Sep 25, 2012


By Aleena Kazi

Q. Write two contrasting pieces between 300-450 words each. One which describes a particular place at the end of a war or natural disaster and one which describes the way it looks after being rebuilt. In your writing you should bring out differences between setting and atmosphere.

The dirty brick wall that was once decorated with a myriad of colours had crumbled. The graffiti no longer stood out. Despite the large variety of shades splashed onto the walls of the destroyed houses, only one colour was prominent. The crimson shade of human blood was splattered across the previously grand Chinese white walls and the gravel road. All the houses, cars and small stores contributed to the amount of shattered glass on the road. You could see it glisten in the morning sun. You had to be careful not to step on the sharp pieces. Although, you only had two options. Either to damage the soles of your own feet or emotionlessly step on the mutilated bodies lying on the ground.

You had to thank the Lord that you had survived the war but then again, looking at the remains of the Defence area in Karachi would leave you hopeless. You had survived but the city had not. Your fellow citizens had not. Do you remember your neighbour? The one who used to sit in his garden and sip his warm green tea every evening and smile at you every time he saw you? You smiled back every time but what do you do now when you see his lifeless body crushed under a car? You don’t smile do you? Looking ahead of the debris filled road, you can imagine little Asiya riding her tricycle. Now, just the colourful orange and yellow tyres lie on the street.

Behind you once stood your house, the clean windows displaying everything that took place inside. Your father reading the newspaper and your plump mother waltzing about in the kitchen preparing new dishes for you to try. Yourself sitting on the carpeted floor of your lounge in front of the wide screen television, playing Modern Warfare. On the ground, right on top of the rubble, lay half of your PlayStation 3. Unlike in your game, you cannot restart the round and bring your players to life. You sit on the ground in tattered, bloody clothes just waiting to find a restart button to your life.


Large dirty orange road rollers moved along the once cracked roads, making the coating of gravel smooth. The fresh tar on the road sparkled like a precious onyx stone. Like a lake full of the beautiful stones. The rubble had been pushed to the side and the houses were being repaired. It was a slow process but effective nonetheless. No more dead bodies littered the floors, reminding you of the ones you had lost.

The half done houses gave rise to your hope. The telephone poles once again stood up tall and a crow had already made its messy nest at the top. Busy men walked around the area and you could see they were tired. Exhausted mentally as well as physically. They stood in front of walls newly built as well as the old ones that had managed to survive. Sweat patches clearly visible and the clean white paint coated their dark hands. It was a difficult job, trying to cover up the blood of a war victim with just paint. The blood could have belonged to someone they knew or maybe someone you knew.

The trashed cars had been pulled away and a few people who survived the devastating war stood there, in front of their new houses, just like you. You looked around and took in the sight. The transformation of the Defence area from a lifeless war zone to a once again springing neighbourhood was remarkable. At that point, right after the war, you had lost hope. Lost the will to live. However, right now you stood tall, looked back at your almost finished house and raised your head to the sky. You smiled; you had found the restart button.

Sep 23, 2012


By Mina Khan

Jane opened the window of her new house and let the sounds and aroma of New York overwhelm her senses. Enthusiasm engulfed her as it was her first day in the city, the city she had dreamt of touring since her eighth birthday. She twisted her thick copper hair into a knot and anchored it at the base of her neck with pins, and then grabbing her purse, she sauntered out of the house.

Jane's gaze was locked onto the cloudless blue sky. The air was crisp and the sun was shining gloriously. The day looked ravishing. She made her way to a busy street which was crowded with vehicles of every description, from taxicabs to buses, and ordinary cars to limos. She sighted a few shops as she ambled along the street. The smell emanating from these shops tingled her nose. The air was filled with the odour of onion, garlic, pepper and spices. She held her breath for a moment as she walked past. She wondered how the people working inside the shops bore the smell. Perhaps they were used to it.

Walking ahead, the smell of freshly brewed coffee drew Jane into a cafe. It was the most exquisite cafe she had ever seen, with big leather sofas and different art displays. She stood there admiring the place until a barista with a burly frame appeared before the counter.

"Hello madam, what can I get you?" asked the barista, courteously.

"Hi, I am new in New York, I don't really know what's on the menu here," replied Jane.

"Oh, what is a beautiful lady like you doing strolling around New York City?" asked the barista, flirtatiously.

A smile blossomed on Jane's face and a gleam of amusement lightened her large grey eyes; she replied, with a tiny chuckle, "A nice cup of coffee will do."

Walking out of the coffee shop, Jane's attention was diverted towards a milliner in the corner of the street. The milliner made her head swim with seasons- his hair was all the colours of autumn; his eyes the bright blue of a winter sky; his smile as wide as any summer sun. Jane's passion for stylish accessories made her spell-bound at the versatile collection of hats that he was selling. There were hats with intricate designs to smaller understated styles. Jane could not resist the temptation to buy a hat for herself despite its high price.

Along the street, under a very thick canopy of oak branches draped over the street gave Jane an illusion of walking in a tunnel. The occasional gentle breeze caused the playful oak leaves to collide with one another. Some leaves danced side to side as they flew down from the high above, while others spun out of control before landing on the ground. The air carried the scent of citrus, straying over Jane's nose as she approached a small lemon tree standing at the sidewalk. Many ripened, bright yellow lemons hung low from the branches. She decided to take a few lemons home as the thought of fresh lemonade made her mouth water. The lemon tree was followed by a long row of pink and white oleanders planted along the sidewalk in a bed of dirt raised about two feet above the ground.

After a minute of standing still and appreciating nature, Jane resumed her walk. She eventually came to a bookshop. Inside, there was a myriad of books, and she peered thought some of the shelves for a while. As she walked out of the peaceful and cool air-conditioned bookshop, she was instantly hit by a blast of hot air from the street. Three hours had glided away, and she was utterly exhausted by now. She got into a taxicab and headed home. Despite her weariness, she was contented, because she knew it was only her first day in one of the most spectacular cities of the world.

Jane glanced out of the window and was astounded to see the skyscrapers. She was stunned with their heights, almost reaching the sky. On top of one of the skyscrapers was an enormous spire like a needle, and one of them had numerous windows which sparkled in the sun, making her eyes blurry. She lay back in the car and closed her eyes. She could hear the horns of the cars honking. She knew she was in a busy, complicated city, but the bustling and commotion was what made it, New York! She loved every aspect of it.

The taxi driver soon brought Jane home. Noticing the door of her house already open, an uncomfortable premonition of fear pervaded her senses. She ran to the house, but as soon as she entered the door, terror held her like a vicelike grip. Her face froze in a glassy stare of horror, and she could not summon the courage to move. Horror-struck, she continued to stare at the grim and ghastly scene before her.

Hanging by a Moment

By Hiba Fatima Hassan

My vision is beginning to falter. I keep zoning out; one moment, I can see clearly, the other, everything darkens. I feel overwhelmed, like a new born child looking at the world around her for the first time; all I could see were irregular shapes and vivid colours that I failed to name. Beads of perspiration race down my forehead in the sweltering heat and my hands, grubby and clammy are starting to slip. My fingers, rigid and bent like claws, hold on to the ragged surface of the rock, digging into its grooves. The deep purple cotton shirt I'm wearing clings to my skin, damp with moisture, and my cobalt blue jeans are rolled up at my ankles, brushing against my skin like sand paper. The breeze is cool, but not the least bit pleasant, for all I can hear are screams of horror and gasps.  Looking up, I see a piercingly bright yellow sphere, and looking down, I see a swarm of bees, buzzing on the ground, looking at me in confusion, wondering how I ended up in the state that I am in.

I think of my cousin, who once told me that Pakistani adventure parks were only meant for serious risk takers, because you could actually die in one. I had laughed at her; I never thought it could be true. Well, at least that's what movies taught me. You could take a risk, have the time of your life, beat your fears before they consumed you and finish with a smile. I have only ever dreamed of adventures like these, escapades that my mind is brave enough to visualize but my heart to timid to conquer. Today, it was all meant to change.  I gaped at the sixty foot high rock climbing course in awe as the man in charge tightened my harness and snapped the rusty metal clip into place. A thick, rough, earth coloured rope was lowered and fastened to the metal clip in a knot that left room for more tightening.

"Pakistan's best adventure park!" the tattered flyer had boasted, displaying pictures of local celebrities enjoying themselves. It didn't tell you that their equipment was worn out, that their employees were aged and frail and incapable of saving lives, or that their quad bikes could stop running in the middle of the track. It certainly didn't tell me that halfway through the rock climb, my harness would begin to loosen and the corroded metal clip would snap open, that the flimsy strands of rope would break and I would plummet towards the ground. The only thing holding me where I was is my own strength. The palms of my hands bleed from the jagged surface they had to clench to save my life, and I can feel my toes curling, trying to grip the rugged surface of the rock that is my scaffold.  My back arches outwards as if I were a hunchback, acting as a weight pulling me down, and my short, stocky legs are losing sensation.  My mouth is so dry that I cannot even muster the energy to scream.

Amidst the screams and the panic, I realize that I am my only protector and I couldn't go down without a fight. I straighten my posture and grip the rock even more tightly. Every move has to be calibrated precisely.

I tiptoe my way upwards but suddenly, I stagger and ground beneath me slips, I am shaken to my core so strongly that my mind is vacant of all thought. From the crowd below emanates a solitary sound: my mother's bloodcurdling scream.

Personal Statement

By Nayab Tufail

When I was seven chocolate cookies were a terrible temptation for me. I often stared longingly at the coveted cookie jar and licked my lips. My sister made use of my weakness and started to smuggle cookies from the jar to her room after midnight. When my father found the empty cookie jar I was accused as primary suspect. With no evidence to prove my innocence upon interrogation by my father I used what I now know is legally known as the “Alford Plea.” If I had the temerity to argue I would be charged with two crimes: stealing and disrespect. Therefore, I said to my father “I’m guilty, you can punish me, but I didn’t do it.” Pleading guilty meant punishments but my father remained curious about the “I didn’t do it” bit and the investigation furtively continued until the real culprit was found.

 The case was closed but a new chapter of my life was opened. I discovered my ability for logical thinking and problem solving. As I grew up I fell in love with complexities. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to English Literature. I found a universe of possibilities shimmering behind every story. The unfathomable depth behind situations and characters helped me quench my thirst and after a long time I actually drank my fill. Numbers had always remained on the page. The most I could do was stand tall next to 1, sit on the chair of 4, or curl up in the curve of 5. They never allowed me to slide in, to dive in the deep endless waters of uncertainty. They were facts and there was no room for questioning. Literature introduced me to the superficiality of black and white and to the realism of gray. It taught me that words are an inexhaustible source of magic. Each word packed with layers and layers of meanings. Each word malleable enough to be twisted and molded into a sparkling pun, a biting irony or a deliciously dulcet alliteration.

Reading helped me live a thousand lives and enriched my analytical skills which are of immense importance to a lawyer. Each day a new character was presented in the court of my thoughts. There was Heathcliff, there was Blanche DuBois, there was Mark Anthony, there was Mrs. Cheveley. I defended, I prosecuted. And each time I re-read a tale, another trial took place.

Meanwhile, fate had arranged a chance for me to discover my passion for debating. Whether it was arguing my stance on democracy or modernization the pleasure of putting my point across always surpassed the pride of receiving a gleaming trophy. However, I did not realize my interest in law until I decided to volunteer at Dawood Habib Orphanage. I saw the teary eyes of a twelve year old girl as she shared with me the heart-wrenching story of the domestic violence her mother had suffered at the hands of her father. It was after hearing this tale of brutal beatings, suffering and hopelessness that a window winked open to reveal a world where I could think, analyze and use my eloquence to actually make a difference. Some people call it impulse. I prefer epiphany. It was that moment when my life fell in place and I realized that law to me is more than chocolate cookies and trophies; it is a challenge to play my part, however small, to remedy injustice and serve my society.

Sep 21, 2012

The Bison People

By Sultan Khawaja

The sun was rising in the distant as he plunged the spear into the fish. It bathed everything in its light. The boy lifted the spear out of the water with the fish impaled upon it. The spear’s handle had engravings carved upon it; sacred words of the boy’s tribe, which had been dyed red. The lower half of the handle was covered in the crisp, leathery skin of a bison and, what the flapping fish was impaled on now, was the curved horn of one as well. The bison roamed on these plains freely and were sacred to the people who lived here. Giant, majestic beasts whose bellows could be heard from miles away. They possessed great strength, yet they were gentle creatures by nature.

The boy took the fish off the spear and gently placed it in a pouch, making sure that the pouch was tied up so that today’s catch would not be carelessly dropped. Spear in hand; he started to walk in the direction of the sun, ready for what could be the most important day of his life.

The boy’s name was Cherokee and he belonged to the tribe of the Sioux. His tribe was the largest of all the Native American tribes belonging to these plains and thus belonging to the Sioux was a great honour. Every year the Sioux people would have a ceremony in which any Sioux child, the age of fifteen, would complete his transition from boy to man. The ceremony pitted the Sioux children against a challenge that could last for days on end and there was no assurance that the child would come back alive. Cherokee had been waiting for this ceremony all his life, and as he stood before the tribe’s elders a sense of relief had washed over him. He was determined, clever and quick. Together with his strength, Cherokee was ready for the challenge and knew he could succeed.

“Great Mantou, look upon these children with kindness for they are about to embark on a journey that will push all of them to their limits,” shouted the village chief before a huge, crackling bonfire. The chief wore a large pastel robe, which swept the ground every time he took a step, and his head had been covered in a crown of feathers. The feathers themselves were intimidating as each was the size of an arm, and if one looked closely, one could see that underneath the feathers were numerous, colourful beads, woven into the chief’s long, burnt brown hair. Though nobody would dare make eye contact with the chief, much less inspect his feathery crown.

“Let the Tomahawk ceremony commence.”

As soon as those words were uttered Cherokee knew it was time. Before him stood a small stone axe bound to a wooden handle, known as a tomahawk. With one last glance behind him, to see his family, Cherokee ran forward, lifted the tomahawk, and with it sprinted out onto the prairie, letting out a high pitched shout, making sure that it was one that the Sioux people would never forget.

“Do you think the boy will succeed?”

“The boy has a great heart, chief, and...” replied the elder.

“But will he succeed?”

“Yes chief, I believe he will.”

The chief looked out to the horizon where Cherokee was sprinting away and under his breath uttered a blessing.

“Great Mantou, watch over this boy and see that he may return to us one day with the horn of bison….”

And with that the sun slowly sank into the horizon, as if to seal the blessing in the dark of night.