn’t able to find someone, but because she didn’t want one. She had a great upbringing in a moderately liberal family with happily married ...

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A tale of self-destruction: I am what they call a “functioning” alcoholic

It is 6:30am. I am up and feeling that terrible sensation in the gut. I look at my wife, who is sleeping peacefully, oblivious to the fact that I am up and about to indulge in my daily ritual. She knows, but does not know the extent to which this vice has engulfed me. I drag myself to the restroom of the other bedroom and see my reflection in the mirror. My face is summarising the story of my last 10 years. I am 40 but can be easily mistaken as a person of 50. The face which a decade ...

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Motorcycle Girl will easily ride into the hearts of Pakistani women, but it may struggle at the box office

Adnan Sarwar, who debuted with Shah a few years ago, is back with another movie based on a true story. It is the story of the first female biker, Zenith Irfan, who travelled to Khunjerab on a bike all by herself. Motorcycle Girl is amongst the most awaited films of Pakistan; not just because Sohai Ali Abro plays the lead, but also because the movie is a tribute to women empowerment and tells the tale of how women can do whatever they set their minds to. Motorcycle Girl narrates the story of Zenith (Abro), who works in an agency, and because of ...

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Why your husband might be gay

Allow me to get straight to the point. Homosexuality exists, and contrary to the mass media being dominated by heterosexual affairs, the ubiquity of same-gender attraction cannot be ignored. Yes, we need to talk about this. It’s difficult to say what percentage of the population is gay, because ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ are not distinct demographics. About 2.5% of the population may be exclusively gay, but realistically speaking, every person lies somewhere on the spectrum. For a long time, we’ve relied on what is known as the ‘Kinsey Scale’ – rating a person on a scale of one to six, with one being ‘attracted ...

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With ‘Motorcycle Girl’ and #GirlsOnBikes, Pakistani women take a spin at reclaiming public spaces

Adnan Sarwar, the famed director cum musician of the biographical sports film Shah (2015), is back to mesmerise filmgoers with another biopic – Motorcycle Girl. This time, he dramatises the life of a young Pakistani woman whose real life motorcycle adventures were highlighted across the globe, and played a significant role in breaking the stereotypes surrounding women in a conservative society. Although, Sarwar’s directorial debut Shah, based on life-story of Olympian boxer, Hussain Shah, who won the bronze medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics, received mixed reviews upon its release in Pakistan, his latest venture has been much anticipated. Produced by Jami, ...

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The silence of the taboo: Why must I put my sanitary pads in a brown bag?

I was one of the most excited women in the newsroom when I heard Bollywood was making a movie tackling the taboo around menstruation called PadMan. As someone who detests censorship to the core, I thought perhaps now that the pad will be up on the silver screen, I will no longer be shamed for talking about periods openly, or for refusing to use the brown bag. But excitement didn’t last very long. Lo and behold! The Central Board of Film Censors banned PadMan in Pakistan. The details in the news were mind-blowing, a lot like how it feels when the uterus explodes and ...

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