Jan 12, 2011

Global Inequality

By Souha Khan

Most days I wish I was a crisp hundred dollar bill instead of a brown girl from South Asia. Everyone would want me in their pockets, smile when they would hold me in their hands or flaunt me like the crown on Queen Elizabeth’s head.

You see, a hundred dollar bill has no limitations. It can travel far and wide, passed on from wallet to purse. People would feel lucky to get their hands on it. They would all smile at it, eyes gleaming like the lights on the tall trees on Christmas morning. Yes, a hundred dollar bill has it easy; however, people like me do not.

Days that are not spent wishing I was a hundred dollar bill are spent regretting my decision to move to Quebec. Why Quebec? Was it the name that attracted me? Or was it the fact that people spoke French? The latter seems more likely. Perhaps, the decision was influenced by a childhood dream; something about retiring in a Villa with its giant Mahogany doors; of vine yards and silk drapes. What in the world was I thinking? Maybe that is just it. I wasn’t thinking.

Moving to a new country straight out of college is as wise as stealing money from a Leprechaun. But there I was relocating to Quebec right after graduation. Part of the reason was to look for a job to pay my parents back for the money they had spent on college funds. When your parents have low wage jobs, money does not come easy.   

I started off applying for jobs related to my major; journalism. Thinking I would be employed right away was like thinking I would be wearing the Cullinan diamond on my ring finger next fall; down right impossible. So I went for something more attainable.

Now, if I were a dollar bill, the pale face belonging to the horizontally challenged man sitting behind that desk at North-West Elementary would have worn a completely different expression than it did on that unpleasant December morning as I stepped in.

The fluorescent lights on the ceiling illuminated the insipid surroundings casting a shadow across the man’s already scowling face. Unnerved, I walked up to his desk.

“Um..I’m here to apply for the position of the English teacher” I said.

His chapped lips parted slightly and he gurgled. Unless he had swallowed a toad by mistake, the only logical explanation I could come up with was that he had a heavy French accent.

“You need to wait” he said.

His tone made it seem like he was doing me a favor just buy saying those words.

Snubbed, I went and sat down on one of the cold hard chairs that lined the wall on the opposite corner. Meanwhile, the man behind the desk picked up the receiver and with his stubby round fingers pressed a bunch of numbers. I silently followed his words while he talked to the person on the other end in French. I guess watching all those French soaps paid off. Not only could I keep up with everything he said but I felt a certain reassurance at the sound of it. It reminded me that all that effort spent learning a third language was a sensible thing to do.

“Elle est un immigrant” I heard him say.

“Excusez-moi..” I interrupted and explained to him that I was not an immigrant but a Canadian national.

He turned his head to look at me. The expression on his face similar to what your face would look like if you were to hear a dog talk.

It took him around ten seconds to switch the lights back on in his brain and turn his head back and whisper into the receiver.

The frowning and spitting venom was starting to make more sense now.

I may know how to speak in French but that does not change the fact that I am South Asian. I could go to a ballet in France and say “J'aime le ballet! C'est un Jou de Vie!” But that will not stop the officer at the gate from saying “Nice act, madam, now lets have a look at some Id, shall we?”

The man had hung up the phone now and was taking out a form. He wrote something on it and called me to fill it out. I got up and made my way towards his desk. The form was fairly simple and required me to write down essential details, from my name to my college major. What caught my eye however, was a tiny blue line, striking out the numbers which were to represent the salary. On top of it was another number written in hand, much lesser than the original pay. Phrases like “Racism helps fuel economic inequality”, “Data confirming that the average salary of white staff is higher than black employees is consistent with CURE's Annual Review”,  “Workforce Survey reports (ARWS) substantiate racial inequality” “Economic disparity between races”, “Asian woman denied equal pay”, came to mind.

You see, I was the kind of person who would never have paid attention to statistics in news reports or articles. But the day you become a statistic, believe me that changes things.

I looked up to find the man now reading the newspaper. The headline read, “Income Gap across the Continents Widens”. Understanding the situation a little too well, I was forced to accept reality even if it ended up feeling like a lump in my throat; the kind you get when you dry swallow a pill. Somehow I managed to fill out the rest of the form and after handing it to the man I turned and made my way out.

Perhaps, this is exactly the type of circumstance where being a hundred dollar bill would have been much more convenient. 

A Prisoner's Diary

By Najia Navaid

18th March 1988

I am a murderer. Or so they say.

I was captured on the thirteenth of January, 1947. It was the year of independence of the subcontinent. A year when blood in the streets was as common as the black crows that perched on our boundary walls.

Those were dark times, dangerous times. Children stopped going to schools and women didn't step outside of their homes without a male companion.. Windows were kept shut, doors kept locked, curtains drawn. Young men with rifles, both Hindu and Muslim, roamed the streets, firing at will.

I was, and believe I still am, a member of the Muslim League. The vision of independence had sparked in all of us a fire which would never burn out. A fire which gave us courage, hope, and the strength to be willing to die for the cause.

We were all young men, hearts burning with the same fire. On 26th August 1946, i was admitted to the hospital for severe bleeding. I had gotten involved in a fight with the Hindus who were playing music outside our mosque. On 4th October 1946, I was admitted again. I had jumped at the men who were harassing a Muslim girl.

On 13th December 1946, my daughter was born and my resolve strengthened. I wanted to give her everything I did not have: freedom, merriment, a childhood without constant fear.

On 13th January 1947, I last kissed my wife and daughter as I left for prayers. I returned back with a Hindu friend. He was a lover of peace and believed that the only way forward was to be separated by a frontier. He was a wise man and I respected him greatly.

We parted at his gate and I made my way to my own house. But when I reached the door, I knew something had gone horribly wrong. My life would never be the same again.

The door was hanging on its hinges, lock broken. The window had been shattered, the way it breaks when a chair is thrown at it. The curtain over the door, which my sweet wife had so painstakingly embroidered, had been torn off, a gaping rip in the center.

I ran inside, panic gripping my nerves. Broken dishes, clothes strewn over the floor, a trunk lying on its side, a few drops of blood.

No, no, no! My mind was screaming as I ran through the house, yelling for my wife and kid. My head was spinning, my hands were shaking. My stomach clenched and unclenched, clenched and unclenched. My heart, oh my heart, it constricted in pain.

I knew there was nothing I could do. I had no evidence, no leads. My family: gone.

It was not the fear that they had died. No, it would have been better if they had. It was not knowing what they were going through. Rape, mutilation, beating. That was what would happen and I knew it. I was helpless, an animal in a cage.

I know it was wrong to kill him, but I was in a deranged frenzy, mad with grief and horror. Angry.

I killed my Hindu friend. In that state of mind it was Hindu vs Muslim, religion vs religion, me against him. I remember the shock in his eyes as he rasped his last. Blood for blood, no matter whose it was.

If I hadn't been captured, if his wife hadn't called the guards, I would have killed every single Hindu on our street

Yes, it was wrong; yes, it was unfair. But then, when were we offered justice either? Were our women not raped? Our people not massacred? The rage from a decade of brutality was boiling up inside me, choking me.

I am still in prison today, mine was a lifetime of imprisonment. I never saw Pakistan, never tasted freedom.

I am writing this down, but do not think too badly of me. I am wiser now, it comes with wrinkles. I am ashamed, yes. But inequality breeds nothing but hate, which in turn breeds racism.

And at that time, it was all I could do to avenge my family.

A Day in the Life of Two Maids

by Dania Shah Khan


Every day I have to go by bus to my mistress’s house. It stinks and I wrap my dupatta on my face so I can’t take in the putrid sweat of the people beside me. Some of the men in the bus stare at women with dirty, sleazy glances. I feel conscious as I sit there on my tattered broken seat. It’s a long journey and it takes an hour to reach there. It’s suffocating under my faded green dupatta and I welcome the end of the journey with a great sigh and step outside of the bus. From there it’s a walk to my mistress’s home. It’s a beautiful two storey house with everything that I dream my house would be.

Its straight nine ‘o’ clock and I start with preparing breakfast and clearing the kitchen and surroundings. It’s backbreaking work and I have to do it on my own with only a lazy old maid to help me who can’t even help herself. It’s extremely hot and I sweat and huff and puff.

I wash the breakfast dishes which are a mighty pile! Oh God! I say inside my heart. Then it’s lunch what a big dish to make. Today it’s Nihari and will take time. Again the dishes, someone cries out ‘Make Green tea!’ and I have to boil the water for it. Meanwhile time is running out and I have to read namaz, clear the kitchen and prepare the nights food! So much to do! I am speeding all this when the old maid comes with a sly smile and exclaims ‘What’s the hurry for! You want to avoid the work don’t you? Leaving it all to me huh? Thinking I will do it when you go!”

“No, no! My kids are waiting at home and it takes an hour to reach there and it get’s late! They are on their own!”

“Excuses, excuses, all excuses, don’t you dare do such fast work, you better slow down or the nights food will be all cold and bad!”

I calm myself down, so I don’t shout and start a fight otherwise the mistress’s nerves are affected.

“Make me noodles, I’m hungry!” cries out her son and runs off, expecting it to be done.

“But you just ate Nihari!” And then I remembered he hardly did, he left it for me to finish off. But it’s okay I’ll take it to my children to have. They’ll be happy unlike these ungrateful children who get everything. I quickly prepare noodles for the boy with the old maid tutting behind my back and run to the night food which is biryani before it burns and is spoiled. The boy grabs the noodles without any gratitude but I’m used to it and comment’s that it’s not the way he likes it. Oh God! Clearing up the dishes and mopping the floor I check the time. Oh God! It’s six! And my time to go is five!

I rush home but the nosy driver has to check what I’m taking in case I’m stealing something! It takes 15 minutes and he takes a mighty long time to do it. The bus is about to go but I catch it in time almost falling back as I do so. When I get back home to my tiny house I try to avoid my dupatta from trailing in a dirty street with litter strewn around and pools of polluted water on the ground. I enter through the almost collapsing broken door and rush to prepare food for my kids and give time to my husband and tolerate my mother in law’s bickering. The day has not ended for me yet.


Every day I go by the double Decker bus to two elderly people living in the East side of London. It seems like there are people from the entire world in just one bus. An African lady, a Filipino and another Punjabi woman like me sitting opposite. She says Salaam and I say Salaam back. The journey takes half an hour from where I live but I spend it looking out at the corner shops and supermarkets.

 The air is extremely chilly when I get off at the bus stop. Their house is a few minutes away and I walk wrapped up in my thick shawl and long coat. It’s a comfortable medium size house which is attached to another house; all houses in London are such. I ring the bell and Mr. Khan opens the door, he is Pakistani as well like me he and his wife greet me with a Salaam.

 It’s nine ‘o’ Clock. I start slowly with the kitchen preparing the breakfast although Mr. Khan helps me most of the time as he is a man who does not spend his time idle, and his wife is wheelchair bound and cannot help, in most of the house matters. There are only a few dishes to tend to and I am done with it in quite a reasonable time. The house needs cleaning and I hover and scrub the bathroom quite well.  Then time to make lunch. It’s Nihari today.  I take my time preparing it and talk to Mrs. Khan who is quite bored and restless. “My daughter in Karachi tells me she can’t handle her Masi, she’s always in a hurry to go home, it’s really terrible.” I feel bad for the maid there; poor woman has so much to bear. I’ve heard the Khan’s daughter’s family is quite large and most of the time that Masi is working. And she only receives seven thousand rupees a month which is nothing here.

 I have to clear the dishes again and prepare green tea.  I have time to rest, sometime I do Mrs. Khan’s itty bitty jobs or answer to Mr. Khan’s orders like changing the bedcovers or hanging the clothes on the line in the garden. He can get very particular. He always needs his work to be done in a certain way. I have to put the dishes on the table in the way he wants it, even if it’s slightly to the left or right he gets in a fit.

It’s four o clock and almost my time to go but I leave early because my kids are at home and they asked for fish and chips on the way back. The Khan’s don’t have any problem with that. I go back by bus leisurely and buy the greasy and warm fish and chips on the way. My house is the same as Mr. and Mrs.Khan’s which is a nice little street with cozy houses. My kids swarm around me as they spy the food and my husband asks me to prepare food for him. I have brought the Nihari from their house as they told me to take some of it home and he enjoys it thoroughly. And that is how most of my day is spent. 

Jan 3, 2011

By Fatima Arfeen

The harsh crashing down of the waterfall filled the air, swaying along with it the bridge
that led up to this heavenly, rainbow like colourful expanse to its East. The dome like
frame of Ivy welcomed beyond itself a scene of such lush greenery that could almost
pass for the next wonder of the world. Warm and comforting, the serenity felt almost
Lined with a backdrop of thick, impenetrable, towering bushes, a deep green as
that of mint leaves, the boundary of the garden had been demarcated. At its feet grew
comparatively shorter, well trimmed trees; a mixture of oak and acacia crowding the
area, unwilling to let the slashing sunshine through. Creeper plants twined their way up
against the flakey texture of the barks, their small, folded, overlapping leaves almost
inconspicuous in the dark thicket. Another layer of pink and white Dogwood trees
dominated the landscape, breaking the monotony of the evergreen. The paper- like petals
clustered along the length of its sleek branches spread out over the area casting long
shadows. A scatter of Baltimore trees peeped out from in between, adding tones of blood
red and ashen purple, the low fork like growth of the offshoots of which, small, ceramic
bird houses painted with bright, fluorescent patterns adorned.
Following the cemented walkway towards the centrally erected chapel like structure,
a colourful burst of seemingly endless flower beds and piercing green grass lies on
either side. The dull lilac Azalea shrubs contrast sharply with the surrounding clusters
of sunshine yellow, blood red, royal blue, baby pink and grey-white that grew with the
resemblance of a light snow shower. The long stemmed, crimson tulips, most prominent
of all, swayed in waves, like the lapping of the ocean, with the breeze that carried the
distinct scent of roses growing alongside. Neat rows of peach and off white roses ran
rampant as far as the eye could see, their majesty interrupted only by the sparse bushes
of lavender. In the distance, the bold golden of the daffodils blended together with
primroses, lay bordering the horizon, their light, delicate petals carpeting the ground.
It appeared that the care was being neglected, though. Weeds had taken root in the
healthiest corners of the garden and were spreading like slow venom.. Death of the
present luscious beauty was becoming increasingly inevitable.


An eerie silence had now descended upon the place that was once bursting with life.
Nothing but the thrashing of water against rocks disturbed the stillness of the air. It was
almost as if even the sun had refused to embrace the disaster stricken wreck with its
warmth and breathe life into it again. Nothing more remained of the former splendor but
the crumbled ashes and the pungent, lingering stench of death; the radiant heartbeat that
pulsed through was now overpowered by the crushing doom that had been unleashed.
The uprooted cement path gave way to a morbid, desolate, open expanse of land that
became the grave to the tranquility it once bore. As if an inferno had raged across the
garden with its full might, everything had been turned to shades of maroon, dust and soot.
The fence of Ivy no longer recognizable, the tulips and roses were brutally trespassed
across, ripped apart to shreds and scattered as if commemorating a memorial. The grassy
vastness had been consumed entirely and replaced with coats of auburn and burnt red
In the dim light of the stormy skies, nothing but the silhouettes of shapeless objects
could be identified. The trees that had mocked the heavens lay naked against the cold
floor, toppled over one another, their barks parched, ripped of their branches viciously,
and cast aside, crushing beneath them the remnants of the fluffy Daffodils. Powdered
deposits of dust in patches were the only proof of the existence of life in the bird houses
they once happened to be. The continuity of the bushes along the boundary had been
lacerated and disturbed with such intensity, the intent of the enemy was made evident. A
clear trace of their route could be chalked out from where they penetrated the bridge to
where they continued their trail of destruction..

The Baked Beans Saga

By Saniya Kamal

Note before reading: Baked beans are not among the more popular dietary items because of the
pungent odour the eater lets out once they’re eaten. Therefore, baked beans are often avoided.

In every conventional sense, Harold Smith was a good citizen. He would abide by traffic rules, he would
never litter and once he had even helped an old mute lady cross the road. The fact that the old lady
did not want to cross the road in the first place is another argument entirely. But if Harold could be
incriminated for something, it would be chronic air pollution. Harold was addicted to baked beans and
hence was the constant source of a hazardous gas. His continual emissions deepened the problem of
global warming even further. Those who had the great misfortune of being around him could only pray
for a quicker, less torturing death. But God did not show them such mercy and neither did Harold.

Tired of her husband’s incessant gaseous problem, on their twentieth anniversary, Nancy Smith had only
one gift in mind.

“Please don’t eat them today. You know how much I hate them! Please Harold, please!”

After a lot of begging on Nancy’s part, Harold left for work with a single promise – not today. In his office
the hours trickled by. Baked bean deprivation was not a trivial issue for him. On his way home, Harold
passed by his favourite baked bean shop. Today it enticed him more than anything. And all he could
do was long for it, or perhaps not. If he ate some, how would his wife know? The instant this thought
occurred to him, it occupied him, spreading like a virus. Before he knew it, Harold found himself walking
towards the shop, every long and hurried step hinting his yearning.

When he was heading home, Harold felt ashamed. A frenzy had taken over him and he had gobbled
down those beans like a starving animal. He entered his house hoping that his wife wouldn’t see the
guilt on his face. But she was too overcome with joy to even notice an elephant singing Britney Spears.

“Oh Harold!” she hugged him, “I’m so glad that you did this. You don’t know how much this means to
me. Now, I’ve got a special surprise for you!”

With that, she blind-folded him and led him to what Harold could feel was their dining table. She
pulled a chair out for him and helped him sit down. Just when she was about to take the blind-fold off,
Harold felt it, the urge. What would he do? His wife would find out! He needed a savior, and fast! The
savior turned out to be a grey coloured contraption placed in their lounge that enabled two-way voice
communication. Ttrrnngg! Ttrrnngg! The phone rang.

“Uh-oh, I’ll be right back, no peeking!”

As soon as his wife stepped out, Harold exploded, or at least it sounded so. The blast was the first of
many, a chain reaction had begun. One after the other, Harold smelled the evidence of his crime diffuse
away. And even though he was in a room with an extremely foul stench, he couldn’t stop smiling. His
wife would never know.

Indeed when his returned, she had not the slightest idea. She quickly took the blind-fold off.

“Open your eyes! Surprise!”

And Harold saw that the room was full of traumatized guests.

The Affair

By Naima Qamar

At four thirty in the morning you could hear the birds chirping outside the room because the window was open. A call to prayer could be heard from the distance. Cool gusts of wind blew in as the night bid farewell and welcomed the morning light in. The window faced east and the dark, shadowy room became more and more visible as a new day ushered in. The walls appeared white at night now had turned a light shade of pink.
The closet door lay open, coats, shirts, pants and a few items of women's clothing lay scattered on the floor. A warped picture, lay among the clothes. Its edges looked as if they had been burned. The woman in it had auburn hair and dancing, green eyes. There was another picture, a framed one, lying on the bed, its glass broken. It was a wedding picture, both the bride and groom looked ecstatic.
It was six am now. Sunlight streamed into the room but the window was far away from the bed, where someone was sleeping. On the table, you could have seen bottles of perfumes, colognes and lipsticks but they were instead on the floor, next to a pair of blue trousers. It seemed as if someone had struck out a hand and thrown them deliberately. A bottle of "Envy" had smashed, its contents had stained a red stain robe.
The room contained a bed, a closet and a table.It would have been neat, had the floor been without the added clutter.
The phone on the table rang but the sleeper did not stir. The answering machine took over, "Samanatha, honey, sorry I didn't call last night. We had an urgent meeting and I was up making reports. I'll be there for breakfast. Have my coffee ready, please, truly no one knows how to make it the way I like it. Love you."
The phone beeped into silence. You could see the wooden door kept ajar as if the woman sleeping on the bed, tired out with her night's vigil had been waiting for a husband who did not come home.

V Files: Chapter 6 - I Think I Love You

By Sama Khawaja

Destiny angrily cast a pebble into the rolling waves of the ocean.
‘Rhett is such a...UGH!’ she screamed in her mind. ‘I know I brought the wrong file but at least examine it before giving me hell! Arrogant egomaniac!’
She heaved a sigh and let the cool waves lap over her bare feet as she watched the sun set. She loved coming here when she actually felt like breaking something, preferably Rhett’s face. It calmed her temper and let her think rationally. The first thing that did pop up was the hallucination she had in the lab.
‘Why me? And why now?’ she pondered. ‘Is it for the organization’s benefit? Or mine?’
‘It isn’t your fault, you know,’ said a familiar calm voice behind her. She sighed deeply as River sauntered over to her side but she continued to look ahead at the setting sun. The waves seemed to be the only thing in the picture that wasn’t tense.
‘We were all really stressed out back there,’ he continued when she didn’t respond. ‘The GroundUnders were large in number and all. I’d be scared and mess up too if I were-!’
‘I wasn’t scared,’ she cut in curtly. ‘And I didn’t mess up.’
River sighed and shuffled his feet uncomfortably. The setting sun painted a gorgeous departure for its onlookers; using soft pastel shades the colours seemed to meld into one another to form new, even more breath-taking hues.
‘Looks beautiful, doesn’t it?’ Destiny mused, hoping to break the awkward silence.
‘Yes, very,’ he murmured softly and she flinched. She could tell he wasn’t looking at the view and saying this.
‘River, this needs to be said,’ she said firmly and turned to face him. ‘You have to stop. Just…stop caring about me…’
‘You say it like it’s the easiest thing to do,’ he murmured, his eyes reflecting hurt.
‘I know it’s not! I just…you know it’s not that simple for me to-!’
‘To what? And since when has anything in our lives been simple, Destiny?’
‘Exactly. Which is why we can’t.’
‘You actually believe that there’s a ‘we’.’
‘Don’t mess with me, River. I’m not in the mood.’
‘Oh, so you can disregard my feelings but I have to be sensitive about yours?? How fair is that, Dee?’
Destiny sighed. ‘I think I love you, River,’ she managed to say in a strained voice. ‘But I’m not so sure.’
‘Don’t mess around with me, Destiny.  You say you don’t love me but you also say that you can’t see me as ‘just a friend’ either. What do you want, Destiny?’
‘I don’t know…’
‘That isn’t helping, Dee.’
Destiny threw her hands up in exasperation.
‘Well then I’m sorry, River! I’m sorry I can’t make your life easier while mine is slowly spiraling towards confusion! You want an answer? Here’s my answer: stay AWAY from me!’
And with that, she stomped away, grabbing her shoes on the way. She expected him to stop her. He didn’t.
‘Like I care anymore,’ she thought bitterly but unfortunately, she did.
She continued venting in her head until she stopped to sink onto a bench in a skateboarding park. She groaned as she buried her face in her hands.
‘Who am I kidding?’ she mumbled.
‘You know you’re messing with his head,’ a mischievous voice drawled right next to her.
‘You actually enjoy stalking me, don’t you, Keido?’ Destiny said coolly and raised her head to narrow her eyes at the annoying redhead.
‘What can I say? You’re quite interesting to watch,’ Keido said and looked up at the bleary sky.
‘What do you mean?’
‘C’mon! I’ve seen the way you always look at him!’
‘So you’re always looking at me?’
‘Oops! You caught me,’ he smirked, his eyes twinkled impishly.
‘I don’t know who I hate more now,’ she seethed as she got up. ‘You or Rhett.’
‘Don’t insult me. I’m nothing like my brother. But seriously, Destiny, before you start blaming River for making the moves on you, you ain’t no saint yourself in this mess you call a relationship.’
‘It’s NOT a relationship, Keido.’
‘Ugh! I can’t think with you idiots spying on me 24/7!’ Destiny snapped and caught sight of a 250cc Street Cruiser motorcycle with a phoenix silhouette imprinted on the hood. Vice’s insignia. She strolled over to it and hopped on gracefully.
‘Hey! That’s mine!’ Keido argued and dropped the pompous attitude as he sprung to his feet in alarm.
‘Walk. You could lose the weight,’ she remarked as she whirred the engine and sped off.

The Gangster: Carpe Diem

By Fatima Arfeen

They say what you cannot define does not exist; what if who you are becomes what
you can no longer define? Do you cease to exist? What is that boundary we’re so often
warned about? The one that ‘divides’. That intangible line you never realize you’ve
slipped past until it’s too late? You’re so far consumed by what landed you in that state
of limbo to begin with, it becomes virtually impossible to decipher the voices in your
head. They taunt and they taunt and they taunt. Times like those, the one-way street to
an inevitable doom becomes the only street left to walk because turning back is only just
that fragment of your mind that refuses to release its grasp on denial. Fear, they call it.
That sickly feeling that impresses itself upon you, making you question not only your
sanity, but your humanity. And what if… what if you find you can no longer define
those either? That, my friend, is when you come closest to selling your soul to the devil
in bargain to satisfy your cravings for the smallest ounce of peace, thinking it’ll rid you
of the turbulence within. Sadly, even that evades and abandons. Nothing more is left
of “you” than that hollow shell. The very shell that so convincingly resembles my being.
I tear myself away from the cold eyes that stare back hard in my reflection. I run
my hand over that monster beating through my chest in an attempt to remind myself
that I’m still alive, in this self created, endless, merciless nightmare. Impulsively, my
fist rebounds off the wall and what felt like the beginnings of pain tickled my knuckles.
Blood for blood; it was justified, I convinced myself repeatedly.
My mind slipped back to the time I had been standing in the same spot five years
ago. A homeless nobody wandering the streets, waiting to be found. The tall, suited
man began approaching me, cornering me up against the wall of the silent, isolated lane.
Afraid he had seen me at my worst, I began tucking the freshly stolen wallet deeper into
the pocket of my, also stolen, coat. He became, much to the contrary, my “saviour”,
extending a helpful hand in exchange for my services. Rather unsure of what exactly
these qualified as, even for an uneducated teen, I was smart enough to recognize game
when I saw it. Besides, that watch on his wrist, with all its daintiness, shimmering even
against the ash taint of the sky was, I calculated in my head, a poor reflection of his true
fortune. The deal had been sealed.
I trailed off on a rewind of the roller coaster ride my pathetic excuse for a life had
become. The boy that thought he had cheated destiny watching as the tattered clothes
were replaced by posh suits, first class plane tickets, personal assistants, all expense paid
vacations, a sum total of the American dream to be precise, was only to realize he had
been played against himself. That moment had presented itself.
A harsh knocking on the door snapped me back to the present; I was unconsciously
still holding my face under the cold tap. Swearing under my breath at the source of the
interruption, I hurriedly patted my face dry and slid on the sleek black Ralph Lauren coat.
With a sweeping look at the cracked mirror, my fingers slid onto the icy metal of the
loaded gun that lay by the sink. The familiar feel of the bare barrel against my skin sent a

fresh shot of adrenaline up my spine. I knew, that even if my full capacity, I was nothing
less of an ant to a mountain in comparison to him, but I had to try. For the first time, in a
long time, I was scared out of my skin. As I walked out the door, the final alias had been
abandoned; it was time to face the demons.
Q. Describe a garden before and after a war in terms of colours. Use as many associations as you like.

By Megan Wanda

The sun bathed the garden in a warm honey glow as she entered it. Her emerald eyes shone as she skipped down the cobble-stone path in her white-as-a-dove-in-the-winter dress. She watched a plump mother duck settle her snowy feathers while her parade of butter yellow ducklings zigzagged among the milky lotuses atop the crystal blue waters of the pond. She walked further down the path till she came to the mighty oak where crimson cardinals peeped in and out of the leafy branches, complimenting each other with a quick “purdy, purdy” as they did so.

She squealed when she saw at least a hundred Aster Flowers growing with their delicate lavender petals cupping a furry sunshine yellow centre, like a child holding a baby canary bird in the palm of his hands. Carefully, she broke a few and adjusted them in the pearly satin ribbon of her crocheted summer hat. Beneath this floppy white hat was her titian hair that flowed long and silky to her slender waist. To her left and out of the corner of her eye she spotted an abundance of baby’s breath growing on the hedge and she gasped, probably because it reminded her of what she came here for. She fumbled with the sash around her waist and then hurriedly began to pick some of the drooping sapphire bluebells with petals that looked like someone had curled them once around their little finger. She started to adjust them and tied them tight with the end of her sash. She picked some of the delicate ivory clusters of baby’s breath and neatly stuck them in.

She skipped further down the cobble-stone path where she saw the mauve hyacinth that grew in bunches shaped like cotton candy on a stick among the tall and erect leaves. Quickly she picked a few and tied them along with the bluebells and baby’s breath. To her right she saw tall and pointy mint green stalks encrusted with magenta gladiola petals. She picked these, adjusting them to support the other flowers. The church bells began to toll. She started to run back up the path, picking some more baby’s breath along the way. She spotted a multitude of pansies that looked like an artist had been using their as colour palettes. The yellow ones had splashes of maroon in them and the white ones were tinted with plum. She giggled as she picked as many as she could. She saw the iridescent bulbs of the crocus in shades of liquid gold and brilliant purple. She hesitated but realized she really couldn’t resist. The church bells tolled once again. Her time had run out. Hurriedly, she tied a neat bow with the ends of her sash as she skipped out of the garden. Suddenly, she heard the loud blaring noises of the siren and her wedding bouquet fell to the ground from her trembling hands.


The sun hadn’t been seen for years now and the garden was shrouded with ash. The gate had been ripped in two and lay flat on the sandy brown grass. She hobbled down the cobble-stone path, stopping after intervals to take short rasping breaths. The water of the pond was jade green with stagnation and warty chocolate brown toads stared at her with black beady eyes from the rocks near the pond. She hobbled forward to the naked oak tree. An ebony raven swooped down and perched itself on one of the scanty branches. It screeched at her and she limped quickly away.

The lavender aster flowers that grew near the pond were now nigrine ashes on the grey grass. There was one stalk with a dirtied yellow centre that turned to powder as soon as it touched her hand. A slight breeze blew her few clumps of silver hair that grew from her bowed head over her shoulder. From the corner of her eye she thought she saw the few surviving baby’s breath flowers, but when she saw it was only an abundance of dandelion that has replaced them, she sighed a deep sigh as a stiff, gnarled hand hovered over her thick waist. There was no sash.

The drooping bluebells had shriveled up and even their curled petals pointed to the ground as if they were finally subject to gravity. She left the cesious bluebells to find that the gladiola encrusted stalks had curled into the fetal position, as if protecting themselves from the seemingly unearthly shadows. Their magenta jewels were black and sooty. She listened for the church bells, or any other sound, but nothing happened. With a heavy heart and with great difficulty she trudged back up the path. The pansies had been blanched white and were hidden in between ropes and ropes of poison ivy. As she hobbled upwards she saw that instead of the colourful, bulbous crocuses, grew deep purple bulbous aubergines. She hated aubergines. She waited again for the church bells, some indication of peace. Silence. Her head drooped lower as she began to sob heavily. She walked slowly, tears falling onto her moth eaten dress. She reached the entrance and stopped. Turned around, still sniffing, to look at the abandoned garden that provided no comfort. Her emerald eyes glistened with tears.
Q. Describe a garden before and after a war.
By Fatin Nawaz


The garden was called Hecate. A Roman goddess associated with magic and witchery. And the color red.

It was decorated in the color. That and shades of purple. It gave the impression of royalty and passion. Everything was enhanced. The birds: otherworldly. The butterflies and bees: mythical.

If one stared too long, at the intricacy of flowers, they could be spellbound. The colors played with the mind. Optical illusions. Objects meters away, jumped in front of you.

A coral based fountain bubbled and plashed. It was like a child gurgling. Sunlight reflected off the crystal clear water and water lilies giving a tangerine glow.

Around the fountain grew white daisies with flecks of topaz. They made an octagonal shape, leaving the occasional opening to the fountain.

A bush of crimson Azalea sat proud near the entrance of the Hecate. Its petals longingly reached out, like a lover asking to be held.

A labyrinth was the pathway of the garden, covered in delightful jade grass. Beside it in a round circle grew amaranthine Ivy. It gleamed in the morning dew, promising to stay an eternity.

Ahead in a large meadow grew the ever famous roses. They were arranged in a spiral shape. Cardinal and lilac. A board nearby read "True love is stronger than thorns."

As the labyrinth went uphill, there was an orchard of the magnificent Bird of Paradise, indigo in all its glory. It seemed majestic, outshining even the roses.

In fact the orange pansies down below sent their kisses.

In a secluded corner of the Hecate blossomed Nasturtium. It was said it had been planted after a long bloody battle, and its black velvet color said "no more."

As the garden's end approached Monkshood and Acacia, in a congealed purple, grew in elliptical shapes, overlapping one another, making a large flower.

The exit consisted of a statue of Hecate, staring with eyes wide at the watcher. In her hand was a beacon, the blaze actually, flame flowers.


The air was thick with smoke and a sharp putrid smell. It's metallic taste and rotting flesh overwhelmed the senses.

The board which had once read "HECATE" now read "ATE", insects hovered over decapitated heads and decaying flesh. Cockroaches and likes claimed the area is their's.

A dark spell had fallen over. The sky was darker, oak trees shadowed the little moonlight that came in. The fountain spluttered and creaked. It transmitted a ghoulish glow. On top of one of the sprinklers sat a head. The eyes tortured and gruesome. Green liquid oozed from a crack in the skull.

The grass around the fountain had grown thick and wild. The liquid in the fountain glimmered claret. 

The Azalea bushes were gone. Wiped out. The weeds which had taken their place, swayed in the night wind. As they brushed against one another, laughter echoed in the garden. The laughter of a wicked mean witch cooking toads and eyes in a black cauldron.

The Ivy was now onyx, soaked in blood, growing out of its neatly trimmed hedge. It reached out to grab you, like that bully in school who tortured you until you sat crying like a child below the staircase.

The grass had stopped growing. Patches showed and the occasional bullet mark was there. The Rose meadow was strewn with bodies. The last left alive, who had thought it more honorable to die in a field of beauty.

The orchard of the Bird of Paradise had shriveled and wasted. The image was like an actual bird that was near death. Groans and sobbing suffocated the air from those who had not been lucky enough to die.

The orange Pansies had lost their color and were now pale. Their wilted state was like a girl in a fetal position lamenting an appalling loss.

The Nasturtium had been wiped out by a grenade. A single flower remained, in the hands of a dying soldier. Its black velvet drowning in his blood.

The Monkshood and Acacia flower lay crushed under a monstrous tank. It's camouflaged body did not guise it here.

The statue of Hecate was now a rubble. The only part still in one piece, her beacon. With no flame.

The Garden

By Sana Rizwan

It was mostly the white that attracted attention: It stood out amongst the blend of colors
that would make the finest of rainbows seem like a speck in the sky. The flowers were
delicate, fragile, yet so firm in their beauty that seemed to radiate from every petal and
every pollen grain. Several shades of silver and pink could be seen in the folds of the
white flowers and the dew drops resting upon their grace. Contrasting beautifully with
those were the violets and lusty red roses that emanated poise and passion, surrounding
the white and green like a boundary wall. On the outskirts of those were little meline
and melichrous flowers coupled with cyaneous ones smelling of earth and heaven
combined. Strong and bold, stood a great oak tree that gave shelter and shade to the
life that lay before it. Its thick auburn branches carried rich green leaves that filled the
entire tree and an amount of air above it with juicy freshness and fragrance. Lime green
and bottle green, every shade of that color seemed to breathe on its majestic body. The
branches gave home to pink and pearly peach flowers which seemed to shine on the
emerald already sparkling as the sun’s rays caught the crystal water droplets on the
waxy surface of the leaves. With the wind coming in with soft waves, it looked like the
flowers were dancing on the spiky grass of the meadow they stood upon. The meadow
contained pools of ochre yellow lilies and blue touch-me-nots sprinkled here and there.
Trees covered the sides of the meadow which obstructed sound and everything else that
could tarnish the purity of the small garden that was the center of the meadow, but none
of the other tress compared to the bold oak that stood with pride, acting as a guardian
looking upon its children. The grand tree seemed impenetrable, impregnable, so mighty
it stood. The earthly scent was masked by the perfume of the hundreds of flowers that
swayed with the breeze, but it was still present. Orange blossoms and purple lavenders,
dainty freesias and erect heathers, plain spengeri ferns to erotic fuchsias- they all co-
existed and completed a wholesome picture. This meadow stretched as far as the bird’s
eye could see and from up there it looked like an artist’s palette which had exploded with
color that could paint a masterpiece.

It was the black that stood out because it contrasted sharply with the multitudinous grey
ash which was the only trail left from the destruction of innocence and the infiltration of
peace. Burnt and decaying, rotted the grass and fern that had once been filled with life.
Small sprinkles of torn petals lay on top of the gray ash, broken beauty on its grave.
The only flowers that hadn’t been annihilated completely stood withering and wilting,
emphasizing the scene of decay. The atmosphere which previously would have entered
our nostrils with welcome and filled it with a heavenly fragrance now choked and brought
tears with the grey smoke that suffocated everything it touched. The trees surrounding
the meadow were now bare with absolutely no leaves on the charcoaled branches.
Some of them were in flames and most of them were chopped. The ground around
them had deep trenches dug in them and empty bullet shells strewn inside and out.
None of the trees could shelter anything now as they had failed to save themselves. The
great oak tree had fallen. The pink and peach flowers on it were non existent and the

flamboyant leaves had been destroyed into tiny grey nothings covered with ash. The
wide stem was now a broken stump. The branches that had first slithered northwards
were now all facing south west. It was a tragic death because an organism that had
lived for more than a hundred years had been lost in an on going battle of a different
world. The bright colors of all the flowers were lost and the only red that could be seen
was blood red and the only pink, the color of burning flesh. A haven, a circle of safety, a
piece of heaven-gone in the warfare of man against man that caused the destruction of
nature and everything beautiful.

Sweet Child O' Mine

By Fatin Nawaz

This is describing one of my all time favourite songs. Sweet Chil O' Mine. By Guns and Roses. The song is so empowering, so passionate. The electric guitar which starts the song is like waves crashing against the shore at midnight. It's serene and deadly. The salty wind is flickering your hair about and waves wash over you.
And then as you're under water and lose control of your senses, transcending into a numb state, comes Axl Rose's hoarse voice. He sounds like a boy who never grew up. His voice has a childish ting to it, which takes you back in time to your own childhood, to happy times. 

He manages to scream and sing at the same time. Screeching in his powerful voice, so intense, so hypnotizing that the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

The distorted guitar and his throaty voice bring a smile to your face. It's like staring at a pale pink Azalea. The sun is shining bright on it and everything beyond that flower is blurred. It could be anything. From a burning fire, to paradise itself. Doesn't matter. All you care about is the Azalea.