books

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KIBF 2013

Published December 12, 2013 by sidmary

When you enter the Karachi Expo Centre on one of the days near the end of the year, you find the essence of Karachi.

You will find motorbike riders, rikhshaw travellers, and Pajero owners all coming together at one place with nothing to differentiate them…

And the love of books to unite them.

Here, in three halls full of books, you see the trend of society. You see what people like to read, what people like to think, and what people are told.

You see what your country men feel, and what guides their feelings.

Occasionally you’ll catch sight of a foreigner, and you will be proud of how you represent your country to him.

You might also see a writer, a columnist, or an analyst you hate or look up to, and somewhere in your heart, you’d be filled with pride that you have access to one place that they visit, and you tell your friends and family of whom you saw.

And then there are the books…

In both the languages most read in your country.

English and Urdu.

And its a collection that helps you travel accross time and sail over lands.

It gives you insight into the nitty gritties of small stuff, and overviews of “big stuff.”

And you have to chose well…because like food you eat takes up and re-makes the whole of your body in a few years time, the books you read take up and re-make your whole mind and life in a few years time.

But it is magical. Believe me.

You don’t want to miss it next year.

Wherever you go,

Choose well.

And happy reading. 🙂

–Sidra Maryam

 

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January the First

Published January 1, 2013 by sidmary

December is the end of happenings. Consciously or unconsciously, I wrap up everything I started that year. If I have written my goals somewhere and forgotten them, I take the pains to go through them again. I draw up a list of all unfinished books, and try to hurry through them before December 31st…

I take a look at what happened in my life, my country, my family, and it often surprises me how so many changes went unnoticed by. I skim through my diary and see how far I have come, and thank God for having given me another good year of life to learn and make memories from…

But then comes Jan, as we nick the next new month, and there’s loads to start all over again. Resolutions to make, targets to set, lessons to apply…and I realize that the end of one happening is only the beginning of another.

So whoever was this man who started the calender, I think he did it so that we could continue in our endeavours with renewed zeal and motivation and keep track of what has happened and why.

I know half the world did not expect to make it to 2013, but now that we have, lets make it better than ever before…

Happy January the first. 🙂

 

–Sidra Maryam

On Books and Reading: (esp. Fiction and Non-fiction) -2

Published December 14, 2012 by sidmary
Fiction Stacks

Fiction Stacks (Photo credit: chelmsfordpubliclibrary)

From ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ by Thomas Hardy, I once and for all understood truly the status that Islam gives to women. The mere idea that women are a posession or can be sold is obscene, and the custom was yet prevalent in England in the 19th century. I understood why Muslims have been commanded to spread the message of Islam and peace; why they are supposed to put only three options to others: to accept Islam, or accept the government of Islam or prepare to fight. This is because however successful a society may seem to be, there are always problems, always oppression at some level or the other, to some people or the other; and Islam has got such comprehensive laws regarding every social, political, economical as a matter of fact all sorts of problems that it alone has the true ability, if followed truly to erase oppression from the world. Selling women was a form of oppression, and one that Islam deals with excellently by instilling faith and condemning irrogance.

‘Paranoia’ was a more contemporary novel by James Finder. It focussed on the corporate world of America and opened my eyes to what happens generally in business the world over. It was about how lying and cheating and immoral behaviour is taken as ‘strategy’ and actually appreciated when it benefits you in business when all it really is is stooping low to the level of animals without any morals or values. I concluded based on what I have always read in non-fiction that anything based on cheating is destined to decline. I now believe that all corporate business is doomed if based on such ‘strategy’ and that since the American economy is based on corporate business, it should take warning. This is because I have read that false foundations don’t endure.

The thing is that fiction and non-fiction compliment each other. What you understand from non-fiction, your belief on it is strengthened from fiction. My interest is social sciences and religion, and I find plenty to affirm my faith and endorse my beliefs in all that I read. Non-fiction plays a separate and important part, and fiction plays the other separate and important part. There is no comparison. What matters is how you read what you are reading. You can have a defensive mindset and you will find fault with everything you read. You can have an analytical approach and you will understand more than what even the writer intended you to understand. Then you can have a critical approach and you will see for yourself what is what is true and what is false in what you are reading. You will know what to believe in and what to filter out of your mind.

All sorts of reading makes your wiser and smarter, but only if you choose your books wisely and read them with the proper approach. To those who condemn fiction, there is no basis if one gives ample time to non-fiction. And to those who ignore non-fiction altogether: life is greater than stories can teach you and reading of non-fiction is essential to be able to understand it.

Lastly, to all book lovers: happy reading. May you all have a long, successful and beneficial reading life. 🙂

–Sidra Maryam

An Obituary

Published September 12, 2012 by sidmary

khoon-e-khak-nasheenan-tha,- sou-rizk-e-khak-hua..

[it was the blood of ashes, so it was reduced to ashes] –Faiz

Two factories caught fire yesterday. One in Lahore, the other in Karachi. Hundreds suffocated or burned to death. The brigadiers reached late and rescue processes were slow.

That’s not the point here. The point is that people DIED. They actually DIED and there was no one to ask for them, no one to take them out, no one to reassure them. Imagine yourself locked up in a room with all entrances closed, smoke slowly seeping in, the slow torturous suffocation, the masses of people trapped and panicky with you, and a death that is unavoidable. That’s how they passed away; almost three hundred people in the factory in Baldia Town as I know from the most recent statistics.

Statistics. That’s all that everything reduces to in this world. A number, a graph, that no one bothers to interpret. Yes, they probably are going to record the effects too. The number of families left totally unsupported; the increase in depression, in families going unfed each night; the number of houses mourning deaths of 2,3 up to 6-7 deaths in an instant. Yes they are going to record it, and yes we are going to read it and we will say ‘how sad’ and ‘how tragic’ and then we will tend to our meals.  And then at the end of the year, there will be a short paragraph as an event review for the year.

Our own lives are not statistics or numbers to us. Why, oh WHY do we fail to understand that each number in those statistics was a being of dreams and aspirations and an un-achieved future!!??

The workers were all poor, and no one asks the poor how they fare in this world. They ask the rich ‘Howdy-do’ because they are already faring well, and won’t plead to them for help, but the poor are not asked, nor truly sympathized with. So for we can do now, lets close our eyes for a minute and grieve for them, and pray for them and our country; for the dreams we all have and the futures we all want. They may be fickle things, but they make life. And next when we are position of action, let us do something for our country and for our lost dreams; and let us do something for the poor who need the justice that is all spent on the rich…

–Sidra Maryam

White Noise -3

Published July 5, 2012 by sidmary

He was on foot. He had gone to the park two blocks away for his regular evening walk and had just met a long lost friend. They had forgotten the time as they talked. The friend finally departed with a promise to come for dinner the next week. He remembered that he still had one lap to do, and resumed it. Half way through it, he heard three distant, distinct gunshots. The park was almost empty. Then his wife’s messages began coming: one after another.

He glanced quickly around him, and keeping to the border of the park, moved out. The streets were empty and an eerie silence reined them. He took the shortest path home, keeping in shadows as much as he could.

As he passed near the shops, he saw a man lying on the middle of the road, looking up at him helplessly. He quickly averted his face, adrenaline rushing in his veins.

‘The gun-men must be somewhere near.’

As he closed into his street, he heard two more gunshots. He hurried his step. When he finally entered his threshold, he closed the door softly behind him. Anxiety was still coursing in his veins and his face was flushed. Aneeta was in the entrance hall, her face panicked.

As he entered his bedroom, more shots were heard in succession. Now there were other noises too. Aneeta entered after him:

“What is the noise, Baba?” He turned around.

“Shut the door, sweet.” She closed it.

“What is happening, Baba?” He turned his back to her again.

“Close the window, sweet.” She followed.

“But the noise is deafening, Baba!” He lowered on his bed.

“Pull the curtains, sweet.” She adhered.

“The noise is going to kill me, Baba!” He lay down.

“Cover your ears, sweet.” She looked up helplessly.

“What if they kill me, Baba?” He closed his eyes.

“Go to sleep, sweet.” She was sobbing quietly as she exited.

                        x——————————————————–x

Mama and Baba took me to a doctor today. There was a big big room where many people sat. I could see my face on the floor. No one spoke over there. They just sat and looked. I don’t know what they looked at.

It was so hushed: I wanted to run and touch all the blue tiles but was afraid of doing it. Mama just tapped her heels on the floor: tic tic tuc.

The clock hand came to three twice on my Mickey Mouse watch before the doctor called up. I didn’t want to go to him. I wanted to go home.

He asked me strange questions, and looked at me with big, empty eyes. Then a girl in white came and took me away. I waited outside. Mama and Baba came and no one spoke. In the car, I sang ‘The wheels of the bus.’ I asked Mama to sing with me; she did not. I was annoyed, so I sang at the top of my voice all the way.

Now Mama does not smile. No one smiles, no one laughs. It is sick! I sing. I sing all day; I sing the same rhyme over and over again and no one stops me. Not even Bhayi, who hates it. The vacations have started:

“The wheels of the bus go round and round;

The babies in the bus go ‘Uayn Uayn Uayn;’

             The mothers in the bus go ‘Hush Hush Hush;’

The people in the bus go up and down…”

It has started to get boring.

                        x——————————————————–x

The day she died was another silent day. The heat had been oppressive. She was playing in the garden with other children from the neighborhood. They had brought in their toys. Ali had brought a brand new toy gun; a very expensive one that his father had bought at a mall. It gave her the creeps, but she did not say anything.

Soon, it was the center of attention. They began “role-playing” with it. Ali pointed it on Shaheer’s forehead, and he pretended to fall.

She felt her body going numb. Then everything blacked out. She did not know when she was screaming, or when she was falling.

It was a hot afternoon; not even the birds chirped.

The doctors said she was normal. She probably had a shock and her nerves were too weak to support her.

The children were too afraid to speak. Their mothers kept them home.

Hamza chose the line for her tombstone. It said “When angels tread on Earth, they can’t bear it for long.”

                        x——————————————————–x

Ten years later, when even her parents and brother had forgotten to visit her, a young man came and brought roses for two tombstones: hers and his father’s.

THE END

White Noise -2

Published July 2, 2012 by sidmary

They pulled up at the red signal. A car stopped to their left. They could only see the man, though there was a woman next to him too.

Two men came with guns in their hand, their faces covered. They pulled up the tinted windows, and looked in front of them, immobile. They came to the car next to them. Voices could be heard; then a gunshot.

Aneeta looked up, her eyes wide with wild fear and vulnerability. As the bloodcurdling screams of the woman hit their ears, she began screaming too. Hysteria.

The lights on the signal turned green. They moved forward, his mother trying to calm her down.

                        x——————————————————–x

The next day was Saturday. On Monday, Hamza did not come to school. He phoned him. The incident was more than he could contain. He told him everything he had seen. Then asked him why he had been absent.

“It was my father.” The phone went dead.

                        x——————————————————–x

His parents were separated. Somehow, after five years, they had made up. HE lived with his mother. It was the day they were meeting; they had been going out for dinner. He had remained home.

Everything that happened; everything that was bad; every “just one of so many:” it was always others. Wasn’t it? Just one in hundreds, thousands, and millions- it was never supposed to be him! Then why?

He knew why: his father always kept a gun with him; yet he had not used it this once. He was not going to let such a day come to him. He never would be confounded.

                        x——————————————————–x

“Give me the ball, Aneeta.”

“No, I will not; and you can’t take it from me.”

“Oh yes I will,’ He said as he lunged towards her. She dodged and he fell on his face. He got up and lunged again; fell again. He grimaced as the other children jeered and clapped.

“You are going to pay for it,” He scowled.

“Ahan? What are you going to do, really?” She jeered, encouraged by the clapping.

“Oh, I will get my father to blow up your house. He is in a high office, you see? So he can do it.” He made an evil face.

She froze. The ball dropped from her hand. She started screaming. By the time the teachers came, she was hysterical. Her parents were called. She was sent home early, still screaming.

                        x——————————————————–x

Dear Diary,

I am so worried about my little angel! Things have not been the same since the day we witnessed the accident. I had kept her face down, my hand on her neck; yet in that moment of weakness when my grip lightened, she saw it. I am sure she did! I am sure she saw the blood too.

She has nightmares too. Not a day in the past month have I not woken up at night by her screaming. She does not seem to remember in the morning. Every time, her eyes are glazed and she mutters strange, undecipherable things wildly. Then she begins to shout them, her arms flailing; and then, as if exhausted, she falls into bed again. Next minute, she is snoring.

The first day it happened, Atiq and I stood at opposite ends of her bed. When I looked up, I saw disorderly trepidation on his face. I am sure it reflected mine. We took an appointment the very next day from a psychiatrist at Liaqat National. It is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. I dread it, but I can’t wait for it either. We went to the park last week and Aneeta began raving about peeking eyes in the bushes. We hurried her home; she was panting all the while; we put her to bed.

We don’t watch news in front of her anymore now. Not with the ever disturbed conditions of the city, and the other time she got distraught about it.

I wish God would erase two days from my life: the Friday a month back, and the day after tomorrow!

The school still has not told us anything about what happened the day we brought her back early.

I am so apprehensive about everything now! God bless!

Saeeda

p.s. The accident we saw that day; the man was Hamza’s father. We went in a shock when Asfand told us. We went to pay our condolences that Tuesday. His mother was in a state: I did not know that they were making up. Asfand settled after a week. I hope Hamza and his mother are okay now.

                        x——————————————————–x

White Noise -1

Published June 29, 2012 by sidmary

(White Noise-

  • Noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities.
  • Such noise as used to mask other noises: “a white-noise machine”. — Wikipedia. Dictionary.com )

“What is the noise, Baba?”

“Shut the door, sweet.”

“What is happening, Baba?”

“Pull the curtains, sweet.”

“But the noise is deafening, Baba!”

“Pull the curtains, sweet.”

“The noise is going to kill me, Baba!”

“Cover your ears, sweet.”

“What if they kill me, Baba?”

“Go to sleep, sweet.”

x——————————————————–x

He was trying to study; he couldn’t. There was just too much distraction: inside, outside; he was unable to concentrate.

The day’s events were revolving in his mind: another fight. He sighed. His ever short-tempered best friend never seemed to get enough of those quarrels these days. This time it was at the water cooler. One of the junior boys had been drinking water. His friend came and apparently told him a huge big joke. All the water sprayed out of his mouth.

His name was Hamza. He turned around, his face livid. What followed was a blur. Loudly uttered, hot words were lost in the action. He tried to stop him, but to no avail. In just five minutes, a crowd had formed, hooting and screaming. A few brave people had tried to intervene; he pushed them aside from his friend. The junior was lying on the floor, curled up, face contorted in pain. He clutched his stomach and his nose bled.

Hamza was standing aside: face haggard and breathing ragged. He made him sit down and brought him a glass of water. He jerked it harshly away with a wave of his hand.

The head teacher came round, a baton in her hand. She puffed and her face was red.

The junior was escorted to the nurse. Hamza was suspended for a week. He got away with a detention.

He sighed again.

His sister entered the room. He searched her face for tell-tale signs of disturbance. She showed none. All sympathies aside, she now seemed intent on disturbing him. Squatting in front of him, a glint in her eyes, she began his most hated nursery rhyme in a high pitched squeal:

“The wheels of the bus go round and round,

Round and round,

Round and round…”

He felt a surge of anger. “Shut up!” “SHUT UP!” he shouted.

She began louder:

“Round and round, round and round,

All through the town.”

He made as if to stand up. She squealed as she carried her wobbly legs out of the room. He bent over his math again.

When his teacher checked his journal the next day, she accidentally opened the last page as she hastened to close it. It was filled with the words of a nursery rhyme she vaguely remembered, written over and over again.

She shook her head in disbelief and despair, and marked the page with a huge big question mark.

x——————————————————–x

–Sidra Maryam
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