Saturday, February 24, 2018

My Second Novel (A work in progress)



My wife, Jessie Lane, has been voted the most desirable woman of the planet by Playboy magazine calls her the prettiest pornstar of all time. For me, she is the kindest soul I have ever met. Of course, she is beautiful too, in fact, too beautiful to be real.

Jessie is sobbing and talking to me. I can recognise her mellow voice with a divine lilt. I can sense that she is leaning over me; my skin can feel the warmth of her uneven breath. As her hand touches mine, I have a strong urge to jump out of  bed, hug her, kiss her, and tell her not to worry about me. But, I can’t move my limbs. I can’t open my eyes. My lips feel as if they have been sewn together. Everything around me is cold and dark.

I am lying comatose in a New York Hospital, tied to a life support system. Once, I overheard the doctors telling Jessie that they didn’t know when I’d wake up. In fact, they were not sure of reviving me. I am filled with dread when I think of being stuck in this situation forever. Better to die! I think. But then Jessie tells me, in a choked voice, that I’ll be alright in a couple of days. And I believe her. I have more faith in Jessie’s reassuring words than the doctors’ medical wisdom.

‘Please move aside!’ A female voice with a slight Spanish accent says and Jessie frees my hand. She is Margarita Arellanes Cervantes, my nurse, my caregiver. I suddenly experience a stinging sensation in my veins as if hydrochloric acid has been added to my intravenous fluid. A few seconds later, my thoughts become fuzzy.

Then,multi-hued images from the past begin to inundate my memories: A bullock cart comes into the view. It is trudging along a mud road negotiating the potholes of different shapes and sizes. A dark and stout fellow sits on the driving seat, prodding the oxen between their hind legs with a stick. Just behind him is a tall,well-built young man with reddish white skin, deep brown eyes and a pencil moustache. In the canopied part of the bullock cart is an elderly woman in a blue sari, holding a beautiful and hugely pregnant young woman who is crying with pain.

The man with the pencil moustache is Abba, my father, the pregnant woman my mother, Ammi, and the lady holding Ammi is my aunt, my father’s elder sister.

 Is it a dream? Am I hallucinating? Or are these some old memories? How can I have memories of an event which happened before I was born?

‘But, there are inherited memories. We also borrow memories. The memories can be fake too—something you have never seen or experienced but in course of time you start believing that you have.’  I had read these lines in a book. But, right now, I neither remember the title of the book or the name of the author.


I was born In Motihari, in the same house in Mescourt Area where Eric Arthur Blair aka George Orwell had seen the light of the day exactly seventy years prior to my birth. On the rainy night of 25th June, 1975, Abba, Ammi, Aunt Zarina, and her husband, Mushtaque Khan, had been returning from a neighbouring village after attending a funeral. Ammi started wailing as soon as the bullock cart reached the Mescourt area of Motihari. Maybe, jerks caused by the pot holed roads had triggered early labour. She was in her eighth month of pregnancy.

Abba didn’t know what to do as our village Hamidpur was still more than 7 miles away. He looked around hoping for  help.

 On one side of the road was a long stretch of bamboo groves, on the other side were four or five dilapidated bungalows, all of them deserted, their walls covered with every kind of wild growth and creepers.There was no soul in the sight as dark cloud shrouded the sky. But then he saw a woman in a black sari in front of one of the dilapidated bungalows.  Telling the bullock cart driver to stop, Abba jumped from the cart, grabbed the hurricane lamp hanging from bamboo side rail and walked to the lady. Wheat complexioned with freckled skin, she had sharp facial features.

Bringing the hurricane lamp close to the lady, Abba asked her was what she was doing in that old bungalow.

‘I live here,’ she said matter of factly.

‘I have heard that this place is haunted,’ Abba said as he looked around surveying the place.

The lady laughed and that made Abba feel uneasy.

‘Besides me there is no ghost here,’ she said. Now, her voice was cold. ‘I am a widow from the nearby village. I have no child. I have no place to live. So, I live here. Once, I used to be the most famous midwife of my village but now, nobody calls a widow like me to facilitate a birth. It is considered a bad omen.’

Abba heard only the word midwife. He asked for help and she agreed instantly. But what she said next made Abba feel there was something wrong with her. ‘Your son was destined to born here, in this bungalow,’ she said in a whispering voice, ‘bring your wife inside the house.’

Abba didn’t have any other option but to let the strange feeling pass. He and Aunt Zarina helped Ammi get down from the cart and walk to the bungalow. Ammi shivered as she stepped in. Cobwebs hung overhead. The walls were green with moss. The floor was strewn with bidi ends.  There was a far corner of the room which seemed relatively clean and they walked over there. The woman stood at some distance with a half-smile on her face. Abba felt a chill whenever he came near her, as if she were a block of ice. My aunt rolled out a straw mat for Ammi to sit on and Abba placed the hurricane lamp near them.

 Outside the house, Uncle Mushtaque tried to start a fire with the dried leaves to boil water.
  As time of confinement drew near, Abba and Uncle Mushtaque stood outside the bungalow. Inside the room the lady did not come near Ammi, but from a distance, she guided Aunt Zarina. Ask your brother for his personal knife. Tell your husband to burn dry leaves outside and boil some water. Massage this or that part of your sister-in-law’s tummy. Ask your sister-in-law to push the baby. Aunt Zarina kept following her instructions in a mechanical sort of way as if she was under a spell. The way the lady talked was peculiar or even bizarre. Her sound was like a scratchy LP record being played on a gramophone.

 At the time of confinement, Abba and Uncle Mushtaque stood outside the bungalow. Inside the room the lady did not come near Ammi, but from a distance, she guided Aunt Zarina. Ask your brother for his personal knife. Tell your husband to burn dry leaves outside and boil some water. Massage this or that part of your sister-in-law’s tummy. Say your sister-in-law to push the baby. Aunt Zarina kept following her instructions in a mechanical sort of way as if she was under a spell. The way the lady talked was peculiar or even bizarre, observed she. Her sound reverberated as a scratchy LP record was being played on a gramophone in a big room.

Half an hour later, I was born, the umbilical cord was cut, Aunt Zarina held me with a glee on her face. Ammi was almost senseless, or rather calm, resting with her eyes closed, in postpartum fatigue.  Aunt Zarina then panicked as she realised I was not crying.

The mysterious old lady panicked too. ‘What happened to Gorakh Nath? Why he is not crying? Slap him on his back.’ This time the lady’s voice was louder and colder.

Aunt Zarina felt the room had suddenly become an ice-box

‘Gorakh! Son Gorakh!’ the lady screamed.

Aunt patted me frantically and I cried in a sharp voice. Pulling me near her chest, Aunt heaved a sigh of relief. Lifting her face to thank the lady and also to ask her why she was calling me with a Hindu name like ‘Gorakh Nath’, she found the lady had disappeared. The window was partially unhinged and shook as a whiff of wind entered the room. Frightened, my aunt shrieked. Abba and Uncle Mushtaque rushed inside. They searched every nook and corner of the bungalow but there was no sign of the lady.

‘Seems to be something wrong about that lady, brother. Better to be out of this house as soon as possible. She might be a Djinn or a ghost,’ Uncle Mustaque said.

Abba could see the dread on Uncle Mushtaque’s face. Though fear pinched his courage too, Abba tried to put a brave face. ‘Even if she was some kind of spirit, she did not mean to harm us.’ Abba said.

Back to my village, my aunt and Ammi didn’t want to take chance, so, they called the Imam of my village mosque to ward off the evil effect on me.

Reciting holy verses, the clergy blew on my body and assured Ammi that everything was fine. ‘Hamsheera,’ the Imam said, ‘she must be a help send by Allah.’

On the sixth day, Ammi and I were bathed with all the folk rituals, and a feast of goat was organized. The entire village was invited. The drumbeaters in their colourful turbans had been in the courtyard of my house since morning.

That day I got my name: Aslam Sher Khan. I was named after a hockey player who had been a part of India’s world cup winning team a few months prior to my birth. Being a hockey enthuiast it was Abba’s tribute to the Indian team. Abba decided. Ammi approved it.

Years later, I would hear the story of my birth from Aunt Zarina, again and again, and would always suspect that my aunt had been exaggerating the things to make the story sound interesting. Specially, when she told that the old lady had an icy voice, a voice from another world, I simply didn’t believe her. Little did I know that the mysterious lady in black had come to help Ammi with her own agenda. And her invisible presence would always lurk around me. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A New Ghazal

शहर में हर तरफ दिखते हैं हैवान देखिए
है वहशत में मुब्तला हर एक  इंसान देखिए

सर झुका के चलते हैं मोहब्बत है जिनका पेशा
नफ़रतों के ताज़ीरों की  लेकिन ज़रा शान देखिए

ज़िक्र--इलाही  लब पे,  दिल है सनमकदा
कितने फख्र से लोग बेचते हैं  ईमान देखिए

गुनाह तो कुछ भी था मक़तूल का,लेकिन
उनको क़त्ल--आदम का था  बहुत अरमान देखिए

चलता रहा यूहीं  गर आदावतों का सिलसिला
फिर तो बर्बदियों का है पूरा इमकान देखिए

सरकश  हूँ मैं 'अब्दतो सदाकत के साथ हूँ
सर पे कफ़न मेरे और  हथेली पे जान देखिए

Shahar mein har taraf dikhte hain,haiwaan dekhiye
Hai wahshat mein mubtala har ek insaan dekhiye

Sar jhuka ke chalte hain mohabbat hai jinka pesha
Nafraton ke taziron ki  lekin zara  shaan dekhiye

Zikr-e-illahi lab pe,  dil hai sanamkada
Kitne fakhr se log bechte hain imaan dekhiye

Gunah to kuchh bhi na tha maqtool ka,lekin
Unko  qatl-e-adam ka tha bahut armaan dekhiye

Chalta raha  yuhin agar adavaton ka silsila
Phir to barbadiyon ka hai pura imkaan dekhiye

Saraksh hoon main 'abd' to sadakat ke saath hoon
Sar pe kafan mere aur hai hatheli pe jaan dekhiye


Saturday, November 18, 2017


ऐय्यारी को क्यों मैं शराफत समझता रहा
तिज़ारत था वो  मैं मुहब्बत समझता रहा

तग़ाफ़ुल को उनके न पढ़ पाया अबतक  मैं
उनकी बेरुख़ी को  उनकी  नज़ाकत समझता रहा

उनकी  बेवफाई के किस्से मशहूर तो थे पर
उन किस्सों को रक़ीबों की शरारत समझाता रहा

इश्क़ का इज़हार भी ऐसा किया  महबूब ने
प्यार के इक़रार को  एक अदावत समझता रहा

झूठ का अंदाज़ भी इतना हसीं था जनाब का
उनके हर फ़रेब को मैं तो सदाकत समझता रहा

उनके लिए दिल का लगाना एक खेल था और
मैं अपने इश्क़ को  बस एक इबादत समझाता रहा

Sunday, June 18, 2017

My Review of Exit West in Sunday Guardian

Mohsin Hamid, Exit West, Moth Smoke, Hamish Hamilton, Syria, Iraq, Chronicles of Narnia
Mohsin Hamid.
Novelist Mohsin Hamid’s ability to extract human stories out of the geopolitical crises unfolding around us is yet again displayed in his new work of fiction, Exit West, writes Abdullah Khan.
Exit West
By Mohsin Hamid
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Pages: 240
Price: Rs 599
Mohsin Hamid has the literary equivalent of a mythical magic wand which he uses to transform news items and op-eds into exciting pieces of fiction. His Moth Smoke was a commentary on post nuclear Pakistan, a Pakistan where the upper crest of the society chose to make their future financially secure by hook or crook rather than following the moral or ethical codes. The Reluctant Fundamentalist was his take on the post 9/11 America and its aftermaths. In How to Get Filthy Rich in the Rising Asia, he tells us how corruption plays an important role in the socio-economic growth of South Asian countries.
Now, here is his latest offering Exit West which talks about the displacement and migration caused by the war.  The book also makes subtle comments about the hazards of mixing of the religious extremism and the politics. Surely, the deadly cocktail of religion and politics can wreck havoc on any society, claiming millions of lives, and rendering millions of people homeless. The setting of the novel hasn’t been explicitly mentioned but on the basis violent circumstances described in the book, one can guess that the author is pointing towards Syria or Iraq.
The story opens when Nadia, a conservatively dressed but a liberal by heart girl, and Saeed, a western suit clad young man with the ethos rooted in his culture, meet in an unnamed country which is about to drawn into a bloody war. Nadia and Saeed instantly and hopelessly fall in love with each other and dream about their future together. And, then the war comes home and they see the devastations and brutalities around them. In the process, they also lose everything. Now, for Saeed and Nadia, the only way to survive is to run away from their war torn country. But the ruling militia will not allow anyone to get out from the country.
But, then they come to know about magical doors similar to the door in the Chronicles of Narnia that can take them to a city of a country in the West. And, finally they manage to find such a door and arrive in a city that is teeming with the refugees from around the world. After that they escape to another country and ends up in the United States. During their stay in those countries they encounter the locals who are friendly and welcoming, the locals who are apathetic towards them and the locals who are violently hostile to their presence.  But, they learn to survive in every situation.
A competent stylist of fiction writing, Hamid uses minimal dialogue to convey his message. The use of indirect speech, however, doesn’t impact the pace of the narrative. The author uses multiple points of view in the same chapters but you don’t feel any narrative jerk.
As these young lovers go through the trauma of a displaced life in alien countries their personal equations also get unbalanced as they begin to lose the warmth of glow of their relationship. 
Through these simple plotlines, Hamid creates a nuanced narrative about the miseries of human existence in the war torn territories and then as refugees in the faraway lands. The author also offers insightful commentaries on the issues of the modern day displacements and migrations caused by the war and terrorism and its socio-political impacts on the countries which host these displaced people.
The elements of magical realism used in the story give us a surreal flavour and at times you feel that you are reading a fairy tale. The idea of the author, not to name the countries mentioned in the novel gives its readers freedom to fit the story in the countries their choice.  The doors are the motifs and symbolise the fantasy of millions of the war weary men and women who always keep looking for such imaginary doors to escape from violence and miseries.
A competent stylist of fiction writing, Hamid uses minimal dialogue to convey his message. The use of indirect speech, however, doesn’t impact the pace of the narrative. The author uses multiple points of view in the same chapters but you don’t feel any narrative jerk. He also doesn’t shy away to use expositions wherever they are required to enhance the narrative. Here is a sample of his prose:
“Initially, Nadia did not follow much of what was being said, just snippets here and there, but over time she understood more and more, and she understood also that the Nigerians were in fact not all Nigerians, some were half Nigerians, or from places that bordered Nigeria, from families that spanned both sides of a border, and further that there was perhaps no such thing as a Nigerian, or certainly no one common thing, for different Nigerians spoke different tongues among themselves, and belonged to different religions. Together in this group, they conversed in a language that was built in large part from English, but not solely from English, and some of them were in any case more familiar with English than were others. Also they spoke different variations of English, different Englishes, and so when…”
Because of Hamid’s poetic prose and his ability to create extraordinary stories out of the real events happening around us, Exit West makes a fascinating read.  The novel also raises all the important and relevant questions regarding the problems faced by the people who are forced to migrate from their homelands because of the circumstances beyond their controls and face all sort of adversities as refugees in the countries they have taken shelter in.
The only complaint against the author is that his story ends too early and too abrupt.
Abdullah Khan is a Mumbai based screenwriter and literary critic. His debut novel Patna Blues will be published by Juggernaut Books later this year

Saturday, May 13, 2017


मेरी आँखों में ख्वाबें तमाम बाक़ी है
लबों पे अब भी तेरा नाम बाक़ी है

''अय्याम-ए-जुदाई'' का सितम देख लिया मैंने
लेकिन अभी तो हिज़्र  की शाम बाक़ी है

दिल पे चलाओ खूब नश्तर हमदम
मेरी वफाओं का अभी सारा इनाम बाक़ी है

पीया मैने ना जाने ज़हर के प्याले  कितने
मेरे सामने अब ये आखरी जाम बाक़ी है

वो आएँ तो पूछूँ  ज़रा, ख़ता क्या थी मेरी
मरने के पहले इतना सा काम बाक़ी है

ना कर जल्दी, ठहर जा ऐ  दरकश तू  ज़रा
हकीम-ए- मक़तल का अभी सलाम बाक़ी है

Monday, March 13, 2017



दस्तूर-ए -वफ़ा निभाता तो मैं निभाता कैसे 
पा बाजौलां था ,तेरे दर आता तो आता कैसे 

एक शीशे की दीवार थी हमारे दरम्यां पोशीदा सी 
हाल -ए -दिल आखिर मैं  बताता तो बताता कैसे 

छुपा रखा था एक मुजस्समा महबूब का उसमे 
अपने दिल को आग में जलाता तो जलाता कैसे 

लबों पे शिकन थी और ज़बां पे पड़े थे छाले 
उनको देखकर मुस्कुराता तो मुस्कुराता कैसे 

 वहीँ पे मिलने का किया था वादा उसने सदियों पहले 
उस बयाबां  मैं  गर लौट के आता तो आता कैसे 

संग-ए -मर भी था, संग तराशी का हुनर भी था मुझमें 
पर मुमताज़ न थी तो ताजमहल बनाता तो बनाता कैसे 

लफ्ज़ पे व जुमलो पे लगा दी थी पाबन्दी उस ने 
फिर दास्तान अपनी मैं सुनाता तो सुनाता कैसे 

जब अज़ल ने ही  इंकार कर दिया मेरे क़रीब आने से 
 अपनी हस्ती को मैं ख़ाक में मिलाता तो मिलाता कैसे 

शोख़ हवाओं ने बता दी तेरी ज़फ़ा किस्से सब को 
 फिर ज़माने से ये बातें  मैं छुपाता तो छुपाता कैसे 

Sunday, March 12, 2017



अपने बेताब अरमानों को उसके रुबरु किया मैने
आज कुछ  इस तरह से उस से गुफ्तगू किया मैने

लफ़्ज़ों के खंज़र से जिगर चाक किया फिर उसने
और सब्र के धागों से फिर से दिल का रफू किया मैने

तल्खियाँ सारी भूल गया मैं रात के गुज़रते गुज़रते
सहर होते ही उस से मिलने का फिर ज़ुस्तज़ू  किया मैने

उसने कहा की जाओ और डूब मरो दरिया में
उसकी जो ख्वाहिश थी वही हूबहू किया मैने

मयखाने के आदाब निभाए मैने  इस तरह से अब्द
के मयकदे  जब भी गया तो पहले वज़ू किया मैने  

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Dahleez se kothe Tak (EK NAZM )

دہلیز سے کوٹھے تک  
میں سوچتی ہوں اکثر
جی بی روڈ کے ایک  کوٹھے پے  بیٹھ کر
اور جب یادوں کا  حزوم داخل ہوتا ہے
میرے خیالوں کے آنگن میں
میری  افسردہ  آنکھیں آلودہ ہوجاتی ہیں
میرے لب  لرزاں ہیں فریادوں سے

یاد ہے مجھے  چاندنی چوک کی  ہر صبح  
 جب میں اٹھ جایا کرتی تھی ، اس  سے  پہلے
کہ  جامع مسجد کے مینارے سے  مؤذن  
فضر کے نماز کی دعوت دے مومنوں کو
میں جگ جاتی  تھی اپنے نیند کو ادھورا چھوڈ کر
اس سے پہلے کہ  خورشید اپنی چمکیلی شمشیر سے
 رات  کے سیاہ  دامن  کو چاک  چاک کر دے  

پھر دن بھر کہاں یاد رہتا تھا کہ وقت کیسے بیتا
اور پھر دوپہر کے بعد شام کیسے ہیئ
جسم میرا کسی ٹوٹے  مشین کی طرح ہو جاتا تھا
جیسے پرجا پرجا الگ ہونے  پے  آمادہ ہو

پھر بھی تم کو  گھر لوٹتا دیکھ کر
بھول جاتی اپنی ساری  تھکن
اور لگ جاتی تمہاری ہر طرح کی بھوک
مٹانے میں ، جسمانی، جذباتی اور جنسی
   اور جب تم خوابیدہ ہو جاتے تھے تو  
میں بھی لیٹ  جاتی تھی وہیں  تمہارے  پاس
مختصر سی نیند کے واسطے
وہ  نیند جو خوابوں سے محروم ہوا کرتی تھی

یہ سلسلہ نہ جانے کتنےسالو تک  چلتا رہا
اتوار ہو یا جمعہ  ، عید ہو یا محرم
مجھے کبھی چھٹی نہیں ملتی
مجھے کبھی وقفہ نہیں ملتا
لیکن   کبھی شکوہ نہیں کیا
نہ کبھی کوئی سوال کیا میں نے

وقت نے  رفتہ رفتہ   میرے چہرے پر  لکیریں کھینچ دی تھی
اور میرے گیسو پرخم میں سفیدی کا عکس آنے لگا تھا   
تبھی تم نے وہ بڑا فیصلہ سنا دیا تھا ، ایک دن اچانک
تمہارے وہ  تین الفاظ میرے لئے سزا کا اعلان تھا   
قصور کیا تھا میرا، کچھ بھی  نہیں
میں نے پوچھا تھا ، پر تم خاموش رہے تھے

پھر میں فریاد لیکر گیئ  تھی دین  کے رکھوالوں کے پاس
لیکن انہوں کہا  انکے پاسس کوئی حل نہیں ہے
عدالت کے چوکھٹ پی بھی میں ںے دستک  دی  
اور منصف نے کہا   کی میرا   مذہب   انھیں    
میرے حق میں انصاف کرنے کی  اجازت نہیں دیتا
اگر اس نے انصاف کیا تو خفا ہو جاینگے کروڑو لوگ

مایوس تھی میں، مرنا  چاہتی تھی ، لیکن ایسا نہیں ہوا
لیکن جینے کے لئے کچھ تو کرنا تھا
میرے پاس دو چیزیں تھی بچنے کے لئے ، ضمیر اورعصمت
میں نے اپنے ضمیر کو محفوظ رکھ لیا اور جسم کو نیلامی پی لگا دی
اور اس طرح  میں   دہلیز سے اس  کوٹھے پہ   پہنچ  گیئ

اس در پے  مجھے پناہ ملا جب سب نے ٹھکرا دیا تھا
یہاں میرے ٹوٹے جسم کی  اچھی قیمت  بھی میلی  

بس اپنے چہرے کی لکیروں کو میک اپ سے   ڈھکنا پڑا  
اور زلفوں  کی سفیدی کو سیاہ کرنا    پڑا  خضاب سے

لیکن اس اپنی  روح  کی  درد کا کیا کروں میں
کون سا میک اپ استمال کروں اسے  چھپانے  کے لئے
دل کے  زخموں کی لالی کو کیسے پوشیدہ کروں
کیا کوئی خضاب ہے جو میرے دل کے داغوں کو  رنگ سکے   

ہمیشہ بس خدا سے اتنا  ہی پوچھتی رہتی ہوں میں
میرے  مولا اس جہاں میں عورت ہونا گناہ  کیوں ہے