An Abandoned Man

If tear-streaked faces of broken families

begged you to stop killing their sons,
would you reflect and see your wrongs,
or would you still load your guns? 

For every girl who lost a father,
every wife now a widow,
I hope you see that you have spilled,
the blood splattered on my window *


 High on testosterone and brimming with teenage angst, we entered the office of the Chief Minister of Punjab. The object was to get a personalized license plate for my friend’s new car. The plan was that in order to get through the “gatekeepers,” I would claim to be the Chief Minister’s nephew, but we hadn’t a clue of what we would do if we were granted audience. I had probably imagined that the innocence of our request and confidence in our ability to access a high ranking official would be enough to charm the man. Or perhaps, we were sure that we wouldn’t get that far. And we did not. But that provided us with something to laugh about for years afterwards.

We had met in college. New to the city and facing similar issues of unfamiliarity with our surroundings, we started spending time together. For two years, until our lives took us on divergent paths, we were together in class in the morning, playing cricket in the afternoon, taking tutorials in the evening, and roaming around the city at night. We became the best of friends, and have remained so. In time, our families too developed cordial ties. Continue reading “An Abandoned Man”

Archive Remix I: Bike Rides

[You may know that CM has long had an official Archivist – a person who has helped maintain the Facebook page, and helped me cull through the huge archive for posts and materials. You know him as Salman in the comment sections, SalmaanH on twitter, and patwari as author on CM. This is a first in a series of posts on CM where he will highlight various themes from CM using his own narratives – it is one way to keep the archive from being less a silo and more a quilt. We want to thank patwari for this, and for continuing to be part of the CM family. Love – sepoy, lapata, (that farangi)]

Cricket maintained its presence in my childhood in many forms, be it book cricket in classroom, or make-belief cricket in living room where I would stand in a corner and pretend to be this or that international batsman reeling off six after six, or indoor cricket with my brothers. Sometimes even abbuji played cricket with us in the veranda and bowled underarm to me. But soon enough, my brothers started going out to play street cricket, which I was not allowed to do yet, leaving me with not much to do besides riding my tricycle in the veranda, or nibbling on my mother’s decommissioned dupattas.
Taking note of that, one day my father had me hop onto my older brother’s bicycle and had me paddle as he held on to the carrier at the back of the bike. I could see abbuji breathing heavily as he tried to keep pace with the bicycle. Then, unbeknownst to me, he let go of the bicycle. I paddled for a little while before realizing that he had let go, at which point I looked down at the ground below and the cycle-handle wobbled in my hands. I must have been about to fall when abbuji called out, “Keep the handle straight and keep paddling. You are doing fine. Kuch nahin ho ga.

It wasn’t until 9th grade that I got what I considered a man’s bicycle –a 20+ inch Sohrab. My best friend and I would ride all evening, from one friend’s house to another, going to our tutor’s house and taking our sweet time in getting back. As the span of my bicycle trips increased, so did my sense of self and of the world around me. It is to that combination of boyhood and freedom to explore I return when I read about bike rides.

Postcards from the Archive: Goodbye 2010

This 6th year of CM will go down in the annals of Chapatism, first and foremost, as a year of the renaissance sprung by Lapata’s posts – for which readers have the bureaucratic morass of academy, “the insane rants of an inflamed tea-partier”, and Sepoy’s badgering to thank – illuminating the particularities of partition or the reluctant feudalism of mango farmers, introducing CM readers to Naiyer Masud and Amitava Kumar, or providing a peep into Memon Sahib’s literary striptease, and culminating in The War and Peace of Hindi Literature!

Sepoy moved to Berlin but continued to bring readers reviews of the quality that they have come to expect from him; reviews such as that of William Dalrymple’s Nine Lives, Amitava Kumar’s A Foreigner, Fatima Bhutto’s Songs of Blood and Sword, and last but not the least, a takedown of a globe-trotter’s cartographic musings.

Some conversations that started in 2009 continued in 2010: amidst growing alienation, Faisal Shehzad became the face of a “Pakistan native;” Pakistan’s originary myth remained tied to spectacular events; Zaid Hamid was given thorough examination by a “so called Pakistani historian,” who also reflected upon the history of erasures and repressions that culminated in the horrific attack on an Ahmadi mosque in Lahore in “We Are All Ahmadi” series. In the year of catastrophic floods, the fires of hatred continued to burn (in) homistan, while the discussion amongst politicians remained focused on how to save the children.

Towards the end of the year, the major event at CM was Granta: Peccavistan (also reviewed by Lapata) and an exploration of the Cocoonistan from whence developmentalist discourse springs.

PS. Simon Digby and Tony Judt will be sorely missed.

PPS. Also see Syed Ahmed Khan and Urdu, and Basanti’s stellar review of Ishqiya.