Stories about taboo

Ariba on the outside, Ahmed on the inside

Greeted by the waiter at a café, nervous yet anxious, I inquire about the girl I was scheduled to meet for an interview. “Ma’am, he is waiting for you upstairs.” The first thought that runs through my mind: HE? There must have been some mistake, I thought. To my surprise, I meet a person I was more inclined on calling ‘handsome’ than ‘pretty’. Surrounded by the strong smell of men’s cologne, she was dressed in a crisp white dress shirt for men, a brown belt and beige trousers. I could see the sweat on her hands that wore a Swatch and carried a Blackberry. Ariba Rizvi, ...

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Pakistan Women’s Day: It’s about time we start respecting Shireen Mazari and Asma Jahangir

February 12, 2015, commemorates National Women’s Day in Pakistan, for our mothers, doctors, engineers, leaders, homemakers and women belonging to every strata, class and religion in society. But while we celebrate our women, it is very unfortunate that many of them have to face immense challenges in their daily routine; from public name-calling to humiliation and character assassination, our women go through all. Whenever they come out and participate effectively in political or public spheres, many elements express their venom against such women and regard them to be of bad character and lacking morals. An example of this is the ...

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Recycle yourself, don’t let your kindness die with you

A man sitting in a park reading suddenly bursts into laughter. This catches the attention of a boy sitting near him with dark shades on and a stick in his hand who, out of curiosity, asks the reason for the man’s laughter. The man, pleased to be able to be nice to the boy, starts reading the passage to him and they both share a laugh. After a while when the man gets back to his reading and there’s silence once again, the boy breaks the ice by asking if the man would be kind enough to let him have “that” after ...

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Breast cancer: Pakistan’s most common cancer

It was the summer of 1999, when a bunch of us, final year medical students, were attending to patients in the crowded outpatient department at the Mayo Hospital in Lahore. Our professor had called us to come see a patient in one of the consultation rooms. The patient was a young woman, no more than 35 years of age. She had come to the hospital with a large breast mass. She said that she had first felt the mass more than a year ago. After ignoring it for months, she had finally mustered the courage to talk to her husband about it. ...

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When a rape victim is ‘Outlawed in Pakistan’

Outlawed in Pakistan won an Emmy this year for Pakistan and this is a triumph that must be celebrated on many levels. Pulitzer Centre grantees Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann spent five years in making this 45-minute-long short film, exposing the inherently flawed justice system of Pakistan. It’s another addition to the success spree of alternate filmmaking in Pakistan, two years after Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won an Academy award for her documentary. It’s also an endeavour to bring forth the severe violation of women rights and how women, from extremely opposite social and economic backgrounds, work together to empower women all ...

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Can Pakistan ban alcohol for non-Muslims? Not ethically!

As the nation slides down the slippery slope of prohibition, progressives entrench their nails into its icy surface, resisting the imposition of Islamic dicta on the state’s non-Muslim subjects. The National Assembly Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights stated its opposition to the proposal to impose a complete nationwide ban on alcoholic beverages, revoking the exemption provided to non-Muslims in Pakistan. It is a restriction Pakistan’s ultra-right political parties have long pushed for. JUI-F MNA, Maulana Shirani, has been particularly vocal in this regard. The proposition implies a constitutional amendment, which has faced a welcome amount of resistance from the ...

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Please God, kill my children before they are born

The midwife handed her the baby. She took the tiny thing in her arms and stared at him. He was beautiful. For a fleeting moment, she felt unbound joy. He was a part of her. He was… her focus shifted. He was nothing but a hungry mouth to feed like the eight others that awaited her at the house. Or if one could even call it a house. Two shabby rooms with a makeshift stove and a bathroom next to them was home sweet home. The ceiling leaked, the doors creaked while the paint was in tatters. Her husband had ...

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The nightmare that is my life

Confusion seemed to be everywhere. I shuffled out of bed, reassuring myself, blocking the sound of his voice from my head. Sprawled across the cold floor, shattered, I lay – for what seemed like hours, maybe even days. Uncomfortable in my own skin, I tossed and turned, desperate for comfort. I could hear the laughter, our wedding day, a new beginning… ha! What a joke! It’s a nightmare now; one that I relive every night and hide every day. Sometimes, I wonder why I even bother; nights like these are always sleepless. The cold bites into me as I lay alone, his ...

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Ladies, don’t opt for abortions!

Florynce R Kennedy once said, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would have been a sacrament.” My maid refuses to take any birth control measures because her husband considers them to be a ‘yahoodi saazish’ (Jewish conspiracy) to sterilise the ‘flourishing’ Pakistani nation – just like the superstitions concerning polio drops. However, she doesn’t mind going to the local dai to get an abortion – illegally of course. When I admonish her and tell her that she will get herself killed, she replies, “Baji aap ko kia pata… woh bari tajrabakar hai. Bohat aurtain aati hain us ke paas aur bus kuch ke ilawah kabhi koi mari nahi hai.” (Ma’am ...

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‘Re-virginising’ in a tube: ‘Purity’ for sale at Pakistani pharmacies

A few months ago, I noticed pharmacies in Karachi were carrying topical cures for lost virginity, “re-virginising” in a tube. These over-the-counter fixes were everywhere – counters in large supermarkets, small pharmacies acting as corner shops – hard to miss once you knew it was out there. One of the names is hard to forget, ‘B-Virgin’, the package displaying a youthful girl smiling at white flowers. I admit there is the potential for dark humour given the name; instead it just makes me very sad. This is the message we are giving our girls, our women. “Don’t be true to yourself; instead invest, medicate and ...

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