As I progressed to middle school and the pangs of adolescence set in, I gradually became known as the agony aunt of letters. Boys in my class who bunked classes to avoid a test or simply avoid being scolded for not completing an important homework started demanding my attention. They wanted me to write their leave letters for them.
From where I sit, I can see cacti from Mexico and other parts of Latin America. There are succulents from all over the world. I think to myself, these plants didn’t come here of their own free will. And I wonder how many did not survive this transplantation? I’m looking at the living, not the dead.
I am particularly fascinated by a three-story high, one-meter wide, Casa Escondida (Hidden House) which stands between a Carmelite convent and the Igreja do Carmo for priests. There is nothing spectacular about the tiny house that stands between them, except for the fact that it was made to prevent fraternizing between the nuns and the priests. I want to know more.
“But you have a way of saying things that makes the world seem like a wonderful place. That’s as good as lying from where I stand.”
Was she cursed because once she had garnished a pot of lentils with a fried gecko? A gecko that had fallen off the wall into the frying pan? It had been an accident but it had cost her a much needed job.
The mathematically precise splendor of Monasterio Real de San Lorenzo de El Escorial pulls me through the last stretch of our uphill walk from the Phillip IItrain station. It’s exquisite.
It was in the days of love that I first met him by chance. It was a frugal evening with the wind keeping tune with my heart-beat; nothing was said out loud, almost like the mahogany on the skies. Raqs.
In Danish, Den Farlige Alder, in German, Das Gefährliche Alter, and in English, The Dangerous Age. Karin Michaëli writes about it inThe Dangerous Age: Letters and Fragments from a Woman’s Diary. Dangerous because Elsie Lindtner divorces her husband, attempts other relationships, and spends the rest of her life traveling the world, risky choices in the 1920s.
Here was my very own Eliza Doolittle, the Audrey Hepburn to my Rex Harrison. My Fair Lady in person. What all I could do with her. I was rip-roaring to get started.
‘Majnūn’ was an unflattering epithet in the social circles that I frequented. The word alluded disparagingly to a failed lover, a good-for-nothing outcast.
En esos momentos es cuando me gustaba ir al encuentro de los molinos en lo alto del cerro para sentarme a los pies de” esos gigantes con aspas” sintiendo que todos mis problemas iban a ser triturados por las ruedas del molino y lanzados al viento que los alejaría de mi al infinito de esa llanura castellana sin fin.
I enjoyed going to meet the windmills at the top of the hill to sit at the feet of “those giants with blades” feeling that all my problems could be ground down in the wheels of the mill and thrown to the wind that would take them far from me into the infinite space of that endless Castilian plain.
In Blackout, Faiz mixes images of Muslim and Hindu sacred origins as a symbolic defiance of the Partition. In the lyrical and romantic poem Ya’d’ (Memory or Remembrance), the pain of separation from the beloved (Jan) and exile (fira’q & hijr) also represent a yearning for the pre-Partition problematic, undivided self. In these lyrical poems, Faiz constantly raises questions of ‘home’ and ‘exile’, that defy the space of separation of the two nation-states.
I can tell by the way Abidah Puhpo speaks, how proud she is of her uncles’ accomplishments, but she herself is no less accomplished. Fluent in five languages, she has translated one of my books into Urdu. Her choice of words has made my stories come alive. They sound better than my English words. She is the keeper of our family stories. Her memory is flawless. I watch her speak and wonder how she will narrate her own story. I want to know more about her herstory.
The only sound was of the wind, soughing through the firs, standing fair and square to the wind with the cones firmly attached despite the efforts of the wind.
The “open-endedness” of the The Hearing Trumpet by British writer, Leonora Carrington, represents life. In the afterword to the newest edition, Polish Nobel Laurette, Olga Tokarczuk, praises the “wild metaphysics” of the story as well as its open-endedness. Here Tokarczuk questions what we look for when we read a story, and then answers that question, thus: “We are seeking a shared communal order, each of us a stitch in a piece of knitted fabric.” As readers, then, we are knitting ourselves into the yarn, till the end and beyond.
Undocumented immigrants in the US, persecuted minorities of Pakistan, people nostalgic for life under tyranny in Eastern Europe, how do we empathize with those who experience such trauma? Journalists tell us what happens to them; poets, artists, and fiction writers make us feel with them. So if you’ve been following the latest news about Palestine, and you want to feel with the people of Palestine, consider reading or listening to Isabella Hammad’s The Parisian.
Sado ni yokotau
the rough sea
stretching out towards Sado
the Milky Way
The cities also house two literary shrines. In Lahore, Urdu Short Story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto is buried. And in Delhi is the mazar of the father of Urdu poetry, Mirza Assad Ullah Khan Ghālib. They lived in different times but they are connected by the words they wrote.