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Essay News Poem Review Short Story

2023 | Short Story

Rich and Poor People

My short story Rich and Poor People published The Markaz Review.

Rich people have no idea what it’s like to be poor.


When you’re poor, you’re used to people dropping dead like flies and spending half your salary every month on funerals. Being poor means you’ll die young, because if you’re ill, you won’t have a car to take you to the hospital. And if by some luck you get there by bus, you’ll have to sit on the cold floor in the hospital corridor and wait for hours. And when the nurse finally takes you in, there’ll be no bed, medicine, or doctor. If you survive, your baby might die. If you hit your chest and cry, everyone will say it was God’s will, and if He took away your child, maybe one day He’ll give you a chance to change your destiny and know what it’s like to live like the rich.

Rich people have the luxury to mourn. They make a fuss about every death as if it were not a daily occurrence. Take Ma’am Farida and Mr. Abdul. I’ve been working for them for twelve years now. Last month Mr. Abdul died of a heart attack, and now Ma’am Farida is heartbroken. Every morning she opens the sliding doors to the balcony and looks at the apartment directly across the way. If you asked her why she was so interested in the neighbors, she’d tell you she didn’t care about them — it was what they were feeding the crows that bothered her. That’s another trait of the rich: They’re not interested in the poor, but more worried about the birds starving…


2023 | News

Hot Mango Chutney Sauce

I’m delighted that my short story, Hot Mango Chutney Sauce, has been published by The Dream Machine.

It was only yesterday when the last girl, Maryam, took her turn with paracetamols and cheap alcohol. A few weeks earlier, Zainab had done the same, but Laila, who had followed Hafsa, had slit her wrists. When the police took us in for questioning, we said we were ready to cooperate. We even offered to share our photographs. After all, who better than us could explain what happened to the girls? We sit in the row of kiosks on the left side of the car park as you face the front of the shrine. The tasbihs and Ajrak scarves hanging on the frames of our windows provide a curtain from behind which we observed the events as they unfolded in the shrine compound…


2022 | Essay

No Time To Sleep

My essay, No Time To Sleep: a theatre experience, has been published by Memoir Monday.

Memoir Monday is a weekly newsletter featuring the best personal essays from around the web, in collaboration with a wide range of publications including: Narratively, The Rumpus, Catapult, Granta, Guernica, Oldster Magazine, Literary Hub, and Orion Magazine.

In 2019, according to Amnesty, there were at least 2,307 deaths from capital punishment and 27,000 facing the death sentence in 56 countries. This number is considered to be artificially low because of the unavailability of reliable information. 60% of the world’s population live in states where capital punishment is legal.

No Time to Sleep, is a twenty four hour live performance in the shoes of a dead man, showing acting at its most powerful. I watched it two years ago when I was in Lahore, but even now, I often wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. The play is based on the final hours of Prisoner Z or Dr Zulfiqar Ali Khan, a person, charged with murder in Pakistan. Even though his lawyers argued that Zulfiqar had acted purely out of self-defence during an armed robbery he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Zulfiqar spent seventeen years incarcerated, and seven years on the death-row during which time his execution was scheduled and halted more than twenty times. He was executed in 2015…


2022 | Review

Anarkali, or Six Early Deaths in Lahore

A review by Mel Ulm of my short story, Anarkali, or Six Early Deaths in Lahore. Published in The Reading Life.

I have been closely following the work of Farah Ahamed since April 15, 2015.  Anarkali, or Six Deaths in Lahore is set in contemporary Lagore, the capital of Pakistan. This marvellous story focuses on how six connected people die as a result of the corruption and deeply embedded cultural and religious prejudices in Pakistan…


2022 | News

Shortlisted, Bridport Short Story Prize

I am very pleased to have been shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize, for my story Just a Name.


2022 | Short Story

Anarkali, or Six Early Deaths in Lahore

My short story Anarkali, or Six Early Deaths in Lahore has been published in The Markaz Review.

In the ancient romantic tale, Anarkali was a courtesan dancer in the Mughal court of Salim Jahangir who dared to fall in love with him. As the story goes, she was buried or burnt alive for her crime. Here, she is a poor street sweeper in Lahore, nicknamed Anarkali by a white professor researching bombing incidents on the city’s churches. Anarkali is the ordinary woman who is invisible, who goes unnoticed and unremarked by history. She is the one who dares to live her life in her own way, and pays a heavy price for it. Even today, centuries later, for a woman to love someone outside her class and caste is fraught with danger.


2022 | Short Story

Hot Mango Chutney Sauce

My story, Hot Mango Chutney Sauce, was shortlisted for the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Watch the office music video of Hot Mango Chutney Sauce, starring Meesha Shafi and featuring Swineryy.

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2022 | Poem

Don’t Ask Me

A poem published on La Macchina Sognante, an Italian-language website founded by writers and poets who felt the need to build a space for writings and debates, both national and international.

Don’t Ask Me

Don’t ask me my name, ask me where I’m from, where I’m really from, where I was born,
why I was born there and where I live now and why.

Don’t tell me your name, or why you’re here near the security checkpoint, in the middle of
the mountain ranges, selling second-hand shoes from a kiosk with a broken roof.

Tell me instead about the time you stood in the middle of a field watching the night sky
during a thunderstorm.


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2022 | Poem


Written on 7th April 2022, moved by world events.

A is for Afghanistan (countries not allowed) is for the apple tree that won’t grow in the orchard that we called Eden now filled with rubble

B is for boy, the one left behind, the one who made it on the train alone, the one who watched the sky falling down, the last thing he saw

C is for cat, the one trapped under the kitchen table the night the house collapsed…


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2022 | News

Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize

I’m thrilled to be included in the shortlist for this year’s Commonwealth Short Story Prize for my story Hot Chutney Mango Sauce.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. This year’s shortlist was chosen by the international judging panel from over 6700 entries from 52 Commonwealth countries…

It was only yesterday when the last girl, Maryam, took her turn with paracetamols and cheap alcohol. A few weeks earlier, Zainab, had done the same, but Laila, who had followed Hafsa, had slit her wrists. When the police took us in for questioning, we said we were ready to cooperate. We even offered to share our photographs. After all, who better than us could explain what happened to the girls?


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