Fajr, or “when will dawn arrive?”
“Why be infatuated with him?”
“He’s proud, he’s pretentious — the world’s not the right fucking place, now that he’s turned his eye upon it.”
He’s the man I’d die for in one instant, and kill the other.”
I would own you. Each stubborn hair on your head — your chest. The shy ones on the inside of your thighs.
I’d own how you look,
the way your chin stands up against the world,
the way your spine props straight up,
and how your body conquers the space about it.
Continue reading “Five Prayers of a Day”
Every society is an accumulation of certain norms and belief systems which define and establish the standard operating procedures by which it functions. However, the basic difference lies in the nature of the society: traditional cultures have relatively rigid, conservative and holistic approaches towards social institutions and liberal cultures are more open, liberal and individualistic in nature. Therefore, gender roles are more fluid and less conventional in liberal cultures unlike traditional cultures that have more stringent gender role divisions with fixed gender types pertaining to what it means to be masculine or feminine. Continue reading “Walking the Line”
Lahore With Love: Growing Up with Girlfriends Pakistani Style
by Fawzia Afzal-Khal
Syracuse Unviversity Press, 2010
Although this is quite a bold statement to make, I will go ahead and make it: Fawzia Afzal-Khan is one of the most overlooked creative non-fiction writers of our time. She has a linguistic gift that gives her prose a weighty depth that appears effortless yet is painstaking in its profundity. Lahore With Love: Growing Up With Girlfriends Pakistani Style is the story of Afzal-Khan’s life through the lens of her female friendships. It is also an emotional narrative of the growth of a fraught nation, and the intimate impact it has had on relationships teeming with both love and tragedy.
I was introduced to Afzal-Khan’s work in early 2003 when she sent me an essay that is now a chapter in this book entitled “Hajira.” At the time, I was the founding editor of a small, social justice magazine that was seeking creative submissions for its premiere issue. We were seeking groundbreaking work, and Afzal-Khan’s fit the bill. Her beautifully crafted story of a woman who chose to forgo her own success in order to support the career of her stifling husband blew me away in the same way Hajira’s self-inflicted bullet snuffed out a brief yet impactful existence. With stinging eyes, I accepted the submission immediately and kept a lookout for more of her meaningful work.
Until now, Afzal-Khan’s writing has only been found in small doses — a response to Salman Rushdie’s erasure of Muslim feminist voices here, a meditation on the Swat valley there—with the exception of her scholarly work, which appears in numerous academic journals. (Afzal-Khan is a university professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey.) She even gave a glimpse of what was to come in her contribution, “Bloody Monday,” to 2008’s And Then the World Changed. But the scattershot pieces were not enough to satiate my appetite for the loveliness of her words or the personal way in which she writes of the people (and country) she holds dear. That said, Lahore With Love has made up for lost time with inspired provision in excess.
Slip into a comfortable chair along with this memoir, and request to remain undisturbed. The 145 pages will glide by all too quickly and beg to be returned to again and again.
Today I cast my net in lonely red waters. The red river looks redder today and the fish is scarce. Everyone else is fishing in the waters yonder. They have politely but firmly let me know there is no place there for my little boat. All day I have sat here and I haven’t caught half a regular morning’s worth. Shanti and Reva look at me with curious eyes from their boat. I know that wily old Ram ’kaideo has been wagging his tongue all around the village ever since the Army inquisition. Everywhere I go, I meet with the same glances — half curious, half afraid. And today I have been silently distanced from them all. Continue reading “Broken Nets”
This article has been extracted from a blog I recently started, ‘Nice Mangos’. The blog deals with different aspects of Pakistani sexuality and the difficulties I as a writer have had, trying to convince people to talk to me about this unreasonably taboo subject. Nothing good can come from being so tight lipped about our sexuality, we need to open up, discover, speak and air out a whack-load of issues. I conducted these interviews several years ago during a not-so-brief stay in Pakistan…
Honestly, I don’t believe that most people in the world wait until they’re married to have sex. But many Pakistanis will tell you otherwise. And since, by this time, even more people have refused to do an interview with me, I’m getting a smaller slice of the Pakistani pie than before. So really, I now have access to less than a handful of people within a very limited age range because people outside of that age range are either too old fashioned to talk about sex, or too young to be asked about sex.
Not ideal conditions at all… Continue reading “*Gasp!* Premarital Sex!”
Define yourself sexually.
Pinpoint the first time you became aware of your sexual organs.
Share when you became cognisant of being a different gender from others.
Those were the provoking, intimate, and self-analysing questions and exercises asked to the participants at a recent gender, sexuality, and sexual rights workshop. These inquiries engaged the participants to comprehend, de-construct and re-construct the social definitions of gender and sexuality imposed upon them.
Continue reading “Can We Be Sexually Diverse in Bangladesh?”