BOOK READING | RIOTOUS LOVE

Reading from my book of short stories, “THE GIRL WITH THE PAISLEY DUPATTA”. The book is available at Sarasavi, Barefoot, Jam fruit Tree, Expographics and Pendi in Sri Lanka and at Readings, Liberty Books and Paramount Books in Pakistan.

Many of the stories in this book are from outside the bell curve of our lives, embracing sensitive social elements that are spoken of either in subdued whispers or not at all: from the brutal vigilante justice dispensed in the name of religion in “The Gods of Fury”; to the harrowing custom of honour revenge in the “Sins of our Fathers”; to the patriarchal ruthlessness that so many young women are subjected to in the title story “The Girl with the Paisley Dupatta”.

Some of the other stories are of women and men negotiating life, love, friendship, careers and tradition in the sometimes tumultuous and many times limiting folds of their families and their communities: from the enterprising love affair of 61 year old Nighat in “Love in Rawalpindi”; to the shenanigans of a dancing queen in “Riotous Love”; to the complicated friendship between two middle aged unmarried society girls in “Days of Purgatory”.

VERSE | STRANGER THAN FICTION

I look at the book
Have I read it before?
It’s a throng of short stories
My favourite genre
I took it from the shelf
In my own home
So it has to be one of the
For-sure-read tomes
Still, as I glanced
At the back cover blurb
Nothing jumped out
Not a line, not a word
I looked at its front
Multi shades of grey
The image glimmered
In its dusky array

I opened the book
I had to recall
A story, a plot twist
A mystery resolved
In the 267 pages
I held in my hand
So I started reading
Page one, it began:
That day Alisha
Looked up at the sky
The purples and blues
Looked terribly awry …

The rest of the story
Unwrapped itself
As I glanced through page two
Of the book from my shelf
Yes I had read it
The memory crept in
Of ETs and UFOs
And otherworldly things

Of skittering creatures
That had huge heads
Full of insidious plans
To make us all dead
Or not! Even in fiction
They were polite
Giving us choices
Being forthright
Choices! Forthrightness!
Now those are things
That are as alien now as
Well … human beings!
Laughing, I put
The Sci-Fi away
Our own lives were stranger
Than fiction these days

VERSE | FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD*

Listen to the poem being read here: https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSdn6QjcC/?k=1

I pick it up, I feel its form 
I hold it in my hands, the warmth
Transfers slowly and I sense
The tingle of the words within

I gaze at the lines upon its face
I turn it over, my eyes trace
The tale it whispers all its own
Its beauty hidden, as yet unknown
The seeds of intrigue have been sown
It invites me in, in subtle tones
We follow, I and my intuition
On lightning wings, we race in!
Another stridently demands that I
Feel its spine from end to end
And then I oftentimes comply
As it tells its story by and by

I leave my existence behind
For a while I’m in another life
I go on voyages fraught with love
With pain, with humor with suspense
I journey on through these realms
Sometimes laughing sometimes tense
And then I will glance again
At the portal to the world I’m in
Pausing my trip-in words
The story wraps itself up, and I’m
Whisked back into the world
Where I’m dutifully marking time

I feel its form one last time
I leave it with a wistful smile
That Teller of a myriad tales
Waits until I visit it again
* Title inspiration from the novel by Thomas Hardy of the same name