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Essay News Poem Review Short Story

2024 | Short Story

The Man in Shalimar Gardens

My short story, The Man in Shalimar Gardens, is published in Out of Print 53, a collection of eight stories that, in the words of the editor, “give the reader intensely sharp views into the worlds inhabited by and seen through the lenses of their respective main characters.”

The three women sat in the corner of the upper terrace of Shalimar Gardens which during the Mughal era had been the special space reserved for Emperor’s favourite harem. But for the women that day, because of the heavy smog which descended on Lahore every December, it was torture, The women were expected to make two hundred garlands for a wedding party and supposed to finish by sunset so that the flowers could be hung in the arched walkways of the garden.

The women sat close together on the cold marble floor, their brightly coloured cotton dupattas covering their heads, their deft hands stringing the pearls and flowers together. Every now and again they sprayed the small, white blooms from the gunny sack with rose water. The flowers revived but when the women sprinkled their faces, it did not lessen their discomfort. The morning the air was dense, and their eyes stung. They joked about the bride and groom coughing in each other’s faces during the ceremony.

By eleven o’clock, the atmosphere was grey and thick with a burning smell. The women checked the lower terrace to see if the mist there was any less, and indeed it looked like it was getting clearer. But they knew from experience it was just a mirage, and in reality, there was very little difference.

At noon, there was still a light haze in the atmosphere, but at least now the women could see their fingers. They could also see the other workers around the gardens, sweeping the marble floors and dusting the cobwebs from the lattice in the arches.

‘Look there.’ Shaan sounded annoyed. Her arm pointed to the lower garden where a man had taken off his shirt and was exercising in a pair of tight-fitting gym shorts. His hair was tied in a bun. Even with the distance, it was easy to see his body was toned and muscular…


2024 | Essay

No Country for Women

My essay No Country for Women, is translated into Tamil.

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2024 | News

40 Over 40

I’m thrilled to be included in Jenny Smith’s series, 40 Over 40.

Jenny Smith writes about her project: “I am photographing women who inspire me, many of whom are speaking up for the issues we face.  There is a strong focus on those who are shining a light on midlife and the menopause, making this word less of a taboo and guiding other women through this turbulent time.”



2024 | News

Stories from the Center of the World

I’m delighted that Stories from the Center of the World: New Middle East Fiction is now published.

One of The Millions Most Anticipated Books for Spring!

Featured in Alta Magazine’s New Books for May!

Short stories from 25 emerging and established writers of Middle Eastern and North African origins, a unique collection of voices and viewpoints that illuminate life in the global Arab/Muslim world.

“Provocative and subtle, nuanced and surprising, these stories demonstrate how this complicated and rich region might best be approached–through the power of literature.”–Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Committed

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2024 | Essay

Statues and the Colonised Mind

My essay, Statues and the Colonised Mind, is published by The Bangalore Review.

In the middle of Tavistock Square in London is a monument of Gandhi seated in a meditative pose. Its face is grim and lined, the body almost skeletal. It always has a fresh garland of orange flowers around its neck and a candle burning at the foot of the pedestal. But this morning I saw a woman in front of it and cursing. She tore the flowers off the statue, threw them in the bushes and after shaking her fist at Gandhi, walked away swearing. I was shocked by her reaction. Wasn’t the statue just a mound of bronze? And what was it doing aside from reigning over the park so peacefully? Obviously, the statue had triggered something in the woman.

Statues are controversial – what they represent and what they serve to remind us of. They emphasise, hide, reveal or quash stories. Where they are placed is as important as what they symbolise. In Tavistock Square, Gandhi is at the centre and the head of Virginia Woolf in the far-left corner. Would it make any difference if the monuments were switched with Virginia presiding over the park and Gandhiji watching from the sidelines? Possibly, the dynamic inside the park would be different. Arguably, the statue of a literary figure has a different vibration from that of a political activist not only because their work and writings are so varied but also because of what they signify and represent…


2024 | News

Stories from the Center of the World

I’m thrilled to be a contributor to Stories from the Center of the World, edited by Jordan Elgrably and published by City Lights Publishers on 7th May.

Stories from the Center of the World includes short stories from 25 emerging and established writers of Middle Eastern and North African origins, a unique collection of voices and viewpoints that illuminate life in the global Arab/Muslim world.

“Provocative and subtle, nuanced and surprising… these stories demonstrate how this complicated and rich region might best be approached through the power of literature…” —Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Committed.

The anthololgy includes works by Hanif Kureishi, Nektaria Anastasiadou, MK Harb, Salar Abdoh, Karim Kattan and Omar El Akkad, among others.

Available in paperback and e-book. Download factsheet (pdf)

2024 | Short Story

Drinking Tea at Lahore Chai Masters

My short story, Drinking Tea at Lahore Chai Masters, is published on The Markaz Review.

When Mehreen and Asma compare notes, they realize they are still not unfettered lovers.

Mehreen stretched her arms above her head and yawned. Their eyes met for a moment, then Asma looked away. Their relationship was at a stage where they knew what each other was thinking just from their expressions. The sun was already slipping away without having had its chance to shine because of the smog. Some days were like that. Never succumb, Asma said to herself. Never, not to the noise, or this business of life. Better the silence of sorrow. She had had a craving for karak chai, so they’d come to Lahore Chai Masters, a dilapidated kiosk in one of the gullies off Walton Road. Further down the alley, a group of men were seated in a circle on the ground playing rummy. This is what you did on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

A waiter with a pink showering cap on his head placed two cups of tea on the wooden stool. He covered them with saucers to stop the tea from cooling and keep away the flies. They were his only customers.

“What a time of day it is,” Asma said, “as though our whole lives were compressed into this hour.”

Mehreen gave her a sharp look.

“Doesn’t it?” Asma said.

A crow rocked on the dead wires above them and cawed, Mehreen did not reply but kept her gazed fixed on her. Asma lifted the saucer and picked up her cup. Of course Mehreen had heard her, but why didn’t she respond? What was she thinking? It was moments like these when Asma needed reassurance, and Mehreen wasn’t forthcoming, that Asma felt she’d never been understood…


2023 | Poem

Films From Palestine: A Poem

My poem, Films From Palestine, is published on The Dreaming Machine. It is inspired by 120 films from the Palestinian cinema archives whose titles are strung together in an experiment to see if it is possible to know from their names alone what stories Palestinians want to tell.

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2023 | Short Story

Silence is Golden

My short story, Silence is Golden, is published in The Markaz Review.

His own greatness misunderstood, Dr. Fazal takes a vow


Monday morning and Dr. Fazal was ready for a productive week. Dr. Fazal, to be clear, did not have a PhD, nor was he a medical doctor, but his colleagues called him “Doctor” because he was full of “timeless philosophical wisdoms,” as he said himself.  He’d made the suggestion at an HR meeting in jest when he realized he was always being consulted when there were serious problems to be solved, and the name had stuck. One time, many years ago, he had the feeling that his colleagues were making fun of him, but that was a forgotten memory. When he did remember, he told his wife, “Being wrong is just as powerful as being right. Sometimes even more so.” He’d been at Amber Investments for ten years working as the Deputy Human Resources of HR Manager. He was not in any doubt that a man of his talent and superior intellect was destined for higher places. His favourite saying was, “In six simple words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It starts and stops with me.”


2023 | Short Story

Poached Eggs

My short story, Poached Eggs, is published by On Eating, a multilingual journal of food and eating.

‘Marry me Nuru,’ Jaffer said in his precise, measured tone. ‘Together we’ll build our future in a new Kenya.’

He was standing opposite her desk at the Chambers where she worked. She’d met him several months earlier and they’d struck up a friendship.

Nuru had a Pitman’s Secretarial Diploma and a driver’s licence from the first Ladies Driving School in Nairobi. With her natural beauty and qualifications she felt she deserved a man who really appreciated her.

Jaffer was a confident, self-made, business man. He was shorter than Nuru, already greying, and had very ordinary features. But he was able to charm her with his big dreams. He spoke excitedly about Kenya’s future, saying he believed everything was possible.

Nuru’s family were not happy with her decision to marry Jaffer; they had received many marriage proposals for her from professionals; a lawyer and a dentist.

But Nuru was adamant about Jaffer. ‘He appreciates my ambitions and intelligence,’ she said…