Prose

Monsoons

for Papa — the paterfamilias

one by one

the old guard

passes on

and

oceans away

we grow old, too.

Long before my grandfather was my grandfather, he was a boy who went to a large, colonial boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas. At dawn, they would all wake, bleary-eyed, and run a couple of miles before showering and heading to the mess for breakfast. There were three kinds of meals prepared each morning — English, halal, and vegetarian — for the three kinds of students. When summer arrived, he would often go to stay at one friend’s or another’s, following a patchwork of brotherhood that stretched across India, linked by the efficient trains of the Raj and schoolyard camaraderie. But, sometimes, he would come home, and then he would spend his days bicycling through the streets of Bombay; through sheets of monsoon rain; through Partition itself; until time caught up to him.

Now he walks in the neighbourhood park in the late Karachi afternoons with the other old men until the sun sets.

But, sometimes, in his dreams, he is a boy again and it is warm and bright again and his mother is still in the kitchen, humming as she cooks, and he hears a shout from outside and he grabs his bike and runs out to meet the other kids and together they cycle through their beloved Bombay once more, a city that, finally, lives on in them, lives on until the very last one remembers it for the very last time.

***

This morning on the news they said the monsoons will begin soon.

Photograph by Shanzeh Najam.

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Poetry

Icarus

It’s only ghosts here in the winter.

BoJack Horseman

When you’re in love all this

“life” stuff feels like a play —

a game; a dream. And when

you’re not, it’s not. That’s just

how it works. Nights like these

I feel like I’ve forgotten how to

dream. I used to dream of flying.

I miss the wind in my hair, the

sun on my face. But most of

all, I miss your sighs; how the

longing in them would rise up —

up through the zephyrs and comets —

dissolving into stardust that just

might, with a bit of luck, power

the universe for an-

other heart-

beat.

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Prose

On the sweet sounds of static on old radios

Time was a string of knots, a spiked wheel,

a seam that you could split and heal—

As a boy, reclining on horsehair

one morning on a train,

you watched the countryside,

a single light-filled frame

in which lives flickered, drawn forward

like a train along a track; you saw yourself,

suspended in a fractured, endless motion,

going, never going back.

Lauren Wilcox, The Moving-Picture Principle,The Paris Review, Summer 2004

AND then there was that band that had that song called the Loving Sounds of Static. Before then, I’d never thought of static as something that could be loving; beautiful, even.

And then I learnt the only thing I remember from high-school physics: that 2% of the static you hear on old radios as you turn the dial from station to station at sunset is primordial waves — remnants of the Big Bang destined to course forever more through the lonely spaces between the stars and I feel a bit strange knowing that, don’t you?

And the band was called Möbius Band and a Möbius strip is a band, too — not the musical kind — but kinda like the one you wear around your wrist except it has a twist in it so you can visit both sides — inside, outside — without lifting your finger.

And Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, famously, about the bittersweet songs of distant earth but he also wrote about a wall of darkness at the edge of an alien universe and I remember reading it twice in one go and wondering at the magic of it all, and wanting to be a writer, and that was about a Möbius strip, too.

And since then, that’s what I think of whenever I hear static on old radios: sci-fi and interstellar origins and whatever it is that lies just beyond the border of everything. But more and more, now, I think of those quiet evenings spent endlessly tracing a finger along the continuous surface of a band worn, once upon a time, by you.

 

 

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Politics

SHINE Humanity

SHINE Humanity is a registered NGO dedicated to providing high-quality healthcare and clean drinking water to underserved populations.

As President of SHINE Humanity’s Youth Board, I gave a presentation on SHINE’s charitable activities to the students and faculty of Karachi Grammar School.

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Prose

Dear Baba

Dear Baba,

A million years ago — as they sat by their little campfire — a father pointed out the constellations to his son. And the infinite night sky didn’t seem as intimidating anymore.

It’s the stories we grow up with that whisper the loudest within our hearts; they are the framework for our dreams; they pulse with the rhythm of our short, bright lives.

Thank you for giving me the stories that have made me who I am today. (Here is one of them.) Stories of social justice and dignity and equality. Stories of a divine love that is greater than the stars. And stories of who I was, who I am, and who I will be.

They are stories that will last a lifetime and I shall never tire of telling them.

Love you, forever and always.

Your son,

Shahzéb

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