Oct 29, 2012

The Perfect Curry

By Fatima Raza

Amma is in the kitchen. One hand is on her waist; the other holds a spoon. She gently stirs the curry to which she has to add chickpea pakoras. She imagines her granddaughter, Fatima, coming from school, and greeting her with an ‘Adaab’. She pictures her face lighting up at the look of the pakora curry. Her granddaughter, Fatima, arrives home. The fresh smell of curry leaves catch her attention. Fatima smiles. The curry is on the stove, fresh and soupy. Amma fries the pakoras as they hiss away in the oil.

Fatima imagines the curry after it would be ready. A perfectly plated dish. Soft pakoras in yellow curry. The dressing of ‘Baghaar’ or fried cumin. Fresh coriander leaves sprinkled on top. Brown curry leaves visible in some corners. On the table, Fatima finds the dish just as she expected it. 

She takes out the curry on her plate just like Amma has taught her to, carefully from one corner of the dish. Otherwise, the gravy splits. She pours the gravy on a plate of hot, boiled rice. One pakora rests on the corner of her plate. 

Fatima gently presses the pakora with her fork. It splits open to reveal its spongy and moist inside. She thinks about her aunts and uncles in their homes. They would all envy Fatima. Amma’s curry is popular amongst the whole family. There are only a few people who can make curry like her. 

Not many can ensure that the pakoras aren’t powdery. Not everyone can balance the flavors of the gravy. And very few can tell a story through it. Amma can. 

Her bowl of curry narrates the story of Hyderabad Deccan before partition. Of the Hyderabadis who love sour and bitter dishes. Who say ‘Aye Haye’ with that distinct tone of surprise. Who speak Urdu or Hindi in their own slow accent. Amma’s curry; it catches Hyderabad- her childhood home- on a plate.

Fatima pops half a pakora in her mouth. The juicy bite explodes inside her mouth. Next comes the gravy with the rice. It has the tinge of yoghurt that it is supposed to have. She feels she is in an old house in Hyderabad. Hyderabadis are talking to her in their surprised tones andistinguished accents. They say ‘Aye Haye’ at the end of each sentence. Fatima smiles. As always, the dish is perfect.

The Outsider

By Muqadus Tabraze

Write a complete a short story called "the outsider". In your piece you should try to convey how a community reacts to the arrival of an eccentric or unusual character. 

"Aye, it's a hot day, Stephen. Toss me a bottle of some o' that whiskey over there." Randy thumped the glass on the polished wooden table.

"On it," the bartender replied carelessly. Randy heaved a sigh, and turned around on his stool. The smelly, overcrowded tavern known as "The Silver Spoon" was full of commotion today. More than usual. Then again, the eager customers could not be blamed. Times were rough, and 1768 was not a pleasant time to begin with. The harsh, cold winds had started blowing. The blaze in the fireplace, alongside the tightly locked shuttered were testimony. To top things off, the Civil War was reaching a climax. "America" as the loyalists called it, was falling rapidly into the hands of the imposing Redcoats. As everyone expected it would: it was hard facing defeat when your arms consisted of state-of-the-art weaponry. Trained soldiers,  warring against patriotic farmers. That could hardly be considered fair.

"Listen up, Randy. You seem lost in your thoughts. Here be the whiskey you wanted. Have some, and chat up a couple of the people here. There's Madame Isabelle. Why not mingle with her? They say she's.......pleasant company." Stephen had slid back towards Randy's edge of the counter, a devilish grin on his wizened, toothless face.

"No, not today Stephen. Much as I appreciate the concern, I don't think any lot has their minds set on her."

And rightly so. Today was to bring a historic moment, and the tension hung in the air. The Founding Fathers, they were titled; Benjamin, Washington, Jefferson. In the face of unimaginable adversity, the Parliament of the People intended to draft the Declaration of Independence. May God watch down on them, Randy thought. He dreamed of a sovereign land, where people could come and go as they pleased; no red would be worn, and the boisterous chants of a unified America would echo everywhere.


"The Silver Spoon......this is the place, alright. He said to wait here." The youth shyly clambered inside. It was a congested place: people in leather jerkins and simple boots, quite not flashy huddled next to a roaring fire. Compared to them, he, with the beads on his pure white jerkin and the feathers in his flowing hair, was nothing short of eccentric. In a corner, a group of men sat playing a board game, while far towards the right, against a plain wooden wall, wine was being downed at an alarming rate.

"These people do not appear to be uncivilised. It's their culture, I suppose. If only the others could understand. And then again, they have a cause for celebration, right?" Before Akinawa could get a response, a man near the counter flew up.

"You!" He bellowed.

"M-me?" Akinawa stuttered.

"Yes, you! What in blazes do you think you're doing here?!" The man's chest heaved with a fiery rage, his vest sliding down his thrashing arms. The tavern had suddenly silenced, staring at the incident.

"I was told the Fathers were chipping away at the Britain's power. Guaranteeing us our rights an-"

"OUR rights? You have no right to be a part of this land. You think we give a damn about you treacherous natives?" The man was obviously drunk, stomping his feet like a crazed elephant.

"Randy, calm down. He may be one of the good ones." The bartender called out from behind.

"THESE BRUTES MURDERED MY FAMILY, STEPHEN. How could you take their side?"  The crowd gave a sharp gasp, and Akinawa felt his heart sink. What had his brothers done?

"Look at you, dressed up like a pansy. Feather's in your feminine hair? You're hardly of age, and wearing bloody warpaint! HA! Have you ever been to war, boy? Your lot may have, but definitely not you." Randy stood on a stool and turned to the captivated audience. "This outsider and his kind, they sided with them Brits! They massacred the sons of America, chanted against us, turned their backs on their homeland, their people, and fell to the King's feet like loyal DOGS! Now, he has the audacity to ask for his rights? KILL HIM, I SAY!"

"NO!" Akinawa burst in, but it was too little, too late. The once confused people gave him dagger-like glares, with more than half roaring for his head. "You don't understand, I'm not to blame! My village, we fought for you! We remained loyal to this country, and will to the very end! Please, you have to understand!" Akinawa pleaded, but to no avail.

He spun as fast as lightning and raced for the entrance. He never got there. The bang ricocheted throughout the bar as the bloodstain crept across Akinawa's chest. He staggered, and fell like a log towards the floor. His life fading, the cries of the heartless community ringed in his ears.

The last thing he heard was Randy, above all: "And good riddance!"

Oct 27, 2012


By Abbas Murtaza

Write an exchange in dialogue between a psychiatrist and a patient.



“I need your help, Doc! Desperately! People keep acting strangely around me. Things go wrong, they break and my friends are leaving and I feel so lost. I don’t know what’s going on. I think something’s wrong with me – I can’t remember anything.”

“Ah. Well, I am a psychiatrist. Sit.”

“You can help me! You see, they say it’s me. They point fingers, stare, shout, call names, and hurt me. At first, I thought they were crazy. But now, I’m not so sure.”

“You seem alright to me, Mister..?”

“I feel ok. I don’t know what to do, Doc. I feel like my life’s turned inside-out!”

“Tell me everything.”

“Who are you?”


“This is unbelievable. A bloody shrink’s office, this is. I’ve been mugged! I can’t have that!”

“Are you ok? Sit down again.”

“You ugly ape! You freak! What are you doing to me?”

“Just relax. You told me you had a problem remembering…”

“I’ll kill you! No-one touches me. I’ll make your blood run free, your skin turn blue, and your body a hollow shell!”

“Put that down! Damn it, put that down!”

“Oh my God, Doctor! What just happened?”

“Stay away from me, you. Leave me alone.”

“These scissors! What was I doing with them?”

“You monster!”

“Who did this, Doctor?”

“You did this. This is all your doing. Leave me alone.”

“That’s crap. I came to you so you could help me.”

“Help me, Assistant.”

“I did nothing. Come on, Doctor, be reasonable.”


“Get up. Come on, take my hand.”

“Ok, then.”

“What are you doing? How dare you touch me with your hideous, sausage fingers?”



“No, I....”

“Good riddance. Such a repulsive human-being. I’m going to stuff him in this closet while I find a way out. I hope his body rots in there, and starts crawling with a million maggots, slowly chewing, slowly, on the rot. That Doc just left me! Unbelievable. I come to him for help and he starts going looney in front of my eyes, then vanishes without a trace. What am I going to do now?”

“What’s happening?”

“Hello. You must be the Doc’s assistant. He left me here, you know.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No worries. I’m Abbas. Abbas Murtaza.”

“Hello, Sir.”

“Please, have a seat. I could use someone to talk to right now.”

The Outsider

By Abbas Murtaza

Write a short story called the outsider where you describe the reactions of the community to the arrival of an unusual or eccentric character.  

The town of Grove was proud and quiet. It sat in solemn silence in natural harmony with the forest, cloaked in the susurrus of insect-life and the green sheen of the trees. Sadly, its isolation led to the development of a very rigid society. The general of Grove ran a well-trained barracks. Times were difficult as a strange enemy spread its eldritch magic to the farthest reaches of the planet. In such times, even Grove was forced to lead a small army that General Baccus took great pride over.

One day, an outsider approached. The wind made him circle in dizzying patterns that led him to the town. Sometimes, when the wind dropped, he’d fall down and trudge with his torn slippers through the undergrowth. His hair was long and coal-black, hanging over his face and filled with grass and sand. His face was soiled, and in his mouth was a small willow-reed. His torn and patched, beggar-like clothes wrapped him comfortably. Like a fallen leaf, the strange outsider floated in the wind, tossing and turning, but heading in a general direction, seemingly without any weight.

The second he entered, the people stopped to stare. The well-dressed community eyed the outsider with long, poisonous glares. People strutted around the man, in wide, bold steps. They had creaseless clothes in neon tones and scoffed silently at first, to the slouched “ragamuffin” whose face was altogether hidden by the shadow of his hair. The outsider was unconcerned.
Intently he pushed through the crowd, as the wind might, without a single apology, bumping into people. Some of them objected and got the courage to shout after him, but he drifted on seemingly without direction. As the outsider entered Bacchus’ barracks, people got to work on gossiping about him. Talk spread like wildfire in minutes, turning speculation into fact:

“Did you see that uncouth and unkempt beggar person?”

“He’s the wind demon, they say.”

“He made a pact with the evil lord himself.”

“He’s aligned with Satan.”

As the door of the barracks closed, the outsider dropped to his feet softly. He picked the reed from his mouth, and spoke with a shrill, though smooth voice, without looking up at the General.

“You must be Bacchus. I’ve come for help.”

Bacchus slumped in his chair, a cup of ale clutched in his large hands.

“Oy can ‘elp ya!”

The outsider laughed. “Funny. I meant that I’ve been sent to help you.”

The shocked General stood up clumsily and slammed his fist against the wall in a show of brutal force.

“How unnecessary,” was the reply.

“What are ya?” Bacchus scowled.

“I’m a Drifter.”

“Who sent ya?”

“The king.”

“The king’s gotta screw ‘is ‘ead on straight, then,” he spat. “I never needed any scumbag’s help.

“Not now, not evah!”

There was another casual laugh. “Was all of this a breeze blowing through your ears? I can walk out. It’s simple enough. But you need to know something, General.”

Bacchus pushed him violently. “LEAVE!”

The Drifter, with a calm countenance, stepped on the wind, flinching from Bacchus’ attack. His body swirled on the breeze as the door opened, and whirled outside. Both of them sighed.
In the marketplace, the Drifter tried to ask for food, but the salesman rebuffed him annoyingly, asserting he didn’t have enough money and forcing him to leave so that he wouldn’t "disgust" other customers. The children, suddenly bold enough, laughed and joked about this appearance, and their parents let them. The Drifter tried harder not to care.

“This town doesn’t need street rats like you to dirty it up!” a rowdy teenager shouted, and a friend of his laughingly hurled a pebble at him, which he deflected with a wave of his hand.
The women talked amidst themselves, sometimes with a fear of his abilities to walk on air, but most of the times, they would comment on how they didn’t want to get their children near him because he might be loaded with disease. One woman pointed to the outsider to show her young sister on how ‘misery and poverty’ looked like in real-life, which is why she would have to study really hard in school.

“That miserable General has some nerve letting dirty apes like him sully our peaceful town. This big army he brags about should kick him out right now.”

The Drifter watched the sun starting to set, an orange haze flooding the town, staining the people with a dirty light.

Finally, a man wearing a big suit of armour stepped forth. He pushed himself through a large crowd, his eyes red with ale.  He had biceps larger than his own face, and a muddy, angry visage able to scare children. He approached the Drifter from the behind, and kicked him off the wind, so that he faltered and fell onto the earth, and nearly tripped over.

An uproarious laughter echoed, followed by snickering.

The Drifter got up.

“You have to tell your General, that…”

“Shut up, dog!” he screamed.

The Drifter danced out of his grasp the minute he lurched forward. He was like a dandelion seed that seemed to evade your grasp no matter how hard you tried to catch it. The giant warrior grew tired and enraged.

The Drifter hovered above them all. “Willows are weak, yet they bind other wood. A lesson you won’t learn until it’s too late.”

They didn’t listen though. They chased him with fire and stones and abuses and all the barbaric acts unfit to any civilized society. Behind their roar, the thunder of an approaching army of black knights could be heard.

Annoyed, the Drifter drifted away, like a petal on the clouds.