Old Arguments

This website and its associated comments, reinforce what I’ve mentioned time and again on this blog: the desi writers are just not doing enough to make a mark in the world in general, and the literary world in specific. The question becomes: what are we so afraid of, and why?

Although the article itself discusses the validity of MFA programs, the comments are fascinating reading and seem to echo so many of my own thoughts (and problems) with the current breed of desi writers.

There’s the old argument of doing, again. Or lack thereof.

In the spirit of camaraderie, this is an article published by our very own desi writer in The News on Sunday. Shameless self-promotion, you ask? Absolutely. What else is this here for?

In other news, I seem to be having some trouble locating a suitable service provider to match my vision for DesiWritersLounge.net’s upgraded version. I can only hope I locate one and try to release some beta form by December’s end, although it doesn’t look likely.

With so many changes planned, so much to rehash and revise, I wonder whether we’ll have any time for e-zine editorial work. Or well, to be more specific, me. Of course, I can always reassign them to my minions, but then considering one’s got a play coming up, another will be married by then, the other’s got work and the last is a somewhat reluctant participant; things don’t look particularly bright.

But December’s still a while away yet. “We” should really stop worrying about it

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

New discussion: what makes a writer good or bad?

To be honest, I think the classification shouldn’t exist. While it’s true, that some writers are naturally more gifted than others, I think a lot of it stems from how much you’re willing to put in, and how much you’re willing to go running after it.

If publication is the measure of being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, then there’s the problem right there. There are a lot of writers out there because of time and circumstance just haven’t been discovered, and probably, in most instances never will. Does that mean they aren’t ‘good’? I don’t think so.

A lot of good writers are rejected by publishers, not because their work isn’t good – it could be the best ever – but a lot depends on its perception, and the timing, and on whether it’s going to be received well by a rapidly undemocratic audience.

But, and I’m going out on a limb here, I’d say that a lot of it depends on the individual’s own persistence.

And sure, contacts matter, especially in the publishing world. But at the end of the day, it’s just down to one thing: how does the work sit with the publisher? Because if it doesn’t sit with his/her appetite, it’s not going to stand a chance at publication, unless you self-publish and do you really want to go down that path? There’s nothing wrong with it of course – a lot of people self-publish – but although it’s not a statement, it’s the rule of thumb: self-publication is the mark of a failed author, who couldn’t be published through traditional means. So if you want to keep your respect, you might want to think twice about it.

Of course, there are some glaringly bad writers out there…but then, they’re the ones who get others to write their books for them! We should thank the ghostwriters of the world, they ease our palette just a little, and really, it’s the wee bit that counts.

Will write more on this, later.

I’d ask you to discuss this in the comments section, but really, I know better by now. The audience of this blog, like its corresponding site, is largely silent. Oh well. I’ve been living with the silent treatment for a little more than a year now.


People. They’re all content with status quo – there is no longing to awaken. To do. To cause action, how can you be a writer without a cause?

In that vein, is Numb being written with a cause? Is there some social need driving it? My stories are worthless without a cause. They must exist for something, so to speak.

That characters (in N) are empty; almost soulless creatures. The purpose – the cause, if you will – is to bring forth the darkness in man. But it might not answer any questions, other than ‘are we prepared to face the darkness in us’ with the answer: ‘no’. I believe the best we can do, is subjugate it, instead of really looking at it in the face.

A writer must write, after all, because he’s got something to say and not the other way around.

The activist in me is back, just when I was wondering where she’d disappeared off to. But we all need our moments of reprieve, sometimes.

I need to move past this wordless state. I must.

Finding the center of gravity

Interesting conversation at the dinner table, today. Apparently, according to my mother, two sisters shouldn’t sleep with each other (no, not like that – head out of. Gutter. Now.) on the same bed, because of the parentheses. I said the brother-sister union is one of the usual cases of incest, and then of course, the most common one came up – father-daughter. That started a further discussion how in some shows (most notably, Law and Order: SVU) they’ve shown twisted cases of each, including mother-daughter relationships. Yes, we often talk about incest on the dinner table.

But sarcasm notwithstanding, it brought up an interesting side issue: my mother and sister feel such insane, psychotic events shouldn’t be depicted on TV for common, public viewing because it fills your mind up with things you wouldn’t think of, otherwise. I disagree. I think it’s an excellent way to create awareness – to let you know about the shit in this world – and the fact that you need to be wary of the realities of these situations, and the possibilities that they can and do happen in thousands of cases across the world. After all, if we hide them, how will we help get rid of the social depravities?

This kind of thinking has permeated through to our culture at large – hide it, subjugate the hidden truths – and yet, we turn our noses up in disgust about incidents similar to these when they happen in our vicinity. It’s hypocritical.

I have a cause, and I firmly believe in this and it’s among the reasons I write. Sure, in the beginning it was all about the story, but my recent pieces have been fueled by something else entirely.

Numb has restarted, thankfully although the style I’m writing it in is completely foreign. If I was worried about falling into the same snarkalicious one of yesterday, looks like I won’t have anything to worry about. Or well, hopefully.

So just to clear the air: I’m not one who just talks and talks about writing on different subjects, and doesn’t tackle them in an effort to better understand. I do, and I plan to continue doing it.

And if there are people out there, most notably members of my family, who think things like these shouldn’t be addressed, I’m here to say: Tough. I owe something to society, or it owes something to me. In either case, I feel it incumbent on me to write the humanity of things, even if it isn’t as pretty as we’d like to think it is. Or…well, I’ll admit: Especially then. Some members of my conservative family don’t like my tendencies on the Shi’a-Sunni-sectarian issue. If people ask what I am, I prefer to say I’m just a Muslim without classifying. Some people actually think this is a dangerous way of thinking and needs to be corrected, asap – I kid you not.

Yes, the fire of activism burns in my soul once again, alive and well. Nice to know.

As for DesiWritersLounge.net, it is my sincerest wish that it launches itself to become among the best independent desi magazines this country has to offer, gives the upcoming writers a place to flex their muscles and encourages thinking. Challenging, always – a place for independent judgments. Because if we’re just going to create another breed of intellectual slackers, we’ve failed and my vision for the site and forums is lost.

Back at the dinner table, conversation’s end found me locating the center of gravity of a fork on my finger. An appropriate end to the story, don’t you think?


Contrary to one of my earlier posts, I’m pondering whether a strange variation of combined writer’s block has hit the forums collectively, over at the ‘Lounge. It seems every which way I turn, someone’s mourning the absence of words. Words. It’s all about words, isn’t it?

Mine is a little more sinister: fear. And somewhere underneath it all, is the feeling I can’t get away from: I am undeserving because I did the one thing I thought I’d never to – push it away – and now, it seems I’m terrified of calling it back. At the end of the day, I’ve defined myself through my work, and if I’m not a writer than who the hell am I?

Oh…and this just in. We’ve got a serious contribution request from a Daily Times reporter – just checked my inbox. Is that neat, or what? Seems like we’re really kicking things off. Hinteresting, so very hinteresting, indeed.

Things seem to be looking up for the Lounge. It’s been a long time coming, but we’re getting somewhere. The only way to move is forward, after all.

Yes, this just lifted me from my writer’s doldrums. How heavenly.

It also looks like I’ll be starting the podcasts after all, and probably on my own. How strange that the first voice people will hear will be mine, representing DesiWritersLounge.net. I find that decidedly odd. However, it’s all in the name of progress after all.

Here’s to moving forward!

Our Religion & Bookworm: Revised

Just saw Misbah-ul-haq’s final bow at the ICC 20/20 World Cup – poor man – no idea what he was thinking, though. 6 runs from 4 balls. We were so there, before he took that poor risk and bam! Out. Caught from behind. Oh sadness, sadness, sadness.

We can be happy for one thing, however: he singlehandedly turned the match around. Nerves of steel, the commentators said. Well, those nerves had to run out at some point, and sure it was terrible timing, but at least we didn’t lose in the humiliating way we could’ve. So there are things to be pleased about.

That, and the realization that whatever the interim period, cricket remains our religion, where sects and the various divisions play no role whatsoever. It’s amazing that a sport can bring people together like that.

In other news, I feel I’ve done my fellow desi authors a disservice by claiming that their work isn’t as minded as it should be, and although I remain adamant in my opinion that it needs to tackle more mainstream dialog to make a greater impact, the work they have done shouldn’t be ignored. After all, maybe it’s important for us to remember the time of Zia and the East/West Pakistan shift and all the hatred that erupted in those times. That the Land of the Pure was inevitably born from a whole lotta blood. Sure, it doesn’t deal with the present, but hey! It’s a great way of giving us some measure of closure on the past, right? Right.

In that vein, Trespassing wasn’t an altogether bad novel dealing more along the contemporary lines of the Gulf War’s impact on the Pakistani population’s thought process. ‘Twasn’t bad, as fictional desi analyses go. At least, we’ve got mainstream English writers, right?

But enough of this. We need more, damn it and subjects that haven’t been touched on, or that people have been too afraid to talk about. There’s so much to address – our country’s got stories sitting in its veins – good Lord, even the shit it pours out’s got a story to tell. Brilliant, eh? The multicultural, multi faceted, multi-colored society of ours needs to be addressed in its fullest capacity, and why must we, by definition write only about one specific city may I ask? To embrace the country, is to embrace it in full, to live it and I think that’s one of the things that makes Islamabad a great place to live in – you’re sort of removed from the inbuilt narcissisms of other cities – you make impressions on a more open-minded scale, less afraid so to speak, to understand. Of course, this could just be for a subset of people – the same subset that exist in limited minorities in any city of this country of ours. So maybe I’m just babbling? Maybe. It’s always a possibility. One of the fundamental things about being a desi writer, is the capacity to babble, and to babble with conviction.

In other news, we’ve got a little “add-to” story running up on the E-zine forum, which, if all turns out well, we’ll incorporate as a combined story effort by several of our members. The history of this lies in the original Internet Kahani begun by one of our moderators, while still at Orkut, in fact among its early and formative days. She began it and asked each of us to contribute a little bit to it, the next post starting off from where the last ended and though it began by a man being chased in the dark, it ended with the man having somehow made it into the desert, with a snake for a companion until finally being bitten by a vampire and being condemned to the undead! It was a great effort by each of us bringing to light the diversity of our skills and styles, and a story rich in both description and imagination was conceived within the few short weeks that it ran. In an effort to bring back that sort of imaginative team work, I’ve restarted it obviously with a different storyline.

If you’re interested to read it, unfortunately it isn’t public yet, so you can either wait for December, or you can join us and contribute. It’s a fun little exercise.

Anyway, Numb seems languishing in its hole somewhere and if I wait for long enough, it’ll disappear from my conscience altogether. But that mustn’t happen.

Wish me luck – I may need it.

Coffee Culture: Whipped Literati?

Today’s Magazine (Dawn) had a plethora of articles about the budding cafe ‘culture’ in our dear Land of the Pure – I counted four, which is actually pretty sad because all of them were similar – “Down Memory Lane”, “Eat, drink and be merry”, “The lost kulcha gali” (why can’t we do something instead of complaining about it, is the bigger question), and “Smell the coffee, please” which I must take offense against – the writer’s need to appear witty was nearly as bad as the people she wrote about. The whole pot calling kettle black and all.

It’s as if they all collectively decided to tackle this insane topic of discussion, which must have been written to death for the past two-three years when the houses first started mushrooming in the three cities. Point to note: Islamabad’s growth hasn’t been mentioned in either of the articles – hmph, typical. Usually, when Dawn presents a case, it’s a for-against thing consisting of one article for each, not this insane idea of 2 for 2. Some respect for the readers here, please! Sheesh. You’d think all they were worried about was selling copies.

I believe writers are thinkers, and to be a writer you must, in some part at least, be a thinker, be the person willing to defy and challenge the conglomerate rules that bind the rest of society. To awaken, to change. Not sit back and write about idiotic things like the cafe culture. You have a problem with it? Well, you obviously do so let’s stick to the rhetoric here, shall we? Do something about it. Don’t tell me, show me, damn it! I’m tired of the constant whining and bemoaning of what the coffee “culture” (or lack thereof I should say) has infused into this country. If you’re bemoaning the loss of doodh-patti, advocate for its return and I mean, beyond writing about it in Pakistan’s third English language newspaper. Arise, arise! Move people to action. Constant criticism and berating never did anything except give the rebels further cause to rebel. Come on, people. A little creativity here.

You want forums for literary endeavors and lack them in coffee houses? Fine, that’s perfectly acceptable, but then create those forums. Show you do care.

I know that the whole literary conversion thing is slow, but hey! At least I’m doing something about it – I’m running that website – bringing out a quarterly ezine for the amateur and budding writers of tomorrow, in the hopes of creating more awareness. So what are you bringing to the table aside from those nags and moans for yesteryear? Because if that’s all, the door’s that little tiny thing in the corner.

Don’t let me stop you.

I guess you have to ask yourselves one question: “are we, the flag bearers of the grand Past whipped by the coffee culture?” Because if your answer is no, I beg to differ.


Given, I don’t know as much as I would like to about the recent E-Crimes Bill, the ones who are in the know, private officials of course, seem to think the bill is a violation against any citizen’s basic right to privacy. What I’ve read about it, I can’t help but concur. The Government’s Big Brotherish tactics it seems, are gaining more publicity and recognition although whether or not anything will be done about it, remains to be seen.

After all, wasn’t the Chief Justice reinstatement supposed to herald ‘change’? They ruled favorably towards the hair transplanted (wigged?) Nawaz but They (the Other They – don’t want to be too specific – might land me in jail, apparently) deported him off again. Some power! But then, that might just my personal cynicism towards the sense of law and order in this country. To quote Ars Technica: Law & Disorder.

Although one thing can be said about living in this constant state of political unrest: there are no shortage of subjects to write upon. Then of course, there’s the Victorian Era we still live in in terms of marital proposals and societal propriety. “Modernity” might cling wrap, attach itself to the highest echelons of society, but still we can’t escape our Victorian roots. Among our last colonial heritages, we should be proud.

True, this entry isn’t strictly about writing, but I did mention it somewhere in there, so I think it qualifies. Things go slow on the site – we have our periods of slumps apparently, and there’s only so much I can do alone – yes, I have other responsibilities, but I don’t believe that they should hinder my role of caretaker of the site. If only others shared in that noble conception.

Can you feel the snark?

One parting remark, though note that it’s wholly unrelated to any of the above: writers are supposed to be the loners of society, and I’ve seen several in my acquaintance circle who seem to embrace it all too naturally. Indeed, I was among them. But one thing needs to be made clear: we might think we can make it, but man’s inherent nature isn’t to be alone.

Food for thought.


I’m running on less than four hours of sleep, and yes I like announcing that – didn’t I mention somewhere upthread that I’m horribly vain? For all the busybodies out there, I’m off the clock work wise, which means I’m free as a bee until Iftari. Genius! I rhymed.

I’ve been struggling lately with Numb, my latest “short” story although given the stuff I’m planning for this little foray into twisted personalized fiction, it might not be too short and maybe not even much of a story. Why the negativity, you ask, especially with all the grrreat vibes I’ve been sending out there with the perseverance and the persistence and all that jazz? The story and its associated characters, lines, alleys and byways have been on my mind for weeks. Although I must confess: the starting paragraph, as relentless and difficult as its been, sets exactly the tone I was aiming for. But then, I only did scratch and rewrite it four times. Those attempts are all saved of course…who knows when I might need them after all. They’re good to save for a rainy day.

Speaking of rainy days, it poured here in Isloo for all of a little over 60 minutes before giving way for the sun to peer in through the nonexistent gaps of a few hours ago. It hailed too, as if He was trying to prove something. Last time it hailed, we were sitting at Civil Junction enjoying the first rains of the monsoons, and the discussion about the poetry of the season gave way to my own personal description of the scene soon after, in Color Me In while staring out onto the veranda of my lounge. (Note: my lounge, not the desi writer’s lounge).

I think, as I expressed in The Writer’s Journal forum, that a part of the reason for not being able to move past with Numb, is because a lot of it will come from experience with a certain crowd that I’m just not as willing to share, or more appropriately, I don’t want to be affiliated with. And I really don’t know whether my personal strengths still hold with the person I used to be, and who I’ve since struggled to unlearn.

There was a writer’s quote I read a few weeks ago, about how writers strip bare in their stories, of how disrobed they appear to the public in their works, and how much of themselves really goes into each attempt. Because if you’re committed to telling that story, invariably bits of you find their way in and the absurd fact is: once they’re written and put up, that’s it. There’s no taking them back. You are what you write, really. It’s actually that simple.

And I suppose a part of me is terrified with what Numb will uncover. Because aren’t stories just always personal inroads, discoveries into your untold treasure chest of secrets? But of course, nobody knows specifics. After all, what fun would that be?

Being a writer is a shitty job, and it’s more than a job, because you’re often not paid for it, or not paid enough. So it’s an obsession, a devotion, an insane asylum. It’s many things to many people, but it’s an art.

That’s the only unarguable fact.

Because a member responded to the podcasting news on the main page of our website, I’ve come to the realization, sudden and absolute: I haven’t really planned the entire operation. I should, because what if someone else steps up? Terrifying.

As it is, I’m still mulling over the different features the website should have when I outsource it to another company instead of doing it myself. There are limits to my knowledge, I must admit and besides, I’d rather have something classy which can be achieved by working with someone else. I dictate, they implement. It’ll be a reversal of roles – I’ve never been a client before. Should be interesting.

Very small post, this just to keep those fingers moving than for any extrinsic value of its own. That’s it for now.

I’m too tired and drained to write anything else.