Thursday, December 25, 2014


 Raat  hoti hai par dareeche pe chirag nahin hota

Zulmato ke shahar mein koi mahtaab nahin hota

 Bas khar hi khar ugte her shakh pe yahan

Is shahar mein kisi dal pe kabhi gulab nahin hota

 Hazaron farishton ka khoon baha hai yahan

Ya illahi kyon is shahar pe nazil azaab nahin hota

  Wo hakim-e-shahar hai aur munshif bhi hai

Isliye uski gunahon ka koi hisab nahin hota

 Sabhi ko shauq hai insanon  ke lahoo ka  yahan

Is shahar mein kisi paimane mein  sharab nahin hota       

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


Khuli ankhon ka ek khwab mila mujh ko
Kitab-e-jist ka ek naya baab mila mujh ko

Ham ne si liye the har jakhm sabr ke dhagon se
Lekin phir ek dard-e-nayaab mila mujh ko

Bas ek tisnagi tari rahi musalsal yun hi
Zindagi sehra rahi aur saraab mila mujh ko

(Saraab= mirage)

Uska lahza shokh tha aur hothon pe tha tabassum
Phir kyon uski ankhon mein aab mila mujh ko

Teri qismat mein gham-e-hizran hai to main kya kroon
Aaj zindagi se kuchh aisa hi jawab mila mujh ko

Friday, October 03, 2014

My Short Story in The Daily Star



Abdullah Khan
Untitled, Sir Anish Kapoor.
Untitled, Sir Anish Kapoor.
The SMS sent by Mr Agarwal clearly says that she has to sleep with him in exchange for a life insurance policy worth one million rupees. Shocked and furious, Nasrin Khanam wants to call the bloody lecher and give him a piece of her mind. But she doesn't. Instead, she throws herself on her bed and starts crying. The memories from the past begin to inundate her thoughts. She remembers the day in her home town, Patna, when she told her father, Abba, about her intention to pursue an MBA from a college in Delhi called IIAM. She also remembers the fateful day Abba mortgaged their only house to raise a loan for her study despite her mother's protest.
The moment Nasrin set her feet on the premises of IIAM, she could sense that the college was not what it had claimed to be in its brochure. Within a week, she also came to know that she had been cheated. The college was nothing but a set of 10 rooms at the outskirts of Delhi and was not even recognised by the University Grant Commission. The teaching was substandard and the claim of the institute for 100 percent placement was manipulated. Most of the graduates joined C-grade companies for salaries as meagre as Rs 4,000. She didn't know how she was going to repay her education loan with the meagre salary she would get after finishing her course at IIAM. Heartbroken, she wept in her bed for a week and didn't attend the classes. But she didn't say anything to Abba. She knew that he would die of this unexpected blow.
Abba died in an accident ten months later. After the funeral, when Nasrin left Patna and her grieving mother and sister, she felt light headed and her thoughts were fuzzy. In Delhi, she remained disoriented for weeks and then busied herself in studies knowing that she had to be amongst the top two to three students to give her a chance of a decent placement She also knew that her failure would have serious implications on the future of her family. The inheritance Abba had left for them was a single storey house in Raza Bazar, an old scooter and an insurance policy of Rs Seventy Five Thousand. The private firm Abba had worked for sent a cheque for Rs One Lakh.
But how long would that money last?
After finishing her MBA, Nasrin was happy to get an offer from United International Bank, the fastest growing private bank of India. Initially, she was appointed on contract basis, and if she performed satisfactorily she would be absorbed in the bank as a permanent staff. She would get a fixed salary of Rs.15000 per month plus monthly incentive. Incentive, they said, came to be minimum 10-15 thousand per month and if she worked hard it may be even more. After deducting her own expenses and the education loan instalments, she would able to send some amount to her mother. She was posted in Ludhiana, Punjab.
The branch head and her boss in Ludhiana was a burly looking man, who explained what her responsibilities were. She was to look after life insurance or LI business of the branch. By 'looking after' he meant that she had to sell LI products of third party companies to the bank's customers. He also told her that good business meant good incentive for her too. As it happens with every new employee, her motivation was on zenith. She took her seat in the corner of branch after a formal introduction with all staff. That day she got a new moniker, LI Girl. The soft-spoken girl who sat next to her was Neha and was a front desk officer for deposit products.
With help from Neha, Nasrin found accommodation in a working women's hostel near Kitchulu Nagar. For Rs 4000, she got a room on sharing basis and two meals a day. Her roommate was Simran Singh who was very friendly and an easygoing girl, full of laughter and always ready to help her. Nasrin began to like her, and a bond of friendship developed between them very soon. Simran was from a small town of Punjab called Batala. She wore expensive clothes. Her visits to beauty parlours were too frequent. She told Nasrin that she worked for an event management company. When Nasrin overheard whisperings of some girls about her roommate, she began to keep an eye on her. Nasrin observed that quite often she would be away from the hostel during the night. In the morning when she returned, she would be exhausted and had bloodshot eyes as if she had not slept during the night.
Recently, Simran had bought a laptop and spent a good deal of time surfing the net whenever she was in hostel. Occasionally, she would allow Nasrin to use it. But, every time, she handed over her lappy (Simran called it so), she would delete the browsing history. Nasrin suspected that Simran was hiding something from her. One evening, while leaving the hostel Simran forgot to switch off the laptop. It was sitting on her table, in hibernation mode. As soon as Nasrin touched the touch pad, the screen lit up with the images of naked girls. It was a website of an escort agency. The home page of the site read: Welcome to Indian sexy escorts at Delhi Hot Escorts. Exciting world of dating, fun, romance and unique companionship that is all present right here. She clicked a link called Our Girls. There were photographs of ten girls in the different states of undress. The face of each girl was blurred for securing their identities. And to her horror, she could recognise one of the girls. She was tall with light brown hair. There was a green birthmark on her back. Of course, she was Simran. She had seen the birthmark while helping her to hook a blouse a few weeks ago.
“Tauba Tauba! How can one stoop so low for the sake of money?” she said to herself. “I have been living here with such a dirty girl for last two months. I should change the room immediately.”
The following day Nasrin told Simran in clear terms that she knew all about her vocation with and she didn't want to continue to share rooms with her. Simran tried to explain her position but she refused to hear anything from her. In the evening, Simiran left the hostel. The very next day, Nasrin received a long email from her.
Simran< >
4 August 2007, 04:24
To: Nasrin
Dear Nasrin,
I am really sorry for causing an emotional distress to you. You are like my own sister. So, I am going to share with you my story. Please don't think I am trying to justify whatever I am doing nowadays for living. I just want to tell you that at times circumstances force you to do certain things.
Let's start from the beginning.
Two Women, MF Hussain.
Two Women, MF Hussain.
My father was a small businessman of Batala in Punjab and he used to run a provision store. When I was in B Com finals, my father met with an accident. He survived but was left bedridden. My mother tried to run the provision store but the income was not enough to cover household expenses as well as the bills for our father's treatment. To help my mother, I came to Ludhiana and was lucky to find a job in a garment export company. A year later, one day, I had to stay late in the office. Finding me alone the owner of the company forced himself upon me.
The whole night I kept crying. In the morning, I decided to file an FIR in police against the company owner. When I arrived at the police station, I was shocked to know that a case of fraud and misappropriation of money had already been filed against me. The fierce looking police inspector made me sit in the police station and told me that I should not file any FIR against him. Otherwise, the owner of my company could get me implicated in a case of fraud and forgery. I was helpless; he was a big and influential businessman of the city. I made a compromise and he withdrew the complaint against me. After, a week or more I tried to find another job but could not. The recession had already hit Ludhiana and finding a decent job was difficult. But, I needed money for my father's treatment. I needed money for my brother's study. One day, I was just browsing through the net in a cyber cafe when I came across this escorts service site. Soon after I joined the agency and stated making good money. After that, there was no looking back. Now, honestly speaking, I don't regret my decision. What do the people in our society do to earn money? They sell their soul and conscience for financial benefits. So, it is better to sell one's body for living.
I hope you understand. You have my personal mobile number. Whenever you need my help, feel free to call me.
Sisterly yours,
As Nasrin finished the email, she was drenched in tears. She remembered her time spent with Simran. She remembered Simran's habit of bringing Nasrin a gift every time she returned from her business trips. When Nasrin had been down with fever, it was Simran who had taken her to the doctor and nursed her back to health. How harsh she had been to Simran! Nasrin felt sorry for that. But she did not respond to her email.
Two months after Simran left the hostel, Nasrin's problems started to prop up, one by one. First, her mother fell in the bathroom, getting her left leg fractured. And then her boss began to pressurise her to do more LI business. During the first three months, she was able to cross sell some of the LI products to the existing customers of the bank with the help from Neha, but sustaining her performance was proving to be difficult. Most of the insurance products were not designed to benefit the purchasers of the policies and it was very difficult to sell them to the customers who could read the fine prints of the offer documents.
Adding to her woes was Nidhi Minocha, the LI girl of the other branch of the Bank in the city. She had been surpassing her monthly LI budgets with comfortable margin for the last six months. In the quarterly Zonal office meeting in Delhi, Nasrin was publicly humiliated by her domineering LI zonal sales head, Sunita Sharma. Sunita told Nasrin, 'Make sure that this month you bring the minimum business of two million, otherwise you should be ready to quit your job.'
Shaken, Nasrin cried all the way from Delhi to Ludhiana. At the hostel, another bad news was waiting for her. She had received a notice from the Bank. Since she joined the bank she was not able to save any money to start repaying instalments as whatever she saved from her salary either went for her sister's education fee or her mother's treatment. In fact, her speculative calculation about incentive had gone horribly wrong and she did not get any incentive at all because the threshold limit of the budget allocated was not crossed. The notice clearly said in case of the failure to repay the regular instalments of the education loan, their house mortgaged to the bank would be sold in an auction. If their house is sold where Ammi and her sister will go? She thought for a while to end her miserable life, but then brushed the idea aside. Looking skyward, she prayed hoping that God will send His divine help to bail her out.
Two days later, the branch head called Nasrin in his cabin, and warned her in veiled language, “See Nasrin, four months have passed, and you have done a total business of eight lakh only. During same period Nidhi had collected seventy lacs of premia. You are not able to achieve even 25 per cent of your budget. The bank has given you the last chance to redeem yourself. There are 4 days left in this month. Try your best. Even if you are able to get policies worth ten lakh against the budget of twenty lakh, I promise, I will save your job. But if you don't cross the million mark, I am afraid, you have to pack up.” As Nasrin was leaving the cabin, he added with a shrewd smile on his face, “You are aware how bad the financial sector job market is in these days. It is very difficult to find a new job. Your degree from IIAM will also not help. You know MBA from IIAM is not even recognised by government agencies. It is a fake degree.”
Nasrin came out of the cabin, sobbing. Neha came to her seat and consoled her.
“How is Nidhi able to sell so much of policies?” Nasrin asked innocently.
Neha replied, “You can't compete with her. She does a lot of unethical and immoral things.” They were still talking when a plump middle aged man with an iPhone in his hands came near Neha who greeted him.
“So, sir you promised me a LI policy,” Neha asked tentatively.
“Yes, I did. I guess you needed that policy for this new beautiful LI girl,” Mr Agarwal said while staring at Nasrin. “But, Nidhi came yesterday evening with some offer and got a cheque for Rs Five Lakhs.”
“Sir, you are a client of our branch. We would have given you a better discount,” Nasrin intervened.
“But, you can't give personalised services like Nidhi does,” said Mr Agarwal, a sly smile came on his lips for a moment and then disappeared.
“I can also give you personalised service. Just give me a chance to serve you,” Nasrin replied swiftly.
“Yes, you can. You are so graceful,” Mr Agarwal told her, smiling cunningly. “Why don't you come to my office today evening? I will certainly do something for you.” He placed a visiting card on Nasrin's table and left.
While Nasrin was talking to Mr Agarwal, Neha looked uncomfortable and was discreetly signalling her to stop the discussion. And just after Mr Agarwal was out of the branch, Neha pulled Nasrin to one side of the office and told her, “What do you know about personalised services, you fool? I told you that Nidhi does a lot of bad things to sell policies. She sleeps with big businessmen to get big policies. Can you do that? Then why are telling Agarwal that you can do things like Nidhi?”
Nasrin was shell-shocked. She felt her knees had gone week. She came to her seat and rested her head against chair and closed her eyes. “How can a girl offer her body to somebody to sell an LI policy. Ya Khuda, how bad this world haa become. First Simran and now Nidhi.” She prayed silently, reciting from the holy Quran.
Back to the hostel, she sat in the shower for half an hour and when she came out, her sister was on phone. She told her that the Bank people had visited their house and asked them to deposit twenty thousand rupees immediately to escape legal action. Further, she needed money to take their mother to the orthopaedics for check-up and also for her college fees.
Nasrin is lost in the cobweb of her thoughts. The mobile begins to ring. Its display says Mr Agarwal calling. She pushes the button to reject the call. Nasrin pulls a chair to sit on it, finds an A4 size bond paper and a pen from the drawer of the table. As she writes her resignation letter addressed to her branch head, her facial expression hardens.
Then she starts dialling a number while tears well up in her eyes. She bites her lips as an unbearable pain cuts through her heart.
The voice on the other side says, “Simran speaking.”
Nasrin replies in a dejected voice, “Simran didi, this is Nasrin. I need your help.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review of NEW URDU WRITINGS from India & Pakistan

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Going beyond borders

COMMENT   ·   PRINT   ·   T  T  
New Urdu Writings from India and Pakistan edited by Rakshanda Jalil.
Special ArrangementNew Urdu Writings from India and Pakistan edited by Rakshanda Jalil.

A remarkable collection of short stories translated from Urdu that are both thought-provoking and enduring.

Centuries ago, Urdu was born in the streets and markets of Delhi and became a language of middle-class North Indians. But, in the post-Partition India, it was replaced by Hindi and English. Ironically, it was adopted by Pakistan where the majority of people don’t speak Urdu. In India, though, it survived in Hindi film songs and in poetry symposia. The last few years have seen a renewed interest in this beautiful language but, alas, a majority of youngsters can’t read Urdu in the original Nastaliq script, as they are more comfortable with English. This anthology targets those Indian readers. What I liked most about this collection was the absence of Chugtai and Manto. These two writers have been translated and talked about so often that most non-Urdu speakers think that Urdu has produced just two short story writers.
This collection comprises 15 stories each from India and Pakistan and the editor has taken great care in choosing them. It has an electic mix of veteran writers and young voices. From Indian side, the collection opens with Joginder Paul’s short stories about happiness, war, death and miseries of existence. In ‘Kargil’, “a simple-hearted thief finds two corpses. One was an Indian soldier and the other a Pakistani mujahid. The thief discovers a letter written by a kid in the Pakistani’s pocket and a photograph of a little girl in the Indian’s and is wonderstruck at how the photograph of the mujahid’s daughter gets in to the Indian soldier’s pocket?”
There is a long modern tale ‘Mourner of the Feet’ by Khalid Javed which has some elements of magical realism as the narrator is a shoe. The economy of words and frugal use of metaphors makes his writing different from the typical Urdu afsananigari where use of ornamental language is a common practice. Another remarkable story ‘The Slaughterhouse Sheep’ by well-known writer Khurshid Alam tells of how continuous exploitation of the underprivileged makes the victims justify their own exploitation. This thought-provoking story depicts the stark reality of our times.
On the Pakistani side, the best of the pack is ‘Lest My Breath Disturb Thy Peace’ by Neelam Ahmed Basheer, a prominent voice in Urdu fiction. This story is about the horrifying practice of marrying the girl to the Holy Quran in the rural Sindh. The beautiful protagonist Noor Bano is a vivacious dreaming about her life with her future husband. To avoid the division of their ancestral property, her feudal family has conspired to marry her off to the Holy Book. She also knows that she will have to spend the rest of her life as an ascetic and spinster. She bears this pain stoically but when an accidental encounter with a young man leads to her pregnancy she tells her father and brothers that she was impregnated by the holy book.
‘The End of Time’ is set in the post-apocalyptic world and the protagonists are microorganisms. The story warns against the danger of the nuclear rivalry between the nations, which may lead to the total destruction of human civilisation.
The editor has done an intelligent thing by deploying different translators for each story so that the stories don’t sound similar in their English incarnations. The eye-catching cover is designed by Nikheel Aphale, an accomplished calligrapher. This is a collection worth buying.
New Urdu Writings from India & Pakistan; Edited by Rakhshanda Jalil; Tranquebar Press, Rs.395

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Title of the Book: The Blind Lady’s Descendants
Author: Anees Salim
ISBN: 978-93-84030-79
Publishers: Tranquebar Press
Year 2014
Pages: 297
Price: 599.00

Lyrical Prose
I start this review with a confession. I know the author of this novel in person. And that is why for last one year I have been resisting the temptation of reviewing any of his books for the obvious reasons. But, I can’t anymore. In 2013, when I put my money on Vanity Bagh for The Hindu Fiction Prize, for a fleeting second I doubted my literary judgment. Maybe, because of my friendship with the author, I loved his novel. But, the jury of the Hindu Fiction Prize vindicated my choice, and I felt happy and relieved. Now, I can confidently say Anees Salim is one of the fresh literary voices that continue to surprise us. Don’t believe me! Please read his latest literary offering ‘The Blind Lady’s Descendant.’
Strewn with the dark humour and written in a lyrical style, the novel is crafted in form of a very long suicide note of its protagonist, Amar Hamsa. If you read it closely, you discover that it is an intimate portrayal of human life. You also find that it is also a poetry and philosophical treatise on the complexity of our existence. The book not only tells us a unique story with universal appeal but also alters our perception towards everyday things in our surroundings. It raises a lot of necessary questions about the futility of rituals and the hollowness of religious dogmas. The book also investigates the darker sides of human psyche. Delving in to the idea of family and kinship, it tells us how, at times, the relationship and familial bonding become shackles of our life.
Born into a dysfunctional family, Amar Hamsa develops a depressive attitude towards life from very tender age, thanks to their incessantly (but silently) warring parents. He begins to look at his life with doubts, not knowing exactly what he wants from his existence in this transient world. He also doesn’t know what exactly the cause of his miseries is or what would make him happy. The sadness he has been imbibing for many years has now become a part of his persona which he doesn't want to shrug off or simply he can’t get rid of it. But, all these characteristics don’t make Amar a boring or uninteresting character because his sense of humour is still intact. It is another thing that his sense of humour has a darker shade and a philosophical angle. And his cynical remarks about religion and its rituals make an interesting read. Amar’s abilities to observe things keenly make him discover many dark family secrets and those add into his sufferings and push him towards the threshold of destruction. Then, a death happens in his family and that send him to a road of no return.
In addition to Amar Hamsa, all other characters, including minor ones, are also dealt deftly. From Amar’s parents, Asma and Hamsa, to his three siblings, Sophiya, Akmal and Jasira, they all come alive on the pages of this novel. Even the inanimate objects play important roles in taking the narratives forward. The bungalow where Amar and his family live, for instance, emanates desolation and pessimism from its crumbling façade hinting what lies ahead for the readers. The writer uses similes and metaphors with the exactness of a good cook using salt while preparing his favourite broth. The cook knows that a pinch more or a pinch less will spoil his dish.
The Blind Lady’s Descendants is a perfect follow up novel after the award winning Vanity Bagh. In fact, it is even better than the previous one.

[Originally published in The Dhauli Review]

Friday, July 25, 2014




Abdullah Khan
Photo: Manan Morshed
Photo: Manan Morshed
Shrief told Arif about the Pandooa, the river ghost.
Arif laughed, 'How superstitious people are in this village!'
Arif lived in the city of Patna. He had been visiting his native village Alipura after five years, where his uncle lived. Shrief, his cousin, a tall, fair Pathan, had spent all his 25 years in this village, and was mostly untouched by the general disbelief of the city folks about anything supernatural.
Sharief insisted, 'Arif, this is not superstition. At least two people from our village have seen the Pandooa.'
A few months back, Hasrat Khan had seen her first. One evening, he had gone to the river bank for his customary walk. He saw a woman, dressed beautifully in a bridal saree and blouse, laden with gold and silver jewellery, standing near a banana tree. He stopped near her and asked, 'Who are you? Why are you standing here?' She didn't reply and looked straight into his eyes. He felt a sudden shiver gripping him. He started to walk briskly towards the village. As he was about to reach the outskirts of the village, he saw the same woman standing in the middle of the road a few yards ahead of him. Her face was devoid of any expression. The following day the villagers found him lying unconscious in the middle of the road.
'An interesting story! And who was the second person to see pandooa?' Arif asked mockingly.
'Maulvi Murtuza, the sixty-five-year old Imam of the Jama Mosque.'
Photo: Manan Morshed
Photo: Manan Morshed
On a Tuesday evening, Maulvi Murtuza, had been returning from the neighbouring village. The sun had set. So, he decided to offer the evening namaz at the bank of the river. After performing wuzu, the ablution ritual, in the river, he spread his gamcha, the soft towel, on the sand and stood to pray. As he finished his namaz and bent to collect his gamcha, he saw her smiling.  He had heard from the village that a newly married Rajput girl from the neighbouring village had jumped into the river. And here she was, fully dressed in a bridal wear. He started reciting 'Ayatul Kursi' from the Holy Quran and then started running at once. He stopped only after reaching the village.
Arif remembered his grandma's words about Pandooas. 'See, they are departed souls who have committed suicide by jumping into the river. They try to kill whoever they find near the river at an odd time like noon or after dusk. They do that so that they can get some company.'
Two days later, when Arif asked Sharief to come with him to swim in the river, Shreif first hesitated. Arif challenged him saying that he was a coward despite being a Pathan, he further added, ' Shrief Bhai, this is the holy month of fasting and in this month Iblis and all evil spirits are imprisoned by Allah Ta'la  and we both are observing fast, so we should not be afraid of this Pandooa'. Shreif finally agreed and promised to go with him in the morning.
At the outskirts of the village, a poster was pasted on a defunct electric pole. It warned the wayfarers about the threat of the river ghost. It advised them not to go near the river alone after dusk. Such electric poles were everywhere in the village. But there was no electricity. The Member of Parliament who had won the Inayat Nagar constituency for the last three terms, could do only that much for the development of the village.
Arif and Sharief walked past the tiled houses with mud walls, thatched hutments, and then came to Shohaib Khan's bungalow. An Englishman, an indigo cultivator, had built it almost a hundred years ago. While leaving India in the 1930s, he had handed over the house to his only friend in the village, Sohaib Khan's father. They climbed the embankment of mud and sand, which surrounded Alipura and other nearby villages. As they were climbing down, Arif looked for a suitable place and sat down to pee. The narrow stream of water hit the field and his eyes searched for a dry piece of earth or grit for Kuluf.  When Arif got up, Sharief remarked, 'Arif, always look before you pee. See, you have pissed on ashes. Never do that again. Bones and ashes are the food of Djinns. This can anger them.'
Arif laughed, slightly shaking his head but said nothing.
At the river, they bathed and swam till noon. In the evening Arif fell sick. A fever with a chill came on him. He was trembling and shivering continuously. Hanif the compounder, a retired army man, was called. He had experience of working in military hospitals as a nursing assistant and was the best-qualified doctor in the village. Qurban Ali the homeopath was also called. But, both of them could bring only Arif some temporary reprieve. The shivering kept returning. When Arif's uncle, Abdul Waheed Khan, learned about his visit to the river, he was very angry with Sharief. 'Must have been possessed by the river ghost,' his aunt, Saleha Begum, remarked. On her advice, Abdul Waheed Khan called the Imam of the Jama Masjid. He recited from the holy book and blew on Arif.
During the night, Arif remained calm and slept well. But in the morning the trembling returned. This time it was more violent. Two blankets and a quilt were needed to cover him. A woodfire was kept burning. Hanif the compounder was once again called. Arif's uncle decided he would take Arif to an MBBS doctor in Motihari if his health did not improve by tomorrow.
Asma Begum, an old lady in the neighbourhood, told Saleha Begum, Arif's aunt, that it was nothing but Jarwa-Jaraiya. 'Dulhan! You must call Baso Nani immediately. She knows the totka and rituals to get rid of Jarwa-Jaraiyya. Inshallah! He will be OK by tomorrow,' she advised. Saleha Begum immediately sent Sharief to fetch her. Abdul Waheed Khan was not at home. Otherwise, he would not have allowed this to happen. According to him, this was a Hindu ritual, one a Muslim must not associate with.
Photo: Manan Morshed
Photo: Manan Morshed
Baso Nani was grandmother to everybody in the village. From a six-year-old to a seventy-year-old, everyone called her Nani. She had been living in this village for the last fifty or sixty years. She had come here to live with her daughter and son-in–law who were long dead. There were no grandchildren.  She lived alone in a thatched house, surviving on the charity of the village people. Many of the villagers believed that Baso Nani knew magical things. A few of the village women even blamed her for indulging in witchcraft.
Baso Nani, a frail looking woman with silver white hair and who walked with the help of a stick, arrived. She asked Saleha Begum to bring Arif out in the open air since Jarwa-Jaraiya needed an open space to fly away. She got ready to start the ritual to get rid of Jarwa-Jaraiya. Baso Nani would now tell the story of Jarwa-Jaraiya.
Once upon a time, a widow lived in a village with her only son. Her son was very naughty and mischievous.  One day, out of anger, the widow hit her son on the head with a stick. It started bleeding. The boy, angered by his mother's behaviour, left the house and ran away from the village. He went to a city and was adopted by a rich, childless couple.
After their death, he inherited all their property and business. He became very rich. Since then, twelve years had passed. One day he was passing through the village alone. He felt that the place was familiar to him, and decided to stay in the village for a few days. One evening, he saw the widow and fell in love with her. The widow also fell in love with him. The villagers came to know about their love affair and decided to organise a marriage ceremony. The widow became pregnant. One morning, she was massaging her husband's head when she saw the mark of a gash. When she asked him, he told her that as a child, his mother had hit him with a stick and he had run away from his village at the age of six or seven. He could not recall the name of his village or his mother's face.  But, the woman looked at his face and realised  this man's face resembled that of her first husband so much.
When they came to know that they were mother and son, they were so ashamed and sad that they decided to commit suicide. They prepared a pyre and jumped into it. Even after death, their souls got no rest. The man became Jarwa and the woman became Jaraiya. Now they trouble people by possessing them, making them shiver. Whenever the story of their shameful liaison is repeated before the person they possess, they run away.
'O! Jarwa Jaraiya, if you have shame, go away from here.  If you don't go away, I will repeat the story of your sinful liaison,' Baso Nani spoke in a very loud voice.
Baso Nani was repeating the lines again and again when Abdul Waheed Khan walked in. He was furious with Saleha Begum, 'How dare you call this oldie to do something which is prohibited in our religion. That too in this holy month of Ramzan. Biddat is a great sin, you foolish woman.'  His face blazed with anger while he spoke.
Saleha Begam said nothing.
'Bade Abaa….' Arif tried to intervene but could not muster courage to do so. Frightened, Baso Nani left the chair she was sitting on, drew the pallu of her saree to cover her face and receded in the corner of the verandah. And she was about to turn to leave when Abdul Waheed Khan turned to her, ''who told you to come here and perform this ritual of idol worshippers. Get out from here, and don't come to my house ever. Bloody witch.' Baso Nani began to a sob. Abdul Waheed Khan lifted the walking stick and handed it over to Baso Nani and yelled, 'Get out of here, right now.'
Arif had listened to the story with great attention. In fact, he enjoyed this unusual treatment for his illness. He felt bad when his uncle humiliated the old lady. He was sad to see Baso nani crying. She reminded him of his own grandma whom he loved dearly. But, he remained silent.
Next day was the Eid.  Surprisingly, Arif recovered fully within five or six hours of his treatment. On the following morning, he even went to Idgah to offer namaz with his uncle and cousins.
The same evening Baso Nani was found dead in her thatched house.
Published: 12:00 am Friday, July 25, 2014
Last modified: 2:09 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Friday, April 04, 2014

Anees Salim's Interview in The Daily Star


Under the Mango Tree

Anees Salim is the author of The Vicks Mango Tree (Harper Collins India), Vanity Bagh (Picador India) and Tales from a Vending Machine (Harper Collins India). His fourth novel The Blind Lady's Descendants is expected to be released by Westland Books (India) very soon. This year, he has beaten authors like Manu Joseph and Amandeep Sandhu to walk away with the prestigious “The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction” for his 'dark comic tale' Vanity Bagh. He is an advertising professional and is based in Kochi, India. Here he talks to ABDULLAH KHAN about his books and his life as a writer. 
Anees Salim
Anees Salim
The Star: Anees, congratulations for winning the Hindu Prize for best fiction. How did you react when you got the news? And how important is this prize for you?
Anees Salim: 
Thank you. I watched the live webcast of the ceremony from my cubicle as the office, oblivious to what I was doing, buzzed around me. When the prize was announced I must have exclaimed aloud, because people in the neighbouring cubicles stood up and eyed me suspiciously. This prize is extremely important to me. There is suddenly a fair amount of interest in the book and it has started to reflect on the sales.
The Star: Tell us something about your background. How did you get interested in creative writing? At what age you wrote your first piece of fiction?
Anees Salim:
 I hail from the beach town called Varkala (in Kerala,India), but I live in the port city of Kochi. I started writing when I was about sixteen, and I began with a short story, which I sent to the Illustrated Weekly of India. I was foolishly optimistic about its chances and started planning my literary career around it. The story came back a fortnight later with a stock rejection letter.
The Star: You have published three novels in quick succession. Please share with our readers how was your journey from an aspiring author to a published one?
Anees Salim: 
Yes, three of my books came out in a span of one and a half years. But they were written in different periods of my life. I had great difficulty in getting publishers and agents read my manuscripts. And those who read them were quick to send me carefully worded rejection letters. In the beginning of 2009, a young literary agent picked up one of my manuscripts, and he sold it in a week and then two more in a month.
Under the Mango Tree
The Star: Your books have serious subjects as their themes but your writing carries a comic tone.  How do you manage to do it?
Anees Salim:
 Well, I am told time and again that there is something humorous about my writing. But I don't choose humorous things to write about. My books are about common people and their everyday struggles, about religious intolerance and violence. The comic tone finds its way into my writing no matter how sombre the subject I am dealing with. I can't help it.
The Star: In your prize winning novel Vanity Bagh, you tell your readers that in every city there is a tiny Pakistan? Is 'Pakistan' a metaphor for something? What do you mean by 'tiny Pakistan'?
Anees Salim:
 In most cities around the world, there is a Chinatown, isn't there? Similarly in many Indian cities you will find minority settlements that are branded as Little Pakistan. And the residents of these pockets are often frowned upon, laughed at and believed to be influenced by Pakistani ideas and ideologies. So, it's not metaphorical at all. It's physical and it can be just across the street from where you live.
The Star: Two of your novels are set in a fictional city called 'Mangobagh' but it has striking resemblance with many north Indian cities with sizeable Muslim population. Did you have any city in mind when you thought of Mangobagh?
Anees Salim: 
Mangobagh is a city I carved out of several other cities. In fact I glued together landscapes from cities I like for their history, architecture and ruins. Probably it is the kind of place I want to live in. I think you will find a bit of Delhi, Hyderabad and Lucknow in Mangobagh.
The Star:  You are known for not attending any book launch or lit fest. Why do you do so? Do you think a writer's role as teller of a story ends with the writing of the book?
Anees Salim:
 It is not just book launches or lit fests that I don't attend. I avoid going to gathering of any size and description. Office parties, weddings, get-togethers, workshops, reunions…I stay clear of all of them.
The Star:  How did your occupation as an Adman help you to evolve as a write? Or was it an impediment?
Anees Salim:
 Advertising hasn't had any impact on me as a writer. I would say it has neither helped nor ruined the writer in me.
The Star: What is going to be your next book? Tell us a little bit about it.
Anees Salim: 
The next book is about two boys growing up in my hometown, doing things I did not have a chance to do in my childhood. But it is too early to say if it will develop into a book. 
Published: 12:00 am Friday, April 04, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

تنہائی:ایک نظم

تنہائی ::: ایک نظم 

عجیب شے ہے یہ

ماضی کے دہلیز پہ دستک دے کر
کھول دیتی ہے دروازے تمام
اور یادوں کا سیلاب بھر جاتا ہے
ذہن کے گلیارے میں

 کبھی کبھی مستقبل کے دریچے بھی کھولتے ہے
اور ہماری نگاہیں دیکھتی ہیں
آنے والے لمحوں کی اجنبی سی تصاویر
کیا واقعی ہوتی ہے کبھی تنہا
شاید نہیں
کبھی كھيالو کا سمندر
کبھی تصور کے لامهدود سلسلے
کبھی درد کہ محفل
اور کبھی یہ لے کر آتی ہے ارمانوں کی بارات

تنہائی کی موذودگي اکثر مهكتي ہے
وسال - اے - یار کے بچے كھچے خوشبو سے
اور کبھی جلے ہوئے ادھورے خواب کہ بو سے
تنہائی کا ذايكا
کبھی ہوتا ہے محبت کہ سرگوشيو کی مٹھاس کی طرح
تو کبھی یہ پرانے تلخ الفاظ کی كرواهٹ لئے بھی ہوتا ہے
اگر سچ مچ تنہا ہو
تنہائی اگر واقعی آزاد ہو
گزرے ہوئے کل کے دستانو سے
تنہائی اگر واقعی آزاد ہو
آنے والے کل کے سوالو سے
تنہائی اگر نکل آئے
خوشی و غم کے دائرے سے
تنہائی اگر نکل جائے
امید اور مایوسی کے دلدل سے
تو یہ تنہائی سفر بن جاتی ہے
خدي کا سفر
 اس خدي کے سفر میں
ہم ناپتے ہیں سانسوں کہ رفتار
ہم اترتے ہیں احساس کے زینے سے
اپنے دل کے صحن میں
اور دیکھتے ہیں
ضمیر کے آئینے میں
خود کو اكش
ایسی ہی تنہائی شکل لے لیتی ہے
عبادت کا
اور ہمیں دیدار کرتی ہے
الانوار - اے - الہی کا

ذرا سوچ کر دیکھو
کیا ہوگا
اگر تنہائی
خود ہو جائے
تنہائی کا شکار

Friday, March 21, 2014

तन्हाई ( एक नज़्म)

तन्हाई ( एक नज़्म) 

अजीब शै  है ये 

माज़ी के दहलीज़  पे दस्तक दे कर 
खोल देती है दरवाज़े तमाम 
और यादों का सैलाब भर जाता है 
ज़ेहन के गलियारे में 

 कभी कभी मुस्तक़बिल  के दरीचे भी खोलती है 
और हमारी निगाहें देखती हैं 
आने वाले लम्हों की अजनबी सी तस्वीरें 

क्या वाक़ई होती है कभी तन्हा 
शायद नहीं 
कभी खयालो  का समंदर 
कभी तसव्वुर के लामहदूद सिलसिले 
कभी दर्द कि महफ़िल 
और कभी ये लेकर आती है अरमानों की बारात 

तन्हाई की  मौज़ूदगी अक्सर महकती है 
विसाल-ए -यार के बचे खुचे खुश्बू  से 
और कभी जले हुए अधूरे ख्वाब कि बू से 

तन्हाई का ज़ायका 
कभी होता है मुहब्बत कि सरगोशियों की  मिठास की  तरह 
तो कभी ये किसी पुराने तल्ख़ अल्फाज़ की  करवाहट लिए भी  होता है 

अगर सचमुच तन्हा हो 
तन्हाई अगर वाक़ई आज़ाद हो 
बीते हुए कल के दस्तानो से 
तन्हाई अगर वाक़ई आज़ाद हो 
आने वाले कल के सवालो से 
तन्हाई अगर निकल आये 
खुशी  व  ग़म  के दायरे से 
तन्हाई अगर उबर जाये 
उम्मीद और मायूसी के दलदल से 

तो ये तन्हाई सफ़र बन जाती है 
ख़ुदी  का सफ़र 
 इस ख़ुदी  के  सफ़र में 
हम नापते हैं सांसों कि रफ़्तार 
हम उतरते हैं एहसास के ज़ीने  से 
अपने दिल के सेहन में 
और देखते हैं 
ज़मीर के आईने में 
खुद का  अक्स 
ऐसी ही  तन्हाई शक्ल ले लेती है 
इबादत का 
और हमें  दीदार कराती है 
अनवार -ए -इलाही का 

ज़रा सोच कर देखो 
क्या होगा 
अगर तन्हाई 
खुद हो जाये 
तन्हाई का शिकार 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

वक़्त:एक नज़्म

वक़्त:एक नज़्म 

सच है

वक़्त एक खंज़र है 
 हमें ज़ख्म देता
ये पुराने  ज़ख्मो को कुरेद कर  
हरा भी करता है

वक़्त के तेज़ झोंके
बुझा  देते हैं  ख्वाबों के चिराग

वक़्त की चिंगारी, कई बार
नन्हे अरमानो को खाक कर देती है

बह जातें वक़्त की लहरों में
उम्मीद के छोटे छोटे जज़ीरे 

ये वक़्त रहज़न भी ह़ै
लूट लेता है हसरतों का  कारवाँ 

 यही वक़्त मरहम बनकर
वक़्त बेवक़्त
कई पुराने ज़ख्म़ो को भरा भी करता है 

वक़्त की धूप में
ना जाने कितनी अश्‍क़ आलूदा यादें सूख जाती हैं

वक़्त की ठंडी बूँदों से
ना जाने कितने सुलगते हुये
दिलों  को चैन मिलता है

इसी वक़्त की बेपरवाह तपिश से
बहुत से मूंज़मिद दर्द पिघल जाते हैं

इसी वक़्त कि लपट में 
कई ग़म जल भी जाते है 

कई बार वक़्त , वक़्त पे आकर हमें बर्बादियों से बचा लेता है 
कभी कभी  ये वक़्त ज़र्रे को आफताब भी बना देता 

गोया की
वक़्त रफ़ीक भी है सितमगर भी है 
वक़्त क़ातिल भी है वक़्त चारागर भी है 
वक़्त हर रोज़ करिश्मे करता है 
इसकी हाथों में जादू का असर भी है 

हाँ … 
वक़्त कुछ भी हो सकता है
वक़्त कहीं भी हो सकता है 
वक़्त कभी हो सकता है

पर वक़्त बे-वक़्त नहीं होता

कभी देखा है तुमने दो बजे चार बजते हुए।