urdu: trembling

i. Today, again, I remembered something I shouldnʼt have. But I guess it doesnʼt matter anymore.

ii. Inside me, my organs are in conversation. They speak the words I never did, never will. Iʼm going to die with these in my heart.

iii. I think of how ‘how’ is the only question word that doesnʼt start with a ‘w’. I wonder if it feels unique or alone with what who where when and why. I donʼt have an answer.

iv. This grief, it isnʼt mine. But it has made a home in me and itʼs weighing me down here like gravity. No, even lower. I canʼt escape it.

v. Does pretending to be happy make Happiness feel worthless and sad? Does this, make Sadness feel a little happy? Maybe. Maybe not.

vi. It doesnʼt make sense, all of this, but itʼs happening. ‘I donʼt know anything’ and ‘I know nothing’ probably mean the same thing. But they sound different. And right now, I feel just like those phrases.



urdu: guard keeper

Writing prompt: A contemporary tale that parallels the story of Odysseus when he escapes Ogyjia.

When I lost the anchor to my ground, I felt as though I was flying. For the briefest moment, I could forget where I was, what was happening and all the troubles of my little world. But then my face hit the earth, and the dust flew into the air, and I choked on reality.
Hameez quickly picked me up, and we started to run again.

The rhythm of our bare feet on the hard road was masked by the terrified shouts of women and little children. There was no way they could have found us in all of this madness, but they did anyway.

We rounded a corner, narrowly avoiding knocking over a large wheeled cart, decorated with foul smelling slabs of slowly rotting meat. I grabbed a pole near the stone wall and used it to fling myself around yet another corner, with Hameez close behind.

I knew this formidable maze of a town like the back of my hand. For seven years, I had lived on this soil. Every secret pass, every shortcut, every house was ingrained into my memory forever. If they were chasing us in here, we would lose them in minutes.

Then I heard the warning siren.

I froze in my tracks, my eyes widening in fear.

Hameez nearly crashed into me, for I had given him no warning that I was going stop.
“What’s wrong? What happened? Keep going!” he shouted.
Qunbula,” I whispered under my breath. “A bomb.”

I took off running again, having already wasted too much time standing there.

The whole experience was so surreal. My feet were both hurting as well as numb, and my eyes stung from the dry dust that was blowing against my face.

The panic around me seemed to reside at the edge of my consciousness. The sobbing of women who cried for the children they had lost, the children they were about to lose and children they never had. Their screams of agony mixed in sync with those of the young children, and the constant bang of the soldiers’ gunfire. Everything around, made me desperate to have my home back.
However I could.

My cousin’s ragged breathing was still close behind me.

But above the cacophony on all sides of me, was the siren. The sound, though terrifying, seemed to help alleviate my fear, perhaps it was the only thing that wasn’t letting me drown in the screams–the one constant wail through all the movement and chaos.

Others heard the siren, too, and the screams intensified.

A sharp stone stabbed into my foot, and the feeling returned. I almost wished it hadn’t, for it burned with pain as dirt and tiny pebbles wedged themselves into the gap in my flesh.
I ignored it and kept running.
I had no idea if Hameez was still behind me.

Though it sickened me, I realized that at least one of us was going to die here, and it couldn’t be me.

Finally, when I thought I was safe, I collapsed against a rough wall. Hameez joined me a minute later.
As I slid down, the protruding rock cut the back of my shirt. But at this point, I didn’t care. Stopping made me realize how exhausted I was, and I had a sudden fear that I might never be able to get up.

“How…do you…run…so fast?” he asked me, still out of breath.
“…Practice,” I huffed. For years I had tried, in vain. And he didn’t know about the hell I had been through before this.

But then I heard the heavy footsteps of the men in boots, and I remembered why I ran so hard and for so long, trying to get my visiting cousin to safety with me. The Israelis had taken me away from Taheen, my little son, and Pehrun, my beautiful wife. For so long I had been careful, waiting for an opportunity to escape their captivity, I couldn’t get myself killed now. I had to go home.

But now, they were here.

I stood up quickly. Too quickly, as my head began to throb and the world began to spin. I felt nauseous and dropped to my knees, panting, still out of breath.

Odayb!” Hameez shouted.

The siren kept wailing. I wondered if it would lead to the end of all of us. I hated the destruction it brought with it. It reduced humanity to nothing with its power.

I hated having to wait there, kneeling helpless in the dirt, but my body was not cooperating, and I was disheartened from trying to get up again too soon.

The footsteps of the junud grew louder, the echoing footsteps depleting my confidence.
There wasn’t enough time. There’s never enough time. We had to go now, before it was too late.

I stood up, leaving the fatigue behind me, and took off running yet again.
I was vaguely aware of Hameez’s footsteps behind me.

“There! Someone’s over there!” I heard a male voice shout. He sounded as though he were no more than twenty, a young lad, and yet bold enough to attack a town of innocent Palestinians.

I passed an abandoned cart as I went, and, as soon as Hameez ran past, knocked it over in an attempt to slow their pursuit.
I felt incredible, indomitable, in charge of my own destiny.

A couple of soldiers weren’t going to stop me now. I was going to go home.
But then I sensed something, and as Pehrun used to say, I was too curious for my own good, I slowed to watch the sky.

The rocket, which minutes ago had been a pinprick in the sky, was now a malignant black shadow with a massive smoke tail, headed straight for the center of town.

I froze completely. If I turned around and went the other way, I would be able to escape most of the blast. Hameez would still have to face the soldiers, but his American ass might win him some sympathy.
It was unlikely though. Israelis have no soul, I knew. I was a witness to it.

But as I began to twist around, a two soldiers rounded the corner and I came face to face with one holding a massive gun
“Come with us,” the woman said, speaking with an Israeli accent. “The bomb is about to hit. We came to help clear the‘ashkhas out. Yrja tueal maeana. We won’t hurt you.”

Suddenly it didn’t seem like I was in control of my destiny.
I had a choice–run from the Israelis, leaving Hameez to their bullets, or stay, and be killed by the bomb with him. Should I abandon my cousin, who knew little of the reality of war, or sacrifice both of us to the explosion?

The siren kept wailing, and the screams had grown louder, and my foot hurt, and I felt ready to puke, and my throat was dry, and the woman jundiin was staring, and the bomb was drawing closer, and–
I couldn’t take it. I barely noticed my knees buckling, or my shoulder slamming into the ground.

My eyes were only partially open as the soldier with the woman tried to pull me into an underground pit, while she kept firing and yelling at someone behind me.
Hameez stood there unmoving, his mouth somewhat open. He was taking massive, ragged breaths, and it occurred to me that he probably had asthma.

He collapsed onto the ground, then.

“I…I can’t…breathe,” he said. His voice seemed far away. I was surprised I was still conscious. He sounded like he was in pain. He gasped something else that I couldn’t quite hear, but I thought I could make out the words “kill” and “me”.

I would have never known what happened to him if I only I let go of my senses then. But some part of me held on to awareness, and I heard a single gunshot somewhere, followed by the sound of Hameez’s body hitting the ground.

I lost consciousness.

Translation: Arabic words

Qunbula : Bomb

ashkhas: people

Yrja tueal maeana:Let us help you

Junud: multiple soldiers


urdu: separation

*Rewind 30 years*

I used to stand at the phone booth at 10, surrounded by a darkness that couldn’t overshadow my excitement.
I used to pick up the red receiver of a telephone that had become a friend.
It was a wonder that your voice was travelling all the way from 13,000 km away to me, only to me.
As if it belonged here.
As if it knew its way home without the streetlights, without the door bells, without the sign boards.
You’d tell me of the day you’d planned and slowly, the details faded like the months did.
Your voice seemed like a 7 year old’s when they’re punished to write the tables 10 times.
“I love you I miss you too Take care. I love you I miss you too Take care. I love you I miss you too.”
After a year, the telephone cords had tangled so much that they pulled me back every single time I wanted to get away.
I remember one letter you’d sent me.
It was a one page reply to my six paged one.
I remember attaching a verse from one of my favourite books.
In your reply, you’d only answered my questions and stated at the bottom how you were never the linguist so I couldn’t have expected for you to understand the poem.
I’ve saved that letter in an envelope.
The ink has spread and the pages have turned yellow.
It seems as if the universe is trying to burn it on my behalf.
I still kept sending letters or postcards once in a while as if holding onto you was a proof of my identity.
I’d still walk to the phone booth everyday at 10 to talk to you for a few minutes, as if knowing that you’re not dead was a proof of a part of me.
“I love you. (Are you going to say it back?)
I miss you (I miss how things used to be). Take care (Just don’t die).”
But after all these years, I think even you must have walked to a phone booth to talk to me.
Even you must have cleared your day for the few minutes when I used to call.
Even you did a lot.
But believing that I did more helps.
It helps because you were there one day after a lot of years; standing beside the phone booth, surrounded by a darkness that couldn’t overshadow your excitement.
It helps to know I did more and that somehow I saved you, I didn’t let you die, I didn’t let your voice reach anyone else but me, and I let you go.


urdu: lamentation

Because somewhere
in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,
a certain word suffers
as immensely as I do,
to be located.
For once,
just once,
to be found.
To make me believe
that I am not inhuman,
to feel a feeling I cannot name.
That I am not inhuman,
to feel a feeling
I can neither describe
nor express.
For the ocean of words
that I have held inside of me,
is now
the address to a wasteland
Iʼve never been to before.
For everything I am,
and everything I know
to the only word I can remember.
Two syllables
for the universe of questions
I have within me.
One word to dry my ocean,
one word to drown me in it.
To light my stardust
and reduce me into ashes.
To bury me deep down
at the core of the earth
and destroy my trace of existence,
‘Nothing’ can do that to me, you know?
So please,
save me
from what I shouldnʼt remember,
what I shouldnʼt forget either.
Go find me a word,
from somewhere,
Save me
from what I shouldn’t want,
but what I desperately crave.
Tell me,
tell me Iʼm not the only one
whoʼs experiencing this.
Tell me
that despite all of it,
Iʼm radioactive.
That my incandescence dulls the dark.
Tell me I can swim.
Tell me I can be.
Tell me Iʼm not going to lose.
Tell me,
just tell me,
thereʼs a word for all of this.
But if there isn’t,
And if only there isnʼt,
create one
and call it by my name.

In the picture :

The bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak


urdu: beginning

2018 has been a long year, with far too many ups and downs, it sure taught me a great deal of lessons.

I’ve learnt that friendship is a gift we take for granted far too often.That friendship has the power to save you from your own negative bs,give you a chosen family you can feel home with.

I’ve learnt grades don’t matter, neither does a well paying job. But discipline does. And so does happiness.That judging someone by how much they laugh, or how perfect their social circle seems is cruel and ignorant to what they may be going through with their mental health.That true empathy to anyone is to be kind, both in words and conduct. To be there for people. Judgement is easy, support takes strength.

I’ve learnt that ambitious don’t always translate to happiness. This is perhaps the most vulnerable truthfulness to my life, but my achievements never sat congruent with my contentment. Professional highs can never guarantee you personal highs as well. And that’s something that the whole social construct makes us ignorant towards. You need to remind yourself over and over again that your professional goals need to make space for your self care. You might have a secure job in a giant firm and still feel horrible and lonely inside. You need to learn to prioritise what’s more important first.

I’ve learnt that goodness of heart and intentions overpower every God damned thing in this world; Money, Power, love, respect, beauty, even a fuckin’ PhD.
Everything can be cultivated through the years as we grow more skilful with time.
I’ve learnt to see how goodness is a detectable trait. Good people leave traces- a kind smile, selfless acts, being there for those who they have no obligations towards.
I swear when you fall in love with goodness, you’ll know that not being an asshole is also a talent.

I’ve learnt that heartbreaks suck, but they happen far more often than we would like. The trick is to realise that being in love with someone is the most personal thing in the world, and our feelings are our own prerogative and nobody else gets to have power over them, that us falling for someone is no one’s business, it is a soliloquy.
And moving on is a silent prayer that nobody hears you say,
but for you, it is loud, clear and holy.

And finally I’ve learnt that if you don’t travel, you start to believe that the world is what you’ve seen. That the neighborhood gossip could tear you apart. That the seasons are a certain way and always will be. That this career is the only one. That things are just that way. That destiny is hard and linear.

But when you travel, when you shake the shackles and take a look, you see the billion ways the world shows her face and bares her skin, and things opens up. You see that the way you live, is not the only way to live. The world as you see it, could look much different. What you believe, is not the only thing to believe. What you have or don’t have, is not the only having.When you travel, you become humble. When you travel, you learn to hope.



The aftermath of an anxiety attack
is sometimes
your friend staring at you like you’ve turned into a sudoku that she is too tired to solve.
your mother saying “you cannot be so fragile,”
you convincing yourself that you’re only being moody
or that you’re dying of a disease that hasn’t been discovered yet
or that (this one’s my favourite)
your overreacting.
The aftermath of the aftermath,
are discontinued moments stringed together with constantly changing emotions.
You sit at night scrolling through the internet
finding metaphors-
today you’re a sunset changing colours every minute,
tomorrow you’re a child deciding which ride to
play at the playground,
the next day you’re a river and your strength can break the rocks thrown inside by other people.
The aftermath of an anxiety attack
is sometimes denying the existence of it
or sometimes solving the fucking sudoku
all by yourself.


urdu: end

Afternoons were usually when Imtiaaz Mamu visited our house. After Zohar salah precisely which is prayer, a little after noon. See, technically he was Ammi’s Mamu, so he was supposed to be our cousin Nana, but we stuck with calling him mamu for some reason.

For a little man who was probably in his 70s, Mamu was the most liveliest thinker I had ever known and a child at heart (a very mischevious one at that). Heʼd park his Luna in front of the house and ask a little more than a dozen times if it was safe to do so and waddle all the way from the narrow verandah to our house and exclaim an “As Salamu Alaikum”.

My sisters would run to go and help him, and heʼd instantly break into a full toothed smile, the skin crinkling at the corner of his eyes and then heʼd ask them how they were doing in a crying-out-of-joy-way, which is how he spoke all the time.

And they’d nod their heads and catch him up with their life stories. And heʼd raise his hands and say “Mashallah, Mashallah”, around a dozen times ,which was his way of praising God and wishing from Him the best for us.

The thing about Mamu is that he always had something to fill our head with and our stomach too. For everytime he arrived, he brought with him a box of thoughts and also hot Chobe ki naan( Sweet bread). The former, he unwraps very slowly, as we listen, layer by layer, over a piece of the dessert.

Mamu would often narrate stories from the Qur’an after he’d finish his lunch. About Noah and his arc, about Jonah and the whale, about Jesus and his miracles.These, Iʼd often hear but what always interested me was the way heʼd explain them. And how heʼd finish the story with a something that stays long after itʼs over. Heʼd look at me just then, and see how his words had affected me. “Kaisa lagya, How did it feel? ”, heʼd ask.

One evening, years ago, Mamu told me about Israel, the angel of death. How without questioning, the angel accepts the orders given to him, to remove souls from the bodies of mortals. “Good people donʼt feel the pain,” Mamu said, “but the nafs, the souls, of those whoʼve done bad in the world, theyʼre taken as if a silk cloth was run over a thorn bush”.

He took a sip, as I pictured what heʼd just said and I wondered how mine would be taken.

“One day when everything on Earthʼs dead,” he said, “Israel will be given the list of souls to be removed from certain angels”. I looked at him with disbelief as something terrible brewed inside me. “And”, he paused, “at the end of the list will be the angelʼs own name”. By now, whatever brewed was overflowing.

“Then?”, I gulped.

“Then Israeel will ask God for only one favor.”

“What is it?”.

“That while causing his own death, he must be fearless”.


“Then what?”, he paused and took another sip. “The angel will do as heʼs told”.

I was lost when Mamu looked at me and asked his inevitable “Kaisa lagya?”

I swear, it took all the strength in the world to not tell him, “like a silk cloth run over a thorn bush.”


urdu: quest

In Long Island a little girl waits for her father to come home. Heʼs promised to take her to the fair. She looks out the window for the forty third time in ten minutes.

Along the river Thames, an old lone oarsman rows his boat quietly thinking of his dead wife. Ahead of him the sun is setting. A strange orange glow lights up his weather beaten face.

In India, a single mother shushes her crying baby. Her divorce papers have been signed.She must leave behind her child the next day

In Sydney, a boy my age realizes itʼs too late to sleep and too early to wake up. So he stays in bed and stares at the ceiling. A slow sad song plays through his headphones.

Somewhere in Opotiki a man is up before his usual waking time. His head and eyes feel heavy as he looks through his window at the sky and watches the worldʼs first sunrise for the day. He decides to call in sick for work but then remembers itʼs a Monday.

From where I am, I think of these people and wonder how unconnected their stories seem. And how thereʼs probably nothing poetic about them just existing. Maybe their lives can change, or maybe they canʼt, much. But I realise there are a million possibilities. And I can use any of these to say what happens further. But I donʼt think I want to. There are just too many maybes.

Khaled Hosseini in his book ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ says, “I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us”. And I wouldnʼt care to agree more.

I donʼt know the lives of these characters or who they are or what theyʼve been through or where theyʼre going. I just know they exist, out there.. somewhere. Under the same sky as me, this moment. And that the sky is a testimony of change. I donʼt know whatʼll happen to them tomorrow or what happened yesterday. All I know is now. All I know is that thereʼs hope.


urdu: obsession

I think the fundamental problem with human existence is that we are too obsessed with being concerned about who will remember us once we are gone.

I read somewhere that it is believed we die twice, once when you stop breathing and second, when someone takes your name for the last time.

Sounds about right, doesn’t it?

I don’t think so.

You may remember Caesar, Einstein, Cleopatra and so many others but is it the same as knowing them?
Do you know any little quirks they had? Maybe Caesar cried for days when his favorite horse died. Maybe Cleopatra had body issues. Maybe Einstein dreamed of finding a perfect love along with the theory of everything.

We’ve learnt about everything that they had achieved, but no one talks about how much of themselves they lost on the way. No one taught us how Hitler was so paranoid about maintaining his machismo that he took 80 different drugs and opiates everyday to mentally help him through the course of the war.No one talks about how Cleopatra spoke 12 languages and was educated in Mathematics, Philosophy, Oratory, Astronomy and yet all people have made her out to be is someone who used her sex appeal as a political tool.

I guess what I am trying to say is, none of what we accomplish will last and this is exactly where memory finds its place: in the thing that lasts.  In the end, on the grand cosmic scale, nothing really matters. Your life of 70 years is not even a drop in the ocean of time. Even if you are remembered for a millennia, that is nothing but a blip in the age of the cosmos. The universe does not care. The universe has never cared. It doesn’t matter to it what you do with your time. It existed before you did and it will exist for long, long after you are gone.

But you matter.

You matter to yourself. You matter to the people who love you. You matter enough to have changed their lives in whatever little ways. You matter because, in their little world inside their head, you live. You’re enough, just as you are.You’ve loved, you’ve lived, you’ve edged yourself in them.

See,significance isn’t only relative and subjective, it’s also man-made. That word has no meaning outside of this solar system. The fact that we’re here debating how significant or insignificant we are only tells us that we’re human, nothing else. What matters the most is that we stop proving our man-made significance to this world and start appreciating the significance you have amongst the people to whom you matter.Start appreciating the amazing person you are today.

Stop thinking your life is ruined because you didn’t get that perfect job or because someone has a tinier waist or because they have their own house (or two) . We’re always chasing the next sunset because we think that’s what we want. It’s easy to obsess over something you don’t have. It’s not hard to feel like you’ve been lazy with your time or even your life, because you haven’t really achieved the things others have .

The truth is your wants will change with the choices you’ve made. Embrace this uncertainty and learn to accept it. Life is going to throw things at you and that’s what makes it worth living. You need to consciously fight this collective conditioning that has taught you to win the God damned race.

Because it’s all in your head.

Because in the race between the tortoise and the hare,

No one won.

Because they lied.

Because we don’t know who won

Perhaps the eagle did,

Soaring high above

Or the Black Marlin did,

Swimming in the oceans at the speed of 129 kilometers in an hour

You see,

We’ve been so programmed

To compete all the time,

We’ve forgotten to see a world

Beyond the race tracks.



Urdu: neglect

**Trigger : self harm**

Aaina often asks me to listen, but seldom has anything to say.

We don’t really talk that much anymore.
The emptiness that fills her home besides her hollow existence is accompanied only by the sound of rain on windows and occasionally my presence.

She told me at 9 last night that she had forgotten the way her skin felt like before it happened. And as she lights a cigarette between her lips, I find myself patiently staring at her wrists, searching for scars that would tell me of her desperate attempts to feel  again.

She closes her eyes and lies down as if trying to savor the hint of tobacco that hits her lips every time she exhales.

She won’t talk much, but every time she looks at the ground and leaves a hopeless sigh, you can hear the earth crumbling beneath her feet and her body going breathless by the way her lungs pull her down under the weight of regrets, past memories and a little bit of nicotine.

I try staring into her sad, glistening eyes but she looks away.
Aaina often breaks eye contact because she doesn’t like to see her reflection in other people’s eyes.

Her faltering hands that hold cigarettes between her fingers, often move delicately over her wrists as if painting an exquisite masterpiece.

I remember how Aaina stopped wearing shorts since the day she chose to give her skin a taste of her own blood rather than let it flow safely through her veins.
She deliberately forgives the places she knows everyone would look at.

That’s how she hides herself, through flesh and fabric.

You see, Aaina doesn’t really want any help or attention or even sympathy.

She just needs to be heard.

But she doesn’t talk anymore.


Ps: There are many times in life in which you should be skeptical. A person telling you that they were sexually assaulted is not one of those times. Our society’s inability to believe women/men when they come forward not only makes them less likely to open up about instances of sexual violence, but it also allows abusers to cast doubt and discredit their victims. This especially goes out to the domestic abuse faced both by women and young children at home. Your inability to stand against the abuser, because he/she is family, makes you an equal complicit. This is an ugly time, with so many stories of #metoo coming out, and hardly anyone owning up to their actions, victims are reliving the worst trauma of their lives, in the hopes that others will listen and do the same. If you are a man, this is a time to listen and reflect. Reflect on your relationships with women. Reflect on what you were taught “being a man” is supposed to be like. If you are a woman, the least you can do is not doubt and repress another’s courage to come forward. Believe. Support.