Tag Archives: Pakistani literature

Short Story: Worth a Thousand Dreams by Khalid Salamat

Photo by Aa Dil on Pexels.com

Karachi 2004:

Playing at an agonizing volume, our neighbour’s music-system jarred me from my sleep. I opened my eyes into the direct glare of an angry sun, punishing me for daring to paint all night. Keeping my curse under my breath, I could hear grandmother climbing up to my bedroom on the first floor. My almost bedridden Dada, and Dadi lived on the ground floor. I knew I was about to receive a lecture. She was currently gathering steam, so I muffled my cursing to save my skin from a lashing tongue.

“Arif, are you awake?”

“Yes Grandmother, good morning.”

“The morning is over, come down for lunch. Made your favourite Qeema (minced meat) and Aloo Stuffed Parathas.

Her heavy-footed gait retreated down the stairs before I followed. She waited for the meal to be over to launch in. As I poured tea from the pot, she said, “Arif, you slept late again? What were you up to, all night?”

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“You never feel completely secure when writing about blasphemy!”-Osman Haneef

In conversation with author Osman Haneef, about his debut novel Blasphemy (Published by Readomania, April 2020) and his inspiration behind it all.

Osman Haneef dons many hats with equal élan. He has worked as TV actor, a strategy consultant, and a diplomatic adviser, and was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2017. Recently, he made his debut as an author with Blasphemy.

Haneef’s debut story of a Christian boy in Pakistan accused of blasphemy is gut-wrenching and thought-provoking. As noted writer and journalist Aatish Taseer says, ‘In this novel of quiet creeping horror, Haneef forces us to confront the supreme evil that lies at the heart of Pakistan’s Blasphemy law.

Team Kitaab was in conversation with him recently, where we spoke about his debut novel, his inspiration behind it and the journey so far, before giving us a glimpse of what’s in store for his readers in future.

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Short Story: A moment of us by Farrukh Mateen

“Is this how you want it?” Sameera says. The pain is clear in her eyes,  words and  face. 

“If he refuses, maybe Baba will listen…,” Ayla words fall crippled and deformed from her lips. The lounge falls silent.   

It is hard to remember this lounge being this silent. I remember so many green and red blobs of mint-chutney and ketchup had dripped on this coffee table, and we used to wipe them away with our fingers quickly before Sameera came back from the kitchen with the next batch of hot pakoras. But there are no pakoras cooking today, no blobs of chutney either. No laughter or requests for one more cup of chai. Only solid, paralyzing silence. 

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Fahmida Riaz, our new Aqleema

(From The Wire. Link to the complete article given below)

Fahmida Riaz, who passed away on November 21, informed the reader in her first collection of poetry, Patthar ki Zuban (The Language of Stones), that she would not write any poem until it forced her to that extent. She said she did not write the ghazal because she did not want to write for the sake of rhyme and metre, and also that she would not write for more than three or four years – because then she would have nothing to say.

This was in 1966. She wrote this preface at the hostel of the Government Girls College in Hyderabad in Sindh.  She was barely 20.

Until then, many of her poems had been published in the journal Funoon, and she had thanked Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi for encouraging her. The poet he was encouraging would be one of the best Urdu writers at the end of the 20th century. The next 50-odd years also disproved Riaz’s prediction that soon she would have nothing to say. She gave us several volumes of poetry and at least four great novellas. In addition, she wrote Adhura Aadmi (Incomplete Man), a book adapted from the psychological and social analysis of the psychologist Erich Fromm.

She gave us a translation of selected poems from the entire oeuvre of the Iranian poetess who died young, Forough Farrokhzad, titled Khule Dareeche Se (From an Open Window). Other stories were published from time to time, and one read her book reviews, essays and other translations. She also wrote two books in English.

But first we return to those years following the publication of Fahmida Riaz’s first volume of poetry. Not only was there an individuality in her themes and her refusal to be ensconced within the customs of Urdu poetry, but along with that, the visual display of her poems was dignified and beautiful, and there was transparency in her tone.

Read more at The Wire link here

Excerpts: This House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab

This House of Clay and Water (1)BHANGGI

My body, ji, isn’t my own. It’s a communal vessel for lust that finds expression in dark corners. I learnt that early in my life, na. I am like the spaces that belong to no one; a dirty thought never acknowledged.

This cage of bones and flesh that holds me prisoner . . . makes a mockery of me and my desires, destroys me daily. How can anyone be held responsible for the body they’re born with, ji? Who can help that?

Growing up, I’d watched men haggle with the older hijras, over the price of an hour of guilty pleasure. It’s the price of a life they squabble over, and it’s cheaper than an old chicken. Few hijras live past the age of forty. We trade our lives for a few rupees, ji, agree to bear the burden of desires, confidences and diseases that no one else will. Women are more trouble. More expensive too. Hijras are simpler; no questions asked, even if caught by the police—some of whom are regulars too.

Some prefer about anything else to a woman.

I watch the Nightingales every night. Once the streets are empty and everything is quiet and even the dogs stop barking, the silence is broken only by the sounds of occasional cars passing by, or a drunkard, yelling at a cat underfoot, the hijras known as Nightingales emerge from the few houses in the alley, a space that is only ours: the hijra chawl.

There are five of them, and their haunt is the crossing, where the narrow alleyways meet. Twinkling like fireflies in their sequined shirts and shiny synthetic silks, they laugh and chat as they wait for the regulars. They are prettier than the other hijras, whose job is to beg in the streets by day; they act as pimps for the better-looking ones. The beggar hijras look different. Their powdered faces look grey, and the exaggerated thick eyebrows and painted red lips only accentuate the hardness of their features. It is a poor disguise. as soon as one looks into their eyes, one knows.

They all said I was pretty too. I would be a Nightingale when it was time, not a pimp beggar. I could hardly wait. Nightingales are important. They bring in the big bucks, so everyone treats them well. They get the best bits of meat in the curry, and the best clothes.

The Nightingales stand together at the corner,  talking, laughing, and at times  a  hearty  guffaw  would  carry  in on the night air and thrill me as I lay in the small room, listening.

They were happy, I thought. as a child, laughter is all you need as proof of happiness. as a child you don’t know there are so many different kinds of laughter—like different varieties kinds of birds. Some are flightless.

They share a bidi, and the ends glow in the darkness. Sometimes they share a bottle of homemade liqueur. and I long to try both. Even though I know it is Shaitan’s drink. Or maybe because I know it is.

Gulabo, the master, the guru of our community, found me as a newborn, wrapped in a filthy bloodied towel outside the door of daata’s dargah. She took pity on me, she says. She fed me and clothed me, yes? She looked after me, even when those who’d helped me abandoned me. They didn’t want me. They didn’t want the shame that comes attached to me, a hijra.

Gulabo took care of me. She was also the one who sold me the first time, when I was eight. I was nothing more than an investment, an object to barter for little conveniences: indemnity from the police and a discount at the grocer’s for an hour every night, maybe a few rupees sometimes from a street wretch, if times were hard. That is the only life I am entitled to. There is nothing more, nothing else.

Growing up, I found refuge from the neighbourhood boys in the dilapidated junk shop with the kabbadiya. I hid there because, by then, I already knew why the bigger boys chased me. No one followed me into the dark alley where the kabbadiya lived, usually passed out on his piles of outdated books, magazines and newspapers. There was always a lantern burning low, hanging on the wall inside the shop, the corrugated-iron shutter only half closed. Two gigantic piles of newspapers, so old they were stuck to the floor, held the runner of the shutter up. I squeezed in between those two columns of newspapers, panting, listening to my thudding heart, waiting for the dreaded whispered insults of the eldest boy with the cruel eyes. Often the boys didn’t follow. They were afraid of the kabbadiya. People said he was a jinn. Few people had seen him in years.

But the kabbadiya found me one night.

I’d gone to sleep looking at the colourful pictures in a tattered, yellowing magazine. It was the smell of his  breath that awoke me. It was hot and sharp. I’d smelled it on men before, yes? It was Shaitan’s drink. I woke up with my hands reflexively covering my head to avoid the blows I knew would follow. But they didn’t. The kabbadiya pulled me out of the corner.

‘You’ve been here before, haven’t you?’

I nodded; I couldn’t get my tongue to detach from the roof of my mouth.

‘You  leave  the  magazines  lying  around.  You  wouldn’t make a good thief. You know who I am?’

I nodded again. He was the junk-shop owner. The jinn.

His eyes were sharp, dark.

‘You don’t know.’ He gave a short laugh and said, ‘That’s new. I used to be the gossip for years. Whose shame has taken over mine, I wonder, that people no longer talk about me. Well, what does it matter? There’s plenty of that to go around.’

He sat down with a big laugh, on the single, broken chair in the corner. He looked at me.

‘a little hijra, eh?’

He looked down at his hands. He had the magazine I’d been ogling. I was ashamed. It was full of pictures of women. Beautiful women, ji.

He raised his eyes to me and asked, ‘Can you read?’ I shook my head.

‘are you mute?’

I shook my head. He laughed softly. ‘Come here. Sit. are you hungry?’

I  didn’t  respond. My  legs  were  still  shaking. My  heart, curious and fearful, waited for the jinn to do something jinn- like. From a small half-broken wooden crate next to his chair, he took out a newspaper shaped into a cone and began to unfold it. It revealed two chapattis carefully nestling some vegetable curry. He gave half of his dinner to me.

‘Eat. I cooked it this morning. It’s fresh. Eat.’

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New Release: House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab

This House of Clay and Water (1)Set in Lahore, This House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab explores the lives of two women. The book published by Penguin Random House India will release in May.

Nida, intelligent and lonely, has married into an affluent political family and is desperately searching for some meaning in her existence; and impulsive, lovely Sasha, from the ordinary middle class, whose longing for designer labels and upmarket places is so frantic that she willingly consorts with rich men who can provide them. Nida and Sasha meet at the famous Data Sahib dargah and connect–their need to understand why their worlds feel so alien and empty, bringing them together.

On her frequent visits to the dargah, Nida meets the gentle, flute-playing hijra, Bhanggi, who sits under a bargargh tree and yearns for acceptance and affection, but is invariably shunned. A friendship—fragile, tentative and tender–develops between the two, both exiles within their own lives; but it flies in the face of all convention and cannot be allowed.

Faiqa Mansab’s accomplished and dazzling debut novel explores the themes of love, betrayal and loss in the complex, changing world of today’s Pakistan.

About the Author:

Faiqa Mansab finished her MFA in Creative Writing with Distinction from Kingston University London, in 2014. She has been published in The Missing Slate, Running Out of Ink, and The Friday Times. She also has an MPhil in English Literature from Government College University Lahore. She teaches creative writing as visiting faculty in Kinnaird College Lahore. This House of Clay and Water is her debut novel.

Book review: A Requiem For Pakistan—The World Of Intizar Husain

By Syeda Hameed

When I first set eyes on Mahmood Farooqui’s book, A Requiem For Pakistan, I had just returned from Pakistan, where I met people who spoke with love and awe of the subject of this book. Novelist and poet Intizar Husain had died a few months ago. The Pakistan I saw was vibrant, then why “requiem”, I asked. The answer came to me as I reached the last page of the book; both the protagonists of the book were speaking to me. Husain writes, “Every affliction that falls from the sky and every turbulence that arises from earth comes asking for (the) address of Pakistan and having arrived here takes us into its arms.”

The book is not about one but two journeys, that of Husain and Farooqui; it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. “I keep inserting my story and words into this account of Intizar’s life in the hope that I too may exalt my status,” Farooqui writes. Read more

Source: Live Mint

Pakistani poet-writer Ali Akbar Natiq: Mullahs have no place in religion

ali-akbar-natiq

He says his sister was killed by her husband three days ago. The couple had four children. It was a supposedly happy marriage. The husband’s fingers did not leave the wife’s neck. Not until there was any sign of breath left. It was for insurance money, he says.

This is how the conversation starts. He then closes the topic. Immediately.

He says his job is to tear away veils – “Mein benakab karta hun, sabko.” He says his characters are also ornamented with multiple disguises. And that it is the reader’s job to see through, for he trusts the latter’s intelligence. “And if they can’t decipher, how is it my fault?” he whispers, almost.

Pakistani poet and writer Ali Akbar Natiq, who shook the literary world with his enigmatic collection of short stories What Will You Give For This Beauty, published by Penguin Books India last year, insists it is unfair to underplay the cruelty and corruption of the poor.

As he constantly questions the cliché of rich man being evil personified, this 39-year-old author confides: “I have lived among the poorest. I have smelled their sweat. Don’t think it is sweet. I have never been rich, but have come across many kind souls in big mansions. Point is, I don’t slot people. It is a very unfair thing to do. A writer needs to show the complexities of his character, all his shades and hues. He does not have the right to pass judgment. Neither should he promise any redemption – to the character or the reader.” Read more

Why is Pakistan alienated by the global literati?

Arundhati Roy once said:

“[…] Writing is an incredible act of individualism, producing your language, and yet to use it from the heart of a crowd as opposed to as an individual performance is a conflicting thing.”

Roy, like many other authors of Indian descent has won a multitude of literary prizes, including the esteemed Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Which is why when India wasn’t nominated this year, it came as a blow to the world. This consternation, in my opinion, represented something far deeper for Pakistan: the alienation we face from the global literati, a sentiment the writers from this side of the border have come to accept.

On the 25th of October, the Booker for 2016 was awarded to the USA’s Paul Beatty. And with the announcement of this year’s awarding ceremony, it’s saddening to note that India’s troubled neighbour has never won a single international prize for literature – let alone the Man Booker.

Perhaps it is a paucity of distinctiveness in the Pakistani voice, or maybe it’s the deficiency of branding that our contiguous counterpart finds in abundance, but Pakistani novelists never seem to strike any chords with the literary intelligentsia. The aforementioned quote is evidently accommodating for this thought; somewhere along the way, our writers lost their sense of individualism. This, coupled with Indian fictionists’ continual plenitude of literary laurels, begs the question: will we ever win an international literary award like the Booker? Read more

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