Day 21: A blind date

She took extra time grooming herself that day, causing annoyance to her siblings who grew exhausted banging on the bathroom door. Bathed in the scents of ittar, hands and feet stained with henna and kohl smudged in her eyes, she then proceeded to dress in her best garments: a ferozi shalwar kameez with a white dupatta. It was her favourite.

That day, she didn’t do anything differently. She still warmly greeted her parents in the morning, she cuddled the kids no more than usual, and she did her fair share of housework. Nothing was out of the ordinary and yet something about her seemed extraordinary. There was a newness to her complexion. Like the sparkling of buttermilk lashing around in a pot, or like the first buds of spring stretching out under the sun.

We didn’t know back then, of course, she was preparing for a blind date. She herself couldn’t have known. She must have felt a nagging anxiety like we all do, she must have felt the yearn, the pang for familiarity in that moment of uncertainty. After all, no-one sees death coming.


Day 7: ‘A lost key’

He’s been standing outside for the past 15 minutes.
He doesn’t knock on the door.
He doesn’t know that I know.

I finally grab my cardi and the old exam notes I’ve been meaning to put out for recycling. I walk downstairs slowly: not wanting to be out of breath, not wanting it to seem like I rushed. I turn the lock on the door, my head bowed as I step outside. I feign surprise on looking up to find his face.

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Day 6: Heer Saleti, in pursuit of things ‘to do’

The weathered hay stacks tremble ever so slightly. Night stirs and the day’s first light breaks through like the fingers of a lover, running his hands through the dark locks of his beloved. The plains of Jhang pause for a while. It is as though the whole universe – just like her – is holding its breath: attentive, quiet, and eager to listen to the sad melody of the flute player.

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Day 2: ‘Hunger’ a cautionary tale

Image credit: Klaus Pichler
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Before anyone could follow, she hurried over to a particularly crowded corner of her bedroom. It wasn’t that she felt worried about what she was hiding, more that she didn’t want her secret hiding places discovered by others. Anyone could walk in and catch her; she had to move swiftly.

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The Devil’s party

It was the year of 1985, I remember how the fields sparkled with golden wheat. Bustling with the hubbub of anticipation, the bazaar was the congregation point of delegates from neighbouring villages. Most of them had travelled by foot. In those days, only a few could afford to board the embellished buses that sauntered coyly across the winding mountain-roads.

She wore red; she looked…different. Clad in a white turban and garlands, he arrived on a camel. 

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A Burden of Blessings

First published in Route 57, issue 10. 

December’s morning dew had settled on the barren corn fields of the remote Kashmiri village before the screams of a newborn child filled the Chaudhary household. Bibi had been in labour since lunchtime the previous day; she remembered the smoke from clay ovens rising from the courtyards of houses on the horizon, slithering away like serpents into the cool winter air. Continue reading “A Burden of Blessings”