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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth.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?
Review of Warm Beers and Soggy Burgers
A review of my story Warm Beers and Soggy Burgers by Mel Ulm.
I first began to follow the work of Farah Ahamed on April 3, 2015. Warm Beers and Soggy Burgers is the ninth of her short stories upon which I have posted. I reserve such coverage for writers whose talent and insight I greatly value.
Several of her stories are set in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and deal with a wonderful character, Dr. Patel, of whom I have become very fond.
My main purpose here is to continue my records of reading the work of Farah Ahamed and to let interested readers know of the availability of this marvellous short story online.
The story is narrated by an affluent married woman living in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Her husband, Inayat, has booked a family trip to Thailand for next week but neglected to tell her. She is upset as she has a radio job interview set up…
Warm Beers and Soggy Burgers
I’m thrilled that my short story, Warm Beers and Soggy Burgers, is being published in Mechanics’ Institute Review. Publication date, 28th February.
MIR is a contemporary magazine designed to represent the quality and diversity of the UK literary scene. The website is managed by Project Director, Julia Bell, and Managing Editor, Peter John Coles, and maintained and edited by a rotating group of Birkbeck students, alumni and staff.
If you ever come looking for me, you’ll find me sitting in my car at the Kisementi car park, listening to Radio One. Kisementi is a shopping centre on Number 12 Bukoto Street, in Kololo, a suburb of Kampala. Opposite me are the Fat Boyz pub and Payless Supermarket. On my left are a local handicraft shop, The Banana Boat and The Crocodile restaurant and, on my right, the Christian Bookshop. From my car, I enjoy watching the congestion of boda bodas, special hires, taxis, matatus and private cars. I do this every day for a few minutes or few hours. It all depends…
Layers of overlap
Layers of overlap: theatre, cinema, memory, imagination.
An essay, published by The Dream Machine, 30th November 2021.
While watching a play at the theatre, our faces are a paradox. They are private and yet public. We are in the company of others in the auditorium, but once we start watching, we are alone. We drop our masks. Our faces are unguarded, not like when we’re in a café or on a bus, when we are aware of those around us.
For some, as the play progresses, they become more immersed and unselfconscious. But for others, the opposite happens. They may lose interest, or feel uncomfortable. They might choose to avoid confronting what’s on the stage and resort to texting on their phone, or playing with their partner’s hand, or simply closing their eyes and blocking it all. Still others may fidget, waiting for a lull so they can leave the auditorium with minimal disturbance.
There are as many responses to a play as there are people in the audience, and their reactions may be as interesting as the play itself…
An essay, published on The Dream Machine, 25th November 2021.
Ayad Akhtar’s play, The Invisible Hand, recently staged at the Kiln Theatre had an entirely male cast. There were four characters and the setting was a cell in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Akhtar’s play is about Nick, an American banker kidnapped by a terrorist group led by Imam Saleem. Nick’s jail guard is a Dar, who is supervised by Bashir, Imam Saleem’s sidekick. Nick, captured for an exorbitant ransom which he knows no one will pay, promises to raise the money through his expertise of the markets in exchange for his freedom. He teaches Bashir how to study the markets.
The ‘invisible hand,’ is a metaphor and refers to the unseen forces that move the market economy. The play has various overlapping themes, including religious fundamentalism, excessive materialism, human connection, and the lack thereof. During the entire play there are only four moments of humanity displayed by the largely unlikeable characters.
However, it was none of this that made the experience uncomfortable viewing. I’m not against stories or plays with only one gender or jail settings. The claustrophobia of the closed space, a small room remote from the rest of the world, and the inactivity and lack of interaction of the prisoner with the outside, allows a writer or playwright to explore their characters more fully.
It was what the absence of women suggested, in this particular context of frenzied male aggression, which made it harrowing viewing…