Dear Rumi

Sabahat Quadri

Tea at the Frontier

At the northwest edge of Peshawar is the Khyber gate and Jamrud Fort that marks the beginning of what we in Pakistan know as Ilaqa Ghair, or ‘ungoverned/lawless territory’. This is Khyber agency, one of several agencies that comprise FATA, or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Read More

1,400 Kilometres to Karachi

What did I think I was doing? What made me think I could make this trip by myself, a woman, in Pakistan, driving across the country on my own?

Mom died in January last year, suddenly and unexpectedly. After her death, I packed up the house and flew from Karachi back to Islamabad, where I lived and worked. I brought my cats back with me—Yoda, 15, Snickers, 15, and Samurai, 12; perhaps not the smartest move, but it was better than giving them away to someone else. 

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One Day

“Pregnant?” His fingers clenched around the phone. “That’s—” he pried apart his teeth, “that’s great, Rani. Congratulations. When are you due?” He waited until his sister’s voice stopped, then nodded, caught himself. “Right, of course. Nine months. Sorry.” His gaze moved irresistibly to the wallet lying on the desk in front of him. The picture of his ex-wife that was still tucked into the back compartment seemed to be burning its way through the soft leather, taunting him with the memories of endless fertility treatments, doctors, tests, and the deep rush of disappointment at every negative result.

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Advertise Who You Are

I used to think that one of the most accurate gauges of a nation’s character was its traffic. You could tell, from the way they behaved on the road, the levels of civilisation and progress that a people had attained.

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Good Old New York II

My friend and I watched The Bonfire of the Vanities at El Museo del Barrio on 104th Street. We were up on the balcony, and as the theater darkened, I saw a frail man in a white suit holding a cane with wolf’s head on it take his seat. Tom Wolfe was here for the premiere.

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Good Old New York

In the midst of a separation leading up to a divorce, I was sitting by myself in Central Park with a steaming plate of fragrant kebab from thehalalguys, and all I wanted to do was talk to my (ex-)husband. So I called him—yes, it’s that kind of a divorce. We still call each other and help each other out. We’re friends on Facebook and I am respectfully packing his stuff and neatly keeping it aside to be shipped to him.

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The Magic Circle

Getting back to work after a long break should have been harder than it has been. Just like coming back to my blog after an extended absence should have been awkward.

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No Space for Stuff

Space: a coveted and vanishing luxury, even in the US, where large tracts of uncultivated, unpopulated, wild land stretch across the continent. In between, small towns and large cities are linked by snaking, weaving, meandering highways, cutting through forests, deserts, farmland and mountains. In September, I travelled by road from Providence to Johnson (Vermont) and later, from Rochester (NY) to New York city. At one point, I also travelled to Boston — I wanted to pack as much as I could in to the two months that I was to be in the US.

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Under the Same Sky

Constellations in the sky are different in the northern hemisphere. Orion is closer, and the Big Dipper seems to be lower in the sky. It’s possibly just my imagination, but I met an artist from Brazil, Gui, who thought the same thing. We noticed this one night when we were sitting on deck chairs by a creek on the Mason Green lawn. The creek played its symphony of rushing water as a small group of artists and writers congregated, late at night, with bottles of wine and packs of olives and cheese after a long day isolated in each of our studios.

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The Air I Breathe

So, the exciting news of my recently embarked-upon writing career has been a fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center in order to gain some valuable writing time. The residency will start on August 30, during which I will probably be incommunicado for the month of September. I know this is a big deal because I’ve been told, by several people, that VSC has a very strong reputation in the art world. That they liked my work enough to give me a grant is fabulous boost to my self-confidence and I’m well aware that opportunities like this rarely come one’s way. Read More

Still Waters

The first ad agency I worked for was an affiliate of Saatchi & Saatchi. It was an agency that had won awards around the world for their marketing strategies and effective advertising campaigns; getting an internship there was a big deal. I was excited, ready to show everyone my potential, but I knew that as an intern, the most I would get to do would be to watch from the peripheries. And that’s exactly what I did.

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