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Essay News Poem Review Short Story

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…

www.thedreamingmachine.com/no-time-to-sleep-a-theatre-experience-farah-ahamed

2021 | Essay

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…

www.thedreamingmachine.com/layers-of-overlap-theatre-cinema-memory-imagination-farah-ahamed

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2021 | Essay

Invisible Women

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…

www.thedreamingmachine.com/invisible-women-farah-ahamed

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2021 | Essay

No Time To Sleep: A Theatrical Experience

Essay on No Time To Sleep: A Theatrical Experience. Article in Italian.

In 2019, according to Amnesty, a total of at least 2,307 people were executed in 56 countries around the world; in addition, 27,000 death sentences were handed down. Due to the unreliability of the data, this number is considered artificially low.

No Time to Sleep, è una performance della durata di ventiquattro ore che dà prova della grande potenza della recitazione mettendo in scena il punto di vista di un detenuto condannato a morte. Ho assistito a questo spettacolo due anni fa a Lahore, e ancora oggi mi sveglio spesso nel cuore della notte ripensandoci. La pièce s’incentra sulle ultime ventiquattro ore del detenuto Z, ossia il dottor Zulfiqar Ali Khan, accusato di omicidio in Pakistan. Nell’antefatto, nonostante l’argomentazione dei suoi legali secondo cui egli aveva agito in legittima difesa nel corso di una rapina a mano armata, il verdetto è di omicidio volontario e viene quindi condannato a morte. Zulfiqar trascorre diciassette anni in carcere e sette anni nel braccio della morte, nel corso dei quali la sua esecuzione viene programmata e interrotta più di venti volte. Verrà infine giustiziato nel 2015…

www.lamacchinasognante.com/no-time-to-sleep-unesperienza-teatrale-farah-ahamed

2021 | Essay

No Time To Sleep: A Theatre Experience

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…

www.thedreamingmachine.com/no-time-to-sleep-a-theatre-experience-farah-ahamed

2021 | Essay

My Personal Anthology

I live in the heart of Bloomsbury which is home to many squares and monuments. During this last lockdown, the cherry blossom tree in the far right corner of Tavistock Square burst into bloom and covered the park bench in soft, pink petals, while blackbirds trilled away on the boughs. Gandhi sits in the middle of the square, presiding over empty benches, squirrels, cat sized rats, and rough sleepers camping under over-grown bushes…

apersonalanthology.com/category/farah-ahamed-as-editor

2019 | Essay

Menstruation in Fiction

An essay published by Ploughshares at Emerson College.

A period is something I deal with, without thinking about it particularly, or rather I think of it with a part of my mind that deals with routine problems. It is the same part of my mind that deals with the problem of routine cleanliness.” In Doris Lessing’s 1962 novel, The Golden Notebook, the protagonist, Anna, worries about her period and how it will affect the integrity of her writing. In the early 1960s, it was unusual and brave for a work of fiction to mention menstruation, let alone explore it in such detail. Broadly speaking, in mainstream fiction, examples of menstruation are few and far between.

Until recently, the topic of menstruation has been universally regarded as taboo, shrouded in secrecy and mythology. Historically, in some cultures, men refused to acknowledge it, in order to maintain a romantic image of women. In others, it is still linked with ritual impurity and lunar madness, while in certain hunter-gatherer and mountain communities, it is viewed as a sacred time for female solidarity, associated with healing and psychic powers. These ideas and practices are reflected in those few works that deal with the subject, which incorporate themes of learnt shame and the existence of women “elsewhere” due to some form of negative transformation…

blog.pshares.org/menstruation-in-fiction

2019 | Essay

Staring at Statues

Staring at Statues, published in Kitaab (South Asian Journal).

The longer you look at an object, the more of the world you see in it. No matter how particular the scene, if you stare long enough you will see the whole world in it.” These words, from the pen of Flannery O’Connor, refer to that split second when we can “see things for what they really are” and they led me to reflect upon which “objects” could offer an understanding of the “whole world”,

Recently, monuments across the globe have become the subject of controversy. After eighty years at the University of Cape Town, the bronze of white supremacist Cecil Rhodes was removed; at the University of North Carolina, Silent Sam, a Confederate statue, was taken down and, in San Francisco, a 19thCentury monument, Early Days, demeaning to Native Americans, was uninstalled. Where for decades they had previously stood accepted as part of the landscape, now these statues outraged viewers. Altered circumstances meant they represented an uncomfortable “truth”, which some argued should not be commemorated, but also in fact, ought to be erased…

kitaab.org/2019/09/29/essay-staring-at-statues/

2019 | Essay

A Paper Boat on the Ganges

A Paper Boat on the Ganges, published in Kitaab.

To Die in Benares, (2018) translated from the French by Blake Smith, is a collection of seven stories, which have this cathartic effect. I will illustrate this by analysing the first story A Paper Boat in the Ganges, which centres on the life of Fougerre who has to confront Aristotlean obstacles in his life; colonialism, mythological gods, and fate. Set in Pondicherry at a time when it was still under French occupation, the story covers almost fifty years and presents a compressed montage of brisk, vivid scenes each with intense gesture and detail…

kitaab.org

2018 | Essay

The Tyranny of History

In this essay, one of two runners-up in the 2018 Thresholds International Short Fiction Feature Writing Competition, Farah Ahamed examines the shifting nature of political and historical events in satirical short stories by R.K. Narayan and Ivan Vladislavic.

If, one wintry afternoon, you were to find yourself walking in Bloomsbury, and you decided to take a stroll in Tavistock Square, you might see a woman in a black winter coat and red hat standing in front of the monument in the middle of the square. Nothing unusual about that, you might say, except that, if you were to stare long enough you might see her dusting the snow from the statue, removing dead flowers from its neck and replacing them with a fresh garland. If you were to go closer and observe more carefully, you would see her wiping away the cobwebs from the statue’s ears and nostrils, and lighting candles in the hollow base of the pedestal. If you were curious enough to walk around the monument, you would find yourself looking at the sculpture of an emaciated, half-naked old man, seated in a posture of contemplation. Peer at the inscription, and you would discover it is none other than: Mahatma Gandhi.

If by chance you pass through the square on International Women’s Day and see the purple-and-green banner, More Statues of Women, on the railings near the statue of Virginia Woolf, you might ask yourself: after fifty years in the square, should Gandhi be replaced by the statue of a woman who changed history? And if so, what would happen to the monument of him?…

thresholds.chi.ac.uk/the-tyranny-of-history