My Cursed Kingdom
This is my kingdom, i am the slave.


Day break was still an hour or so away. Night still covered the sky like a dark velvet blanket; perfectly placed across the sky refusing to fall out of place. The moon shone dull with no intention of being any help to the wary.

Most souls clutched their blankets to their necks, disconnected from reality that awaited them come day fall. As the earth revolved around its axis, inching at a snail’s pace to face the sun; one pair of eyes opened wide to the sound of a wrist watch’s alarm. Bakht Ilahi lay still in his bed staring at the small rusted fan on the ceiling of his so called home. He wondered for a split second why it wasn’t giving him the usual comfortable cold air in the midst of a fierce July summer night. He was quickly reminded of his heated argument the day prior with the electric supply company’s representative who was quick to tell him, “Sahib pehlay bill bharo phir aa kar baat karna!

That thought made him wonder about the other unpaid bills that he had pretended to have paid and given false reassurance to his wife about. He looked at his wrist watch. He took a second to admire the remaining shine on his silver plated watch that smiled through the faded and worn out metal; arguably the most valuable possession in the room; apart from his family, of course. But could he sell his family and pay the bills one day, if needed? He sat up and looked around at almost lifeless figures of his wife and three daughters, all tucked away like geometric pieces of puzzles on the floor around his bed, patient and unwavering as the hot and dry night was about to turn into a day that would be worse.

School fees- due soon. He shook his head to dismiss his thoughts and got out of bed. He shaved his face with a worn out razor and rubbed some oil on his thick moustache. He ran his fingers over his ever increasing wrinkles as he looked at himself in a small mirror hanging on the side wall. He quietly made his way out of his single room house along with his bicycle careful not to wake the others up. He paddled his way to his shop in the town center, whistling to himself quietly. He was the proud owner of a malnourished cow, who should really be claimed as the bread winner of the family. He threw some hay towards his ‘golden goose’ and began to milk it. Out came liquid gold that had the magical powers of taking care of all unpaid bills. He took a deep breath and steadfastly went forward with his morning routine. A daily race against dawn. With his long faithful arms, he carried two large jugs of milk into the shop. He put on an old crackling transistor to listen to the news. Then like a magician he began to mix cups and teaspoons and pinches of different ingredients. Mixing and churning, repeating as needed. Finally after hours of untiring efforts and several hundred well calculated steps, out came the product he was so well known for; mithai. Pure delicious heavenly mithai. It was amazing how he could turn those raw ingredients into mouth watering and finger licking sweets of different shapes, colors and fragrances. It wasn’t a wonder that not many people in town wanted to compete with him at this business. Day after day, his lifelong learned skills kept their lives moving forward. It was his relentless mixing and churning that had put all three of his daughters in school. It was his attention to detail that had kept a roof above his family’s head, and he was proud of himself.

A couple more years and his eldest daughter would be able to finish her university education. Shareefah was a bright girl and was good with numbers. She would soon finish her accounting degree and get a job at a prestigious bank, Bakht Ilahi hoped longingly.   Then with her help, he would be able to expand his business. Maybe hire another employee, or maybe buy another cow. Definitely buy another cow first. Cows are more trustworthy than new employees. Expanding his business would help his younger two daughters, Shabana and Sameena, finish their schooling as well and move up the ladder in life. What about tying their knots to possible suitors? Those hopeful young men will have to wait. Better education will definitely open better prospects for her darling daughters, regardless of what the townspeople had to say. They deserve better than what he was providing them with right now, and every day, every muscle in his body was adamant in getting them to that place.

He unlocked the doors, and raised the aluminum shutter as it made a thunderous sound. Bright rays of sunlight filled the dimly lit room and reminded him of how long he had been in the back of his shop working on his sweets. It was time for business as usual. Customers came and went, small talk, town gossip, loans and returns; all part of a day’s work. He kept sticking every penny into his drawer behind the counter, making mental notes of expenditures and earnings. When business slowed down, he would put on his transistor and watch the kids banter and laugh in the street as they would pass by. Occasionally he would take a cigarette break, making sure not be seen by anyone who could report to his wife.

It wouldn’t be till the sun would start to set that he would finally pull down the shutters of his shop and close business. He would sit down and count his earnings for the day, made sure his cow had enough food for the night, and then hop onto this bicycle and make his way back to his house. Home was where the heart was. Day in and day out he would follow the same routine and the wheels of their mediocre life kept turning along the way.



It was definitely a day he could have done without when he got the letter from Himayat and Karim Ullah at the shop. Curious and confused, he put business on hold and made his way to the corner shop, where his close aide Ghulam Mustafa was toiling to mend shoes.

Arey Mustafa, take a look at this. Can you read this to me? It looks official.” He handed the envelope to his friend who looked up from his crouched position.

Ghulam Mustafa inspected the envelope turning it around several times before finally saying; “It’s from the zamindar brothers.”

He carefully ripped open the envelope and took the piece of paper out and began to read it aloud. After a few lines his voice faded away and his eyes shot back and forth as he hurried to go through the document. Bakht Ilahi sensed something wrong, but patiently waited for him to finish reading.

“It’s a notice,” Ghulam Mustafa gulped as he delivered the news, “they want your house. They’re asking you to vacate it.”

“What? How can that be?” Bakht Ilahi responded unbelievingly, “I bought the house from Wazir Lal before he moved to the city with his ailing mother. Surely there is a mistake.” He took the letter from his friend’s hand and gazed at it aimlessly.

“It’s a notice from their lawyer. They’re claiming they own the house. They want to demolish it and turn it into a shop.”

There was a long pause. Bakht Ilahi stood there silent.

“But, how can it be? I bought that place with… with my own money,” he finally muttered, sensing the worst. Realizing he had no paperwork to prove his claims. Realizing he should have probably hired someone to do the paperwork when he had handed over all his savings to Wazir Lal in exchange for his one room house. Realizing the zamindar brothers were hands down the most powerful and influential businessmen in town and he had lost this argument already.

Life had been tough, but he was not willing to give up that easily. He had come this far not to be outdone by a piece of paper. Ghulam Mustafa advised him to seek legal council, which he did.



Aap kay paas waqai mein ghar kay kaghazaat nahi hein?,” the lawyer inquired looking up from above his circular spectacles, half suspicious f Bakht Ilahi’s story.

Bakht Ilahi could only nod his head in negative.

The lawyer gave him a long look before getting back to clumsily pressing the keys on his typewriter. No more words were spoken at the meeting that day.

Bakht Ilahi’s bicycle was the first to go, to cover the legal expenses. He had to bite the bullet and take his wife into confidence. Now the 15 minute bicycle ride had turned into a 45 minute walk in the dark. Bakht Ilahi was a persistent and hardworking soul. He soldiered on, day after day. His routine at the shop remained unfaltering. Milk the cow, churn the milk, knead the dough, mix sugar and flour, mix, roll, repeat. Mithai. He could feel it in every muscle of his body as he went through this exercise every morning. What would he do if he was to lose his home? What would his family do? He shook away those thoughts and focused on his mithai; cut into small evenly shaped cubes neatly wrapped in parchment paper and displayed in a glass case for everyone to admire. They definitely looked like pieces of art that someone had crafted with great precision. They tasted even better.

“The zamindar brothers have documents to your house,” the lawyer updated Bakht Ilahi while leaning back in his wooden chair and crossing his arms, “their lawyer is claiming they never even sold it to Wazir Lal. Unfortunately there’s no paper record of even that.” His office was no bigger than a closet and Bakht Ilahi felt there was definitely no room for the piles of papers that filled every empty spot in it. The conversation added to the suffocating feeling.

“Then sahib?” Bakht Ilahi inquired with a heavy heart.

“Then we take our matter to court and hope for the best.”

As Bakht Ilahi stood up to leave, the lawyer gestured with his thumb and index finger, “I’d suggest make arrangement for more.”

His daily hamster wheel life continued without fail. Broken and tired, he would still make it to his shop before dawn. He could feel his customers look at him with empathy. His body hurt, more than it used to. He wasn’t willing to let his spirit break. He had to do it for his family. If he could just get Shareefah through university, things would change; he thought to himself as he continued to craft his sweets. Lately the kneading and the mixing process had gotten longer and more painstaking. The hurt was both physical and mental. His perfectionism at his craft would surely never get affected by all this. Would it?

It didn’t take many hearings before the case between Bakht Ilahi and the zamindar brothers was concluded. The verdict unfortunately was not in Bakht Ilahi’s favor. The family of five was sent packing as the notorious businessmen took possession of a small disputed four walled brick house. It was no surprise that they were able to claim the neighboring four houses aswell. The next to go was Bakht Ilahi’s beloved wrist watch, it had served him well. He rented a small portion of a house to provide a roof over his family’s head. It was on the other side of town and even further from his shop.

As cash flow grew tighter, budget cuts were made. Shabana and Sameena with their sullen and teary eyed faces were seen in and around the house during daytime as they were pulled from school.

The nights were darker, the days longer and work more tiring than ever. The cow gave little milk now and was more of just hide and bones, as the budget cut hit it’s fodder with full force. Bakht Ilahi’s will power hung by a thread. He had withdrawn from his usual race against time. His body was pleading with him to give up, as he continued to mix his ingredients. He would go through the same motions, but wouldn’t feel the same way he used to. He was toiling to stay alive now. He felt like a slave in his own world. Mithai was not just mithai anymore, it was the last bit of midnight oil that would keep their lamp burning through the darkest night. The hot, humid and unforgiving summer days and nights had brought with them more than he had bargained for.


Bakht Ilahi’s finished churning his ingredients and setting the big dishes out to cool, his last batch of mithai ever. He rubbed his hands together and watched as his breath formed small clouds of condensed vapors as it hit the cold air around.  He never enjoyed the uncomfortable feeling of the changing weather that teased his ears red. Atleast now there was a thick beard to protect his face from the cold. He went about collecting the remaining few things in the shop and stuffing them into large black plastic bags. He felt much slower in the last couple of years since he had started using the cane. A cold gush of air came in as the shop’s door was swung open and a customer walked in.

Bakht bhai, kee haal chaal ay? I see you’re already packing up the shop? I had heard but wasn’t sure.”

“Yes. That’s what God pleases,” Bakht Ilahi replied without paying much attention to the customer as he set out his sweets behind the glass display.

“You’ve been here thirty six years, and now the landlord decides to sell the shop?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Then? Where are you headed?” the curious customer inquired.

“A close by town. Shareefah says she is looking for a job there. Lots of banks.”

“And you?”

Bakht Ilahi gave a half smile as he continued to set out the mithai.

“Anyway Bakht bhai, I’ll take all that mithai,” the short stocky customer said pointing towards the glass display.

Bakht Ilahi looked at him questioningly.

“If you have any more, I’ll take that too. The shops plaza is being inaugurated today. You know, where your house was?” explained the short stocky customer and continued, “I’m supposed to be distributing mithai in the crowd at the inauguration. Who doesn’t like free mithai?”

Bakht Ilahi started emptying out the display, placing the finely cut multicolored mithai into small square boxes and neatly stacking them one on top of the other.

“The zamindar brothers really did a marvelous job I tell you. If I’m lucky maybe they’ll let me manage the plaza one day,” the man beamed and continued, “they told me to get the best mithai in town, so here I am.” He took a piece of mithai from one of the boxes and stuffed it in his mouth. Licking his fingers clean he said, “Indeed, the best mithai in town.”

There was a long pause.

“I think I might have some more at the back, let me fill up these boxes.” Bakht Ilahi picked up the boxes in both his arms and proceeded to the small room at the back of his shop. He placed the boxes on the floor of the empty room and turned towards the plastic bags he had filled and neatly placed along the wall. He started looking through the bags one by one till he found what he was looking for. He pulled out a small box and stared at it. In his hands he held a blue colored cardboard box, that had written across it in a large red font the words; ‘rat poison’.




I had been walking separately for several minutes, I could hear faint calls from my dad somewhere in the back, reassuring me that I had not walked off too far. The brush was thick and the ground was mushy from the overnight rain, making my boots heavier with every step as the mud stuck to them. I forced my way forward, my rifle in my left hand with my right arm under the barrel. I could feel the moisture in the air, the fog making it difficult to look past a few meters at most.

By now I was aware of the fact that I couldn’t hear the sounds of the moving shrub behind me or my dad calling; I must’ve wandered too far into the woods. I wasn’t sure if I should turn back or march on. I wanted to prove myself a big man, I wanted to hunt my first.

I was startled as a deer jumped from behind the tree and stopped right in front of me. It looked straight at me. My hands froze as I gripped the rifle firmly. I held my breath as I felt my heart start to beat faster, my mind trying to make a quick decision. I stared back at the deer, at its dark eyes and its dark brown color; somewhat hiding underneath the fog.

The deer did not look scared. It looked patient. It was surprised to see me, but was clearly not afraid of me. It did not anticipate that I was out into the woods so far from my own home, into its home, to kill it. For a second I thought about how it would be if that were me; if I found someone outside my house who was there to kill me, for sport. I became unsure of my actions. I got acutely confused. The thoughts of my dad telling me stories of his hunts and all the times I’ve enjoyed feasting on rabbit meat that my dad had hunt. I had always thought him my hero. But this seemed different, this seemed wrong.

I finally slowly moved my arms and pointed the rifle towards the deer, holding my breath. The deer still looked calm, just confused. I put some pressure on the trigger. I heard a loud noise and several birds fly out of the trees as I squeezed my eyes shut. I opened them just a second later to see the deer on the ground, bleeding from its head. It wasn’t moving, it was probably dead before it hit the ground. Did I actually..? My thoughts were interrupted by a figure appearing from behind the trees, wearing a camouflage shirt holding a rifle under his arm. My father.

“You okay son? I got a clean shot. Didn’t even see you here.”

“I’m fine.” I replied, still looking at the deer lying on the ground.

I wasn’t sure what to feel.


Don’t dig your buried treasures out; you never know what you might find. Unless you’re ready to face what you will see.

But if you must, then you must. Pick up the shovel, shove its head into the dirt with all the force in your arms, and then use the strength of your tired legs to push it further into the heart of the earth. You will feel the ground move a little; your heart will beat faster, anticipation. Take a big scoop of rubble and set in on the ground away from the point of interest. Repeat.

You will get to a point where you won’t be able to shovel any more. That will be the point you were looking forward to; the treasure. Buried, for years, away from you and from everyone else.

But you just couldn’t help it.

Throw your shovel to the side, get down onto your knees, reach inside the dark tempting hole in the ground. Start separating the earth with your bare hands. You will feel the dirt getting caught underneath your nail beds. You will feel the blackening spiraling stomach churning dirt stick to your arms. The sweat will pour down. Your heart will beat even faster, you are almost there.

And then, you will see it. A corner, visible, sticking out of the dirt. You will sit there gathering your thoughts for a few seconds, unbelievably looking at the treasure you had buried deep into the ground. You had eventually dug it out yourself. You reach towards it and pull it out. A photograph. Immortal memories. A deep chill down the spine. Goosebumps. As if your heart turned inside out on itself.

The hair, on the forehead, nicely set. New haircut perhaps. Straight face, not an exciting moment it seems. But the look, the look that you still remember, the look that is engraved into your soul.

Now you have the choice, would you put it in your pocket to keep it safe? Or is it time to bury it, deep down, deeper than before?


You’re dead beat from a long day and not really looking forward to the next hectic day, not because you hate your boss but more so because your boss hates you. You’re done surfing through all the 87 useless channels your cable T.V operator provides you. You check facebook one last time on your not so smart phone for any new notifications. You put on your PJs and hop into bed, and spare two minutes to reflect back on how complete your day was before you go to sleep.

To facilitate you in using those two minutes in a rather efficient manner, here is a checklist that you should at all times maintain by your bedside to ascertain whether you could declare your day spent a comprehensively complete Karachi day or not.


  1. Atleast two people in the city were gunned down by na maloom afraad. Check.
  2. Used abusive expressions in atleast three different languages to refer to the KESC. Check.
  3. Waited in an excruciatingly long line to fill up CNG in the car but in the end had to dish out cash to fill up petrol instead since you were getting late for work. Check.
  4. Your window was tapped on by a man dressed up as a woman who repeatedly called you Shahrukh Khan while giving you cute looks. Check.
  5. You cursed or waved your fist at someone on the road. Check.
  6. Someone cursed or waved their fist at you on the road. Check.
  7. Lodged a complaint about your internet connection with WorldCall or PTCL. Check.
  8. Atleast one person you know got deprived of their cell phone and personal belongings at gun point. Check.
  9. Rolled your window up and held your breath till you were way ahead of the damn fish truck. Check.
  10. Covered the 5 km distance from I.I Chundigarh to your house in a record breaking 2 hours. Check.
  11. Lungs got repeatedly filled up with a mixture of second hand smoke, carbon monoxide and methane (courtesy of your co-workers) several times during the course of the day. Check.
  12. Had a craving for dining out at Burns Road. Check.
  13. Had a delightful conversation with someone who could barely keep his mouth open lest the paan would fall out. Check.
  14. Had a craving for some Chicken Garlic Mayo rolls. Check.
  15. Had to take a detour because a perfectly functional road was dug up randomly and magically over night. Check.
  16. Heard someone use the cerebral expanding phrases ‘Haath kay haath’ and ‘De maar saarhay chaar’ needlessly in a sentence. Check.
  17. Spotted another one of those Dr. Ghulam Mujtaba billboards. Check.
  18. Spotted a traffic policeman hitching a ride from someone to get to work. Check.
  19. An elite highly trained sniper paan spitter hanging heroically from the entrance of a mini bus splattered your driver side window with his precision shot. Check.
  20. Heard someone blaring the multi-grammy award winning songs ‘Munni badnaam’ or ‘Jeo Bhutto Benazir’ on their 15watt car speakers in an unnecessarily sooped up Alto. Check.
  21. Spotted ‘Bad Boy 420’, ‘Don’t Jealous’, ‘Gorilla Commando’ and ‘Jhokia No.1’ roaming around the city. Check.
  22. Memorized a new shair from the back of a mini bus or a water tanker and reproduced it for your friends to laugh at. Check
  23.  Car’s windshield was needlessly wiped clean by a pack of pre-pubescent four footers who refused to acknowledge any sort or language; verbal or sign. Check
  24. Thanked God there was no ‘incident’ in the city. Or if there was one, thanked God you weren’t in the center of it. Or if you were, thanked God you made it out alive. Check.
  25. Checked off another day on the calendar till the weekend. Check.



Please note: If you ended up checking 15 items or more every night for a week, you need a break from this city.


The past was fiction. Future is imaginary. It is the present that is alive. And that is with you. And that is where I live. I want to live in the present all my past and future.

You ask me if my stomach churns or my heart skips when I look at you? Even more than that. Everytime.  It is not that that worries me.

I want to build a bridge. A bridge that starts from my soul and flows into your heart. An escalator that starts from your soul and moves up into my heart. I don’t want two entities; I want us to be one. Thoughts that you think that I already know, feelings I feel that make you sad; or happy for that matter. I want to feel alone if you’re not in the same room as I.

I want present to be eternity. It’s not to waiver, not to be severed, not to sway. It has started from stands, which have swung around themselves into a million twists, turning themselves into a rope. A rope I hold at one end; and you at the other. A rope that is life. Yours and mine. Ours. I want the rope to grow. I want the strands to keep twisting around themselves. I want to see nothing but the rope. I want to be always yours, and you always mine.



I love you.


A cigarette in your hand. I know it’s been long since you smoked one. Snugged between two fingers like you just took a drag, and then got distracted by something. Or someone. A dry leaf in the other hand; autumn it seems. Although it doesn’t seem like its cold otherwise, I don’t see a jacket. Just a bag hanging from your shoulder; nicely tucked away. You were always so good at carrying yourself. Crouching down, the dry long leaf in your hand, a little puppy infront of you. Teasing the little animal’s nose with the tip of the leaf. Your hair nicely and neatly tied up, flowing down by your side, the look that is your own.

Everything in place for a perfect picture; apart from your eyes. Your eyes are not there, they are not seeing what the world is seeing. There is sadness. Only I can tell, I’ve seen those eyes much closer than many people would ever in their lives. I can see the depth and the disjunctured gleam in them. They are longing. Perhaps for me? Doubtful. But hurtful nonetheless. I would give anything to find out what is behind them, in their depths, in their infinite ever growing imagination.

I have read your letters. I see the hurt in them. I see myself in them. I am your inspiration, your strife, your bar. You are my sadness.


One year. More than a year actually. Since you died. You live, but you are dead. Dead to the world. A world that once flourished and nurtured from the sincerity of your love. Its nothing but a piece of barren land now. A land with no light or water or air or life. Dead.

I had opened up your head once. Literally. I had you placed on my table with a faint light hanging from the ceiling. I had inspected your brain. The brain that was oozing with blood. I had studied it, I was in it. I was a part of it. It was a part of me. I knew what you were thinking even before you had thought it. I was your thoughts. I sewed it back up once I was done. You had no idea what had happeded.

 You had drugged me. Literally. You had slipped three drops of syanophol into my drink when I wasnt looking. You had watched me fall down. You could see me, you could see me slipping out of my chair onto the floor, but you did not care. Infact, you enjoyed every moment of it. You watched me lay there like a pile of rags. You smiled. I had no idea what had happened.

 Same thing over and over again.


I dream of lost days

I dream of mending my ways

I dream of you standing on a mountain

I dream of dreaming of souls full of wishes


You dream of an open cage

You dream of anger and rage

You dream of soaring high beyond reach

You dream of dreaming for that one day


We dream of tears and laughter

We dream of our lives moving faster

We dream of us, together, you and I

We dream of dreaming, knowing it’s but a dream.


You are my cancer. You are my disease. You are a gangrenous leg, that is rotting and falling off, piece by piece. But not falling off fast enough. The gangrene is crawling up slowly but surely. It wants to take over me. You are an injured limb, an injured limb I don’t have the courage to severe off myself. I’m waiting for you to fall off, but at the same time I’m holding on to you. Letting you from detaching. Harvesting your poison inside me myself. You are not mine. I can see the difference. But your flesh had grown into mine. We had become one.

I will build up courage. I will cut you off. You are vestegeal. You are a disease. You are a corpse that needs to be buried deep in the ground. You have been replaced, by flesh that has become a part of me, and I a part of it.


I paint your name on my wall. I watch the paint drip down till the ground. It messes up my wallpaper. I just stand and stare at it. The tiny drops rolling down the wall, racing against each other to reach the floor. I stand there and stare like a fool.

I tear the wallpaper down. I discover a window behind the flowery patterns. I push it open. I see the sky. The sky is bright red. The clouds are gathering in. They scare me. It looks like rain. I stare in amazement as tiny sparkling dots start to fall from the sky. They look like a million diamonds falling from the  sky. They move slowly. I stand there and stare at them in amazement. They aren’t rain drops. They are shards of glass. They pierce my body. They bury themselves deep inside my skin. I stand there, looking at my dripping blood in amazement. I feel no pain. I feel no shame. I close my eyes.

I open my eyes. Find myself lying in my own pool of blood. The sky is violent. The sky is bright.

inspired my All is violent, All is bright by God is an Astronaut