Stories about urban life

Witness to a crime

I walked as fast as I could, and recited ‘Ayatal Kursi’ more than 10 times in two minutes. I could see the motorcyclist from the corner of my eye. He was staring at me as he passed and a shiver ran down my spine. I tried to catch my breath. My palms were cold with sweat and fear choked my heart. Retribution was coming; I was going to be punished  for people-watching. I shouldn’t have stopped and stared at a couple being mugged on the roadside by a twenty-something holding his pistol towards his elderly prey. The motorcyclist had stood there so nonchalantly, ...

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Have you met the sun today?

There is no eye that doesn’t find serenity in floating clouds, tranquility in shimmering water, and brilliance in the moon light. Nature is the only thing that will fill your heart with contentment and your spirit with peace. Stop and take a look around. There is nothing like walking bare foot on the moist grass, soaking oneself in the rain or sitting under the shade of a neem tree. When was the last time you did any of these things? Sometimes I like to close my eyes and listen to the melody of nature. As the song of the sparrow mixes with the breeze I can ...

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Karachi: city of trash, graffiti, magic and weapons

Riding the train into and out of Karachi is an unforgettable experience, albeit a mostly unpleasant one. Some of the things you can expect to see out the window: Seven hundred graffiti ads for a charlatan Self-proclaimed Alim, Junaid Bangali has a graffiti ad campaign which starts 40km outside of Karachi and appears on walls every 200m or so all the way to his den of kala jadoo (black magic) in the squalid urban mish-mosh under Kalapul bridge. The sheer number of ads suggests Mr Bangali has pulled a fast one on yet another poor sap, advising him/her to paint 700 signs ...

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The rains that were

As long as I can remember, I have always loved the rain. Everything about it – from the fragrance of the air before it to the sound of the rain as it smatters against the windows. When I was a boy and it would begin to rain we would run outside in our lane and just stand there. Our arms outstretched absorbing the water like we were sponges. We would run to a small thela wala who wheeled his mouth-watering chats through our streets to sample his wares. Even when I was a teenager in the 90’s we revelled in the thunderstorms that graced Karachi. We did not have ...

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What is she wearing?

I recently joined a firm where most women dress well. But there is one particular girl whose dress sense is admired by many others. As soon as she enters the room all heads turn towards her just to see what is she wearing. Every day she wears something trendy which makes her look different from everyone else.  She wears unique kurtas with jeans, long frocks, shirts and complimentary jewellery. I often hear comments like “Did you see her shoes? They must be imported!” but some will hiss “Imported? Give me a break…I saw that in Sunday Bazaar!” While still others would stare in wonder and ask “Where is ...

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8 questions you will be asked if you live in Peshawar

Four years ago, when I moved to Peshawar, I told myself to slow down and enjoy living in the cultural hub of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Perhaps, the only thing I was truly worried about was the cruel weather that inhabitants face from April to October. I have come to love the city and its people with all their merits and demerits. There are, however, questions I am asked that sometimes amuse me, and at other times make me wonder about how naïve some people can be. The following are just a few examples of how exasperating an introduction can be you happen to live ...

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Virtue, at what cost?

Are you are sitting there wondering what the above image is about? Its a section for women in the court marriage application form in Dubai. This has not been completely verified as I have yet to see the full document but this was tweeted by @youseftuqan this week and it kind of puts everything in perspective for me as far as Dubai and its rather contradictory laws go: “Hey, its okay to have nightclubs and serve alcohol but please, no kissing in public or off you go to jail!” However, what really sets me off is the chauvinist attitude towards women in general and female ‘purity’ in ...

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The relationship paradox

Someone asked me if it was true that people in relationships were happier than those who are single. The issue is quite debatable and the answer evaded me. So, over the past week I have been asking different people, married, single, divorced, engaged, and newly- weds for their opinion. But I still could not easily determine whether people in relationships were happier than single ones. I decided to analyse data I had. According to my survey people in stable relationships, which offered security and understanding, were happy. But immature relationships led to short-term happiness and extreme sadness in the end.  Facts confirmed my study. People in relationships live longer. Marriage apparently adds around seven ...

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The real deal on cell-phone stalkers

In the days before the cell phone (does anybody even remember those?) stalking was fun. You could call the object of your desire, harass him/her on the home/office phone number twenty times a day and all you would get is an agitated “Ayenda yahan phone nahi karna” and if it’s not your lucky day then “ &*@# ayenda yahan phone nahi karna &*@#.” In those days you were kickboxing in the dark and your opponent was almost twenty feet away. Then cell phones came along and ruined everything. They brought the opponent a bit too close (shudder). When I first acquired a ...

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The Empire of Cash

Near the swimming pool, a kid proceeds to push another into the water, resulting in a big splash. The caretaker comes over to reprimand them, but the tiny swimmer starts crying before the guy can say anything. The kid’s concern: he had a ‘bohat mehengi’ (really expensive) toy car in his hand which was now lodged at the bottom of the pool. The toy car wasn’t a nice car, or his favourite car, or a special car; it was an expensive car. “It was for 150 rupees!” he cried. The kid must be less than eight years old, yet he was thoroughly inculcated with our money-minded culture. ...

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