Jun 30, 2011

The Canvas

by Misal Shujjat

The night was silent, the last of the candles were burning out;
melting, flickering and dying as they choked on their own wax.
Somewhere outside, an owl hooted followed by the light rumble of
thunder in the distance; a warning of an impending storm.

The room was empty except for the single man sitting hunched over on
his bed. The moonlight spilt in from the tiny window next to the bed,
the light slanting across the wooden floor and creating a strange
array of shapes in it's path.

The man in question was not a very large fellow. In fact, he was quite
slender. His skin shone almost pale in the white moonlight and the
faintest hint of muscle showed through the fabric of his nightgown as
his pencil moved across the canvas in his lap.

The lead spread over the blank stretch of the off white canvas with
every stroke of the man's practised hand, tracing a path of its own.
Each dot extended into lines, breaking into curves; smoothing, shaping
molding itself to the figure of a man. Broad shoulders, dark hair,
eyes that looked intense even in lead…

The man continued to work with an aggressive vigour, never pausing
until finally, his pencil clattered to the floor landing and he
gripped the canvas with both hands, staring at it with thoughtful

The canvas showed the image of a man; so vivid in detail from the scar
running along his jaw to the slight tug of lips hinting at a smile
that it could easily have been real.

Absently, the artist touched the picture, his fingers smudging the
lead. He traced a light finger over the outline of his deceased
younger brother’s face; along his jaw, over his lips coming to a rest
on the curve of his cheek.

He pressed his fingers to the canvas, almost feeling the warmth of the
skin and wished there was some way the image would come to life.

The picture remained as frozen as ever, as did his brother's fate.
There was no coming back, nothing more left of his brother other than
the memories the man clung to more dearly than his own life.

His brother was gone and he wasn’t coming back.

(inspired by Asad Zaidi's “The Bathroom”)

Jun 28, 2011

Hello to everyone who's reading this.

I'm Rahima. Some of you know. Most of you probably don't. Or maybe you do. I'm just famous like that.
Anyway, I'm the new blog moderator, officially incharge. So you know who to bug if your stories aren't put on here. Actually, you can't. Only Ms. Shaz is allowed to do that.

I'll be changing some of the stuff here soon, with the help of Asad. I hope you all love what we do with it.


English Language AS Exam: Section B – Question 5

by Adeel Raza

Q: Rise up and speak! / Protests, peaceful or otherwise, don’t achieve anything.

Which view of activism are you in closer agreement with and why?

In a world as politically charged up as the one that we live in today, there are countless matters that are being fought over every day, and there are numerous others that should be brought in to consideration. I believe that the form of activism that a certain population follows with regard to any matter pertaining to them, determines how important it becomes in the political arena. As such, I support the active form of protest more than I support a stance that basically means giving up.

Many people today are of the view that any form of protest, peaceful or otherwise, does not achieve anything. That rallying together for a cause and taking to the streets in a show of solidarity and with an aim to make our voice be heard is just pointless. They feel that matters of real importance are not influenced by such protests, and are decided solely by the people who are in power: the members of government. Because of that mental barrier they have adapted to the rules and laws being imposed on them, and have learned to voice their opinion once every four years when they can vote for someone who enforces the changes they would like to see, from the top.

The recent protests all over Egypt provide a clear view of the part of the population that makes up the people who are skeptical of protests and their effectiveness. More than eighty percent of the protest rallies that were seen on the streets of Egypt for around three weeks comprised of young adults from the age group of twenty-five to thirty years of age. Which points to that startling fact that three-quarters of the adult Egyptian population over the age of around thirty, were content with the leadership of Hosni Mubarak; Egypt’s leader for more than two decades. They chose to stay at home, not joining the protests whether they were peaceful or turned violent, because of their defeated attitudes, their views towards protests and the fact that they had grown accustomed to the rule of a dictator. It was the youth that eventually brought about a change in Egypt. It may not have resulted in an immediate replacement with a new leader, but it brought about much needed change; all because of protests.

In addition, history provides us with multiple instances where the power of the people and their right of free speech was the only thing that made the difference in their lives. The Civil Rights Movement of the nineteen fifties and sixties in the United States of America resulted in one of the most significant revolutions in history, after African-Americans had lived there in inequality for decades. Leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were the people who chose to finally rise up and speak for themselves and demand their basic human rights. They did not choose to sit at home and wait for American mindsets to have some sort of an epiphany and miraculously change for the better. They worked, struggled, protested and risked their lives for change, and in the end, it achieved what no one could have ever dreamed of. If not for their tireless attitudes and protests, the world would still be as ignorant as it once was, and racism would continue to spread to every corner of the world.

Furthermore, many countries in the world do not have a democratic government. They have leaders who are in their position of power based on hierarchy or have been appointed by some higher power somewhere else. In places such as those, or where the leader does not have the best interests of the people at heart, only active protests and rallying can bring about the changes that the people want. Gandhi and Jinnah’s roles in freeing the people of the subcontinent from British rule bear testament to that fact, and provide perfect examples for such scenarios.

In light of all the evidence history has to offer, I believe that rising up and speaking for one’s rights is the form of activism that should be embraced by people all over the world, and that protests do in fact achieve a lot of things.

English Language AS Exam Section A – Question 2

by Nimrah Nadeem

Q: Write a monologue call ‘The Serial Killer’ in which the thoughts of a murderer are revealed at a crucial
point in his/her life.

Why did I do it? Is that what you want to know? What’s my motive? Oh, forget the motive. Isn’t it so much more frightening when the killer doesn’t have one at all? Especially when you find out that killer is just an ordinary person – just like you.

I’m sorry. I really didn’t want to be put in this position. Please understand that this is so much harder for me than it is for you. But you should know that you’re only in this predicament because you got yourself into it. Nobody asked you to probe. Nobody asked you to get involved.

You see, the reason why you’re duct taped to my living room furniture isn’t because of a sadistic desire on my part. Well, not entirely, anyway. I had another victim in mind for today, but you just had to go and ruin that for me, didn’t you?

What’s this? What have we here? Oh, lord, the irony! I suppose I’m not the only one with a secret “hobby”. You’re from the bureau, aren’t you? You’ve been sent for me. Tch, I haven’t been careful enough.

I do applaud your acting skills, though. You’re exceptionally good, young lady. I could never have guessed who you were had you left your wallet home today, “Agent” Burke.

It’s a pity, really. I thought I was doing so well. Who’d have thought your little bureau was on to me the entire time. You guys should have moved in sooner. Why send only you? An unprotected female. You must not have meant a lot to them.

What’s that? You’ll think they’ll come for you? Oh, don’t make me laugh. You know they won’t. I know they won’t. Why bother lying to yourself? Or to me, for that matter?

The poor girl’s in denial. Look at you, you’re a wreck. You really want to know why I do it, hon? It’s the look on their faces, in their eyes as the light leaves them. I find it fascinating, to say the least. You see, first you do it because you have a motive. When you’re successful the first time, it goes to your head. Gives you a high. Next thing you know, you want to do it again. And again. So that’s when you start looking for motives, and when you can’t find them, you just make them up. And the thing is-

What? Stop looking at me like that. Really. It isn’t even that much of a shocker. So I do it for the thrill. Big deal. Maybe I did have a motive once upon a time. But we digress.

Point being, I need to do something about you. But what? For God’s sake, woman. Stop struggling. You’ll only prolong this needlessly.

I need you to stop struggling! Look what you’ve done. I untie your arms and you break my nose. That isn’t very nice of you. But then again, killing you isn’t exactly the epitome of politeness either, is it?

What the-?!

Good grief, woman. Hold still!

Wait a minute, I’m the one holding the gun. Why is there blood pooling across my shirt? Oh, no. I’m losing quite a bit of blood, aren’t I? Well, now. I hope you’re happy, Agent Burke. Why are we still even having this conversation? Oh, wait – you’re still half bound and gagged. I’m the one doing the talking.

Tell me, Agent Burke, is the light leaving my eyes the same way it did my victims’? Is the fire going out? Are the dying embers losing their glow? Haha, even as I breathe my last, I manage to be poetic. God, I feel silly, now.

Goodbye, Elizabeth Burke.

English Language AS Exam: Section A – Question 2

By Adeel Raza

Q: Write a monologue call ‘The Serial Killer’ in which the thoughts of a murderer are revealed at a crucial
point in his/her life.

Don’t you just love the way it feels when you kill a person? The light heartedness when you let all of those pent up emotions loose and make a meal of the kill. The hunger pangs relieved with a delicious VIP murder. Yeah, it’s true. In a few hours the fuzz will get a call into their station with another hysterical loony on the line screaming that someone’s been chopped into pieces. Then they’ll drop the doughnuts they stuff themselves with and haul their lazy selves to the scene of the crime. The scene of my work. My art. Oh, how I’d love to see it all happening. Hahaha, the looks on their faces would be priceless.

But anyway, silly of me to waste my time enjoying the smaller things in life when I’ve got bigger things cooking. Oh yeah. This time I’m doing it big. Really big. By the time I’m done it’ll make Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid roll over in their graves and Sweeney Todd will look like all he ever did was give someone a bad haircut. Hell, they’ll even put the earthquake on priority two and me on one. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

That would sound cool. ‘Dine and dash murderer’ put on priority one. Code red declared in the city and all that worthless jazz they enforce in this hell-hole. Fact is, I’m still going to kill people whether they barricade their homes with titanium plates or stuff themselves in a quarantine bunker underground. Because I’ve got to keep myself satisfied and I ain’t stopping because the prey here is too damn fun.

But seriously. I’ve got to consider it some time. I keep telling myself that, but even I know that tomorrow when I slice the head off of that nigger-hating, money stealing, smooth talking senator McCain, I’ll be in for one hell of a chase.

And then there’s Jen. Oh, dear, sweet beautiful Jen. She’s the love of my life and she doesn’t even know the first part of me, much less the second, cold blooded murderer that dwells inside me too. She’s noticed things about me. More than once. Like how I like my meat bloody and how I sneak off in the night sometimes for a ‘smoke’. And that one time when I almost strangled her in my sleep. But she refuses to see past this façade I put on. I know I’d never hurt her on purpose, but sometimes my destructive urges get out of hand and I’m scared I might let loose the dine and dash murderer on her, and lose the one thread that I’m hanging by.

But I’ve thought about it; long and hard. Where it’s headed with her. What I’m going to do. And I’ve come to a conclusion now. See, as much as I know I’m this monster by night, I love her too much to let that be the only side of me. Her and I, we both have our baggage. Our closed off pasts. And it is that reason that we both connect so well. We’re both damaged on the inside. But I know we can fix each other. Or at least try to. And that’s why I’m going to pop the question tomorrow.

Yeah, I’m going to ask her to marry me.

So I guess you could say tomorrow’s a big day. Ask Jen to be my lawfully wedded wife in the day. Kill senator McCain and spread his body out over the front lawn of the town house by night. And then give the dine and dash murderer a much deserved time off with the love of his life in a lovely beachside hut in Tahiti.

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. But will you please grant your blessings to this couple-to-be and make sure everything goes alright tomorrow?

V Files: Chapter 7 - The Church Girl

by Sama Khawaja

Swerving the bike to a halt, Destiny gazed up at the tall elegant spires, smooth cold walls and beautifully stained windows of the building looming in front of her. The Church of Torch. It was once a grand building. In fact, it was the only church available in the whole of Healex. The government body didn’t want its people following a new leader of any sort. So they made sure they demolished every religious building they could find. Except the one in the city of Torch. The Church of Torch wasn’t just any church. It belonged to a very wealthy and renowned man who was also the benefactor of the Hova Project. This man supported the Church and the family who cared for it. They were a humble and respectable sort; a loving husband, a devoted wife and a lovely daughter by the name of Bianca.
Destiny’s stomach clenched as her mind forced her to remember the girl with her vermillion tresses, her laughing turquoise eyes and her petite frame that River embraced every time he saw her. She was his first and his whole life. They had been childhood friends up until River had been inducted in the army. He was reunited with her after he joined Vice but that was short-lived. The Church’s benefactor passed away, leaving the place up for grabs and vulnerable to attack.
On 1st January 1998, exactly ten months ago, the church was attacked by the Hova army. It had been a bloody massacre since it had been the start of the New Year and most of the citizens had congregated there to repent for the previous year. How ironic that the one place of peace was also the one place of the most brutal bloodbath in the history of Healex. The statistics claimed that a mere seventy had perished that day. But Destiny knew how many had died. She had been sent there along with the rest of Lethal Vice to stop the madness that day. She had never seen River so agitated, so worried and so livid. She felt so sorry for him. Sorry he had to witness his comrades killing innocents he had worked so hard to protect. Sorry he had been too late to save her. Sorry he had to watch her die as a bullet was driven through her chest.
The ancient doors creaked as she pushed them open. Nobody was permitted to enter it anymore. The government let it stand as a reminder to the people of what happened when they disobey them. Her hands balled into fists. But it was an unfair world after all.
After that day, River had changed. He preferred to be alone; to train alone; to eat alone. And yet, he would crave for her company. But Destiny jilted him. Not because she felt nothing but she feared to feel something. If she finally acknowledged his feelings, would he acknowledge hers? Or would he continue to revel in the memory of Bianca? Perhaps that’s why she jilted him. She was afraid he would expect her to be like his Bianca.
She sighed. Sometimes she wished he had never loved Bianca…
The high ceilings echoed her footsteps as she approached the pulpit. The flagstone floor had cracked in places to sprout little beds of daffodils and daisies, creating a space of solitude and beauty. Upon reaching the pulpit, she bent on her knees, clasped her hands in front of her and began in an awkward tone, ‘Hi up there; how’s it going? I guess you probably don’t know me ‘cause I never come here but, well, this is important so I decided who else can help me but the big boss himself, huh? Anyways, it’s about love. I know, I know; you’re probably going to say, ‘Just go love and be loved.’ But it’s not that easy! Hey, I don’t even know who I trust let alone love! I need a sign. Any sign that might help me know I’m doing something right! I wonder if you’re even listening to me right now…’
Destiny jumped up and instinctively placed her hands on Ebony and Ivory but relaxed when she saw River down the aisle.
‘I needed some time alone to think,’ she said hastily.
‘Oh,’ he murmured and turned around to leave. ‘Sorry.’
‘River,’ she blurted out before she could stop herself. However, it made him stop.
‘I’m sorry, Dee, I shouldn’t have come on so strongly,’ he suddenly said. ‘I just…missed having someone…’
Destiny felt a pang of jealousy as his eyes roved the church. She started forward in his direction.
‘Tell me why, Dee,’ he uttered when she was just a few feet away. ‘Why do you push me away?’
She hesitated before saying,’ I’m afraid.’
‘Of what?’ he asked as he turned around to face her.
‘That I’m going to hurt you.’
‘It’s my past,’ she said in a strained voice. ‘It keeps coming back to haunt me. So I’m afraid of what it holds. And of myself.’
Those liquid green irises suddenly mirrored confusion.
‘Why?’ he asked perplexed.
‘Because I don’t think I’m human,’ she whispered fearfully.  

Technology has made the world smaller but put an end to meaningful communication. Do you agree?

by Sarah Fariduddin

The faster the means of communication, the more meaningless they grow. Indeed getting in touch is only a click away but emotions have lost their role in most part.

As our individual lives get busier, and we get even more engrossed in urselves, many would argue that advancing technology has maintained relationships and connections through the telephone, cellular phone and most importantly the internet. Television and multimedia has enabled viewer’s world over to obtain information of the social and political ongoing of the remotest areas. Networking websites like Orkut and Facebook have reunited long lost friends and help keep hundreds of friends updated with the most trivial and tiniest details of life through virtual socialization, many lonely hearts have claimed to find solace as they come to develop a sense of belonging through the constant comments and ‘likes’. To what extent is this sense of belonging is true and how strongly we empathize with a tragic piece of news on the television is a point worth consideration.

Pressing a few keys enables us to hear the voice of a close one but the small time allotted to such a telephonic conversation limits the understanding of complex feelings of the person at the other end. Simply hearing the voice is not enough to completely develop a connection. Spending time in person and a face-to-face conversation is the key to understanding a person completely. Though easy, this one phone call does not develop the emotional support and mutual trust that a physical interaction does. As phone calls have been alternated with the option of a voice message, communication has message in
the briefest way possible.

As few people realize social networking is actually lass about connecting, it is more about the self. Constant status updates and posting albums and links that only express oneself further is rather a way of getting your own message across rather than understanding the others. Moreover, the constant response to these is an addictive proof of being noticed. Rather than limiting a strong, emotional bond to a tight group of five, social networking throws us into an abyss of  hundreds of “well-wishers”, or rather acquaintances than friends. Posting the most personal feelings or conversations make it vulnerable to the eyes of a great many acquaintances. An equally personal and heart-felt response is highly unlikely from the audience thereby resulting in greater detachment and declining sympathy. The purpose of a loyal, everlasting bond is ultimately lost here.

Not only says so a critic but recent research conducted by sociologists has concluded that social networking in fact renders one lonelier.

Getting in touch with those living thousands of miles away, across the other end of the world has indeed been blessed by the likes of instant messengers and video conferencing software but yet again such speedy interactive methods keep emotional attachments, mutual understandings at bay unless it is only a business contract that needs approval. Indeed the E-generation has thrust business and trade into a golden era but it is worth remembering that personal emotions play no part in a business deal.

The simplification of technology unfortunately is not simplifying the complex nature of a human being. Human beings are in fact complicated creatures and like any being require looking after. This sets us off into a quest of emotional support. Quick, snappy ways of communication are not helping to solidify this support but only weakening these fragile bonds further as lesser time and attention is given.

As television channels and other media multiply, a vaster array of information is displayed for us to choose from. It is not unusal to receive sermonizing anecdotes or discriminating jokes through a single sms. Control over information is also weakening as is the sensitivity to others’ values and feelings. A selfish, fanatic would not consider twice before forwarding a message brazenly slandering a bold actress or mocking a universal ethnicity. Indeed freedom of expression is like sms or email become simpler and more liberated, the minimum amount of thought is put into constructing them. Instead of being utilized for constructive, educative purposes, cheaper and improved means of communications are being used more for the proliferation of conspiracies, gossips and non-sensical trivia. Greater accessibility has lead to inefficient monitoring of such forms of communication while more and more people continue to waste time clicking away on their latest, fanciest, cellular gadgets.

It is detail and time that develops everlasting connections. Unfortunately the latest means of communication are thriving by eliminating exactly these aspects of communication. Such bridges built on precarious foundations are unlikely to last for long and hence highly unlikely to possess any meaning.

The Blue Notebook - Review

By: Alisha Sethi

‘The Blue Notebook’
By: James A. Levine
206 pp, Orion Books Ltd. Rs.695.
Ages 16 and up.

So you’re in a bookstore browsing through the shelves and all of a sudden you come across a book called ‘The Blue Notebook’. You start to read the synopsis at the back of the book and find out that it’s a journal of a prostitute. Now you can have two kinds of reactions to this. You can either be the kind of person who puts the book back, shaking their head in disapproval at the author’s audacity to write about such a disgraceful topic or you can be the kind of person who goes to themself, “Hey, this could be kind of interesting to read”. If you’re the latter type of person, well then thumbs up to you. You have made a good GOOD choice.

The Blue Notebook is the journal of a teenage prostitute in India called Batuk. The character of Batuk is based on a girl James Levine saw standing outside her “cage” on the Street of Cagues in Bombay, writing in a blue notebook and the image of a literate prostitute gave birth to this novel. Batuk learnt how to read and write while she was still in her village being treated for Tuberculosis; a kind nurse saw her potential and arranged for a teacher to come everyday. Sold into sexual slavery at the age of nine, Batuk firmly believes that she has been blessed with ‘beauty and a pencil’. Her journal is her salvation and her pencil is a way of recording all of fates ugly little twists.  Her journal never lapses into self pity for naïve Batuk has not seen the world outside her ‘nest’ on the Common Street of Mumbai. For her, life just consisted of following Mamaki Brillia and Master Gahil’s ( owners of the brothel) orders on which men and how many to ‘bake sweetcake with’. Sweetcake can be considered and unusual way of describing the activity through which prostitutes earn their bread and butter but as Batuk points out ‘such is the whim of a dramatic soul’.

For six years her life remained the same but then it takes a turn for the worse. Her beauty and pencil become a curse instead of a blessing and lead her straight into the strangling arms of pain. A pain that no fifteen year old girl could ever imagine waiting for her.

Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner has commended Dr.Levine on his masterpiece by calling it a ‘searing reminder of the resilience of human spirit’. Starkly compelling, this book has all the features of an unputdownable book. It inspires and haunts readers in equal measure and I strongly urge you to plunge yourself into this pool of optimism and innocence created by Batuk in the face of unbelievable cruelty. 

Fairest Maiden Found Dead

by Marium Ibrahim

Forbidden Forest, 17th February: Recently proclaimed “Fairest maiden in land,” Snow
White, was found dead by a small cottage in the depths of the woods early yesterday
evening, with a bitten apple in her lifeless hand. Investigations by Wizards have proven it
to be poisoned, but the culprit has yet to be found. She is currently being showcased for
the public to see in a glass coffin.

Ms. White had reportedly been home alone at the time of the incident, tidying up with
some animal friends who stood by the scene of the crime. They have been taken into
custody for further investigation.

“It is her own fault,” Says her stepmother, who we managed to get a quick interview
with, “She ran away from home to live unchaperoned with a house full of men.
Shameful!” She went on to say that she had disowned her daughter and that she had
known that it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. “Probably a
jealous lover,” she said.