Her Violet Aura:
It was his voice. She knew it was his voice: deep, mysterious, mystic. Unlike the typical masculine voice produced by throat; his resonated from deep within. And so when he proposed her for marriage in the same voice that she couldn’t resist, she didn’t think twice. Weeks passed, and then came the prospect of moving to his country, Pakistan. She, a British, was sceptical at first, but it didn’t require him anything besides a whispering plea to convince her. And so the newly-weds came to Pakistan. To her relief, the country was a place like any other; and with its hospitable people, sumptuous cuisine and exquisite beauty, better perhaps! But it wasn’t these things that engaged her being, it was the soil. She knew it was the soil: deep, mysterious, mystic. She was allured towards this enigmatic entity so much so that many - including her husband - found it downright unnatural. Times passed - and times changed. She, being helpless, couldn’t do much besides witnessing many facets of her life get sacrificed at the helm of time’s ferocity. But she knew that what amongst her losses was the most unfortunate. It wasn’t the sudden evaporation of love from her marriage. Nor was it listening to the thrice-repeated words in the same voice that ended in their divorce. It wasn’t even the fact that she had to leave this country. The most unfortunate was the prospect of her life-time estrangement to things that she couldn’t resist. Things that once were deep, mysterious, mystic...
Indigo Entertainment, Pakistan Limited:
Heya pals, I’m Amman. But I won’t be bothered if you don’t really know me. Like, why would you? I’m not around here often, I live abroad. And it’s like, only the Islamabad Police that would know me well. Because my father - yeah, you’d know him, because he’s like, a minister in your government - told those blithering idiots not to stop my Mustang when I’m like, rushing around the roads. And after he’s done that, they wave at me, rather. Like sweet people in Pakistan often do. Reverting to my father, he does well for himself but why does he like, call me to this country during my vacations? What am I supposed to do here, like, this just is not my type of place. No clubs, no beaches, no parties, no night-life! Like, are you serious, man? Even my European girlfriends are loads more do-able than the girls my father hires here! Yesterday, I went to dad’s office, and there were other ministers with him. They were like, sharing drinks. I took one eagerly, because it’s like, forbidden in this country (Are you serious, man?) and dad’s contingent hadn’t arrived yet. Afterwards, his pals shook hands with me. Like sweet people in Pakistan often do. But afterwards, he told them that he planned to bring me into politics, like, are you serious man? But he said it’s kid’s play, with too much money and no real work, and I could, like, sneak off abroad at will. Cool! Hey, I gotta take your leave now; Dad insisted that I listen to his speech that’s due on television in ten minutes. It’s like, in Urdu, but he said he would touch some burning issues like loadshedding, inflation, poverty, and would make quite some promises to the masses. Like sweet people in Pakistan often do!
Child of a Blue God:
There were only three truths that Radhika’s life revolved around. One: she was a Hindu. Two: she was a Pakistani. And it won’t be an over-statement to say that about all of the thirty-two years of her life had passed while converging these two truths into one. But they wouldn’t. They just wouldn’t. The line had been drawn somewhere quite deep and despite her incessant attempts, it wouldn’t fade. (Wow! Radhika? Are you a Hindu? Do you people really have 350000000 gods? Do you even have a monkey as a god? Do you people really incarnate?) It wasn’t about the suffering, that rarely came. It was more about the realisation of being different, an outcast maybe that came often. But then, she’d think that she wasn’t the only minority in the country. The country had been segregated at too many fronts: regional, sectarian, political, ideological; so, almost every individual was a minority in his own right. That was her mode of relief. But even this mode would be of meek relief, when someone would ruthlessly comment that it were India that ought to be her country. It was only due to an accidental stroke of history that she’d landed in the ‘wrong’ country. At such times, she would lose all her composure, her insides turning blue. Because there was a third truth as well: That no matter what anyone said or did or asked, Pakistan was as much Radhika’s country as it was of any other being’s. That she could never leave it. That it was her home. Her only home...
The Green in the Flag:
Saleem always used the Pakistan Railways as his favourite mode of conveyance. And whenever he’d have to visit his relatives in the South, he would always board a train from Peshawar. All questioned his choice; that of using the trains when they were on life-support and could easily take two days for a two hour journey. But Saleem was adamant; trains enabled him to connect to a Pakistan that he rarely saw: hamlets, villages, towns ... all draped in green. And life sprawling happily against all odds. But there was something else to be seen, too, that was somewhat disparaging. The whole of rural Pakistan was overwhelmingly adorned with mosques and madrassahs. That wasn’t the problem, of course. The problem was that the majority of these weren’t registered, and operated by their owners at will. A handsome lot of personal mosques, functioning under personal supervision and preaching personal versions of the religion! But he had never expressed his unease, because anyone could come up with a lofty, hysterical argument like, ‘Pakistan was made for Islam...’, and Saleem wasn’t any good at debates. But he sure was very good at one thing: comprehending and accepting reality. Like the reality that the Pakistan Railways might breathe their last any day. Like the reality that until that happened, he’d continue to use them. And like the reality if you’re among the green in the land of Pakistan, you can always get away with things. A lot of things...
Our Yellow Man:
For a small-town, crude chap like Nasir, perhaps even the prospect of getting a new wife would’ve faded if juxtaposed with the news he’d just been delivered. That his visa to the United States was accepted! He left for his dreamland on the earliest date possible (to all those who thought he could never make it big, eat this!). The first thing he did after the plane landed in Florida was perhaps getting himself some wine. Or getting a tattoo. Or removing his beard. Or maybe it was changing into shorts and shirt which screamed, ‘I love America!!!’, or then it could have been getting an accent. In fact, there had been too many firsts, so it’s hard to determine the first among these firsts. But there is no ambiguity about the second thing he did there: he told everyone (in accented English) how Pakistan smelled of shit! That was twelve years ago. He got himself a job as a waiter. (No, mind that: ‘the waiter’; a waiter is in Pakistan, while being a waiter in America translated to ‘the waiter’!) It passed like this for months, and then came 9/11; and ‘the waiter’ was ironically reduced to ‘the Pakistani’. Citing some concerns with the immigration department, Nasir was deported back to the only country that still accepted him. On his way back, he mulled over what was to be done after landing in Lahore. Changing to shalwar kameez? Reverting to Punjabi? Hiding his tattoo? Re-growing his beard? But he was just sure what he’d do first of all, he’d tell everyone (in Punjabi) how America smelled of shit!
All Things Orange:
He checked his cell for the fourth time in a minute, still no text. And the number wasn’t responding. Fury gave way to tension, that was to be replaced by deep consideration. He thought what a dumb retard his cousin Ali was - the one he was trying to contact. Ali had gone to Quetta, and the reason was as stupid as ‘discovering the real causes that the Baloch are aiming for separation!’ Beat that, can you? Was he too patriotic or too plain stupid, he wondered. Imagine. An Oxford graduate with a Masters in English Literature gone off to a barren land to discover some reasons. Ha! He almost sniggered. Then he recalled the conversation they’d just had the previous evening. Ali had told him how the province had been denied all its due rights, and how the government always made half-promises and forgot them. He’d also said something about Baloch tribal leaders’ role in the province’s current state, and that he planned to start a movement to safeguard the rights of Balochistan. Now, he almost laughed. An Oxford graduate with a Masters in English Literature gone off to a barren land to discover some reasons, is blindfolded by patriotism, thinks he’s a social expert and plans on starting a movement! Ha! But it wasn’t until late in the night that he got the news of a bomb-blast in Quetta - the responsibility for which was claimed by a Baloch Separatist Movement - that he had to add to the end of his description: ‘(Late!)’
The Hues of Red:
Salma had never been particular about colours, not even remotely. For, you see, she never attended school, where they teach you all the interesting things like colours, shapes and numbers. Still, it was this colour that was to change her live forever. It was a typical evening in Larkana, dry and hot, when she heard the shots being fired and the nervous, shattering caws of the crows. And the victim lay just outside her door: her own father! Drenched to his core in blood, the colour was a warning to all those who intended to testify in an impending rape case in the district - like her father had. She stood there, still, making out her reflection in the fresh, deep pool of red. The media, much like always, was the first to come to her rescue and she was temporarily sheltered by an NGO. And it was there that she had the dream; all red, shaping her destiny. She packed all that she had and left silently in the morning - for Sehwan Sharif. It was in this great Sufi’s last abode that she found respite. Amidst the holy book, the langar, the divine verses, the dholaks and the dance, was secretly emanating the secret of escape, and that of triumph. And it was here in Lal Shahbaz Qalander’s city that she found herself a new dimension to red that she’d long longed for. That millions in her country longed for. That of valour, respect and love...