Photo Studio Lights

Each week we spotlight three pieces of writing from our longlist. This year's short fiction writing displays a diversity of subject matter ranging from the dramatic or humorous trials and tribulations of weddings, marriages and relationships to death and dementia. Writing styles range from magical realism and speculative fiction to literary realism and satire. Yet in all cases our writers succeed in conjuring places and scenarios with an assurance that is particularly evocative and resonant of Pakistani society and culture.

SPOTLIGHT

images-5_edited.jpg
Laila, Bhutto, Zia

A woman recalls how the most significant events in her life coincided with momentous events in the country's political landscape.

Afifa Kamal Chaudhry

_edited.jpg
The Watch and the Keys

"She glanced at the mirror one last time and fixed her kameez behind her. She picked up the wristwatch on her bedside table ..."

Manish Kazmi

525e5f9ed86b6.jpg
The American Embassy Might've Killed My Dad

"There’s a sign outside the fort-like U.S. Embassy in Karachi that says, ‘USA loves Karachi’ ...They love Karachi so much that they just want everyone to stay in Karachi. That has got to be why they rejected my visa this morning."

Zahra Mansoor

Dazzling Light
Lights Out

Standing on her Karachi balcony alone in the moonlight, Mina waits for some magic to light up her life.

Arsala Jameel Farooqui

2904.jpg
It's Getting Darker

"My skin, inherited from Baba, is soft and radiant, the colour of ripe cheekoo pulp. Amma says that when I was born, my skin was hers, pearly white, like babies’ teeth. When I got jaundice, it turned yellow. Then it became darker. And darker." 

Mehreen Naveed Chawla

_edited.jpg
Chariot

"So, I ride for Margalla Hills ... As soon as I hit fifty, skirting the limit of second gear, I slide my body down the length of the bike and rest my chin on the handlebars, clench my jaw against the vibration to steady my tear ducts" 

Mehreen Fatima Ashfaq

picasso-abstract-paintings_edited.jpg
Ding Dong Dash

A story about  body image and a woman's attempt to move past the guilt and shame associated with it.

Jaza Aqil

80192851_2388267488154901_5399135084936691712_n.jpg
Home is Where Trust Is

"She was born with a name tattooed on her skin, as is everybody else. Well, most of them. A name representing her soul’s other half, a soulmark." 

Tehreem Hassan

smoking.jpg
A Chandnagar Wedding

Sneaking a cigarette on the rooftop as the guests arrive for her Mehendi, a bride hears a startling confession. 

Rabia Khawar Malik

Dementia-Alzheimers-Abstract-Concept.jpg
Sundowning

"A few paces ahead, under the omniscient glow of Zarrar Shaheed Road’s solitary working streetlight, Papa stood in only his yellowed vest and shalwar, his back turned to me. “Come back inside, please,” I called out to him, and then, “I’m doing this for you.”."

Minahil Mahmud

Dementia India _edited.jpg
Odds and Ends

"When one is an eighty-year-old woman, who needs assistance while defecating, it seems that all rights to any semblance of respect are waived. It was not so in my day."

Madiha Riaz

Avatar.jpg
How to Be a Woman

"On TV, the Prime Minister says it is your fault. The devil is inside you. You in your loose shalwar kameez, your two-and-a-half-meter long dupatta – seductive and be-purdah – are the devil."

Zuha Siddiqui

gaudy-aunty_edited.jpg
Mishaps and Misdemeanours

"Two hours ago, gate-crashing a wedding had seemed like a good idea ... At best, it was to be the symbol of our emancipation from routine drudgery and docility. At worst, the haleem would taste terrible" 

Maria Niazi

Why-youre-having-more-vivid-dreams-iStock-511540534-500x409.jpg
The Rememberer

"It’s the bed. It’s been in the family for a while. So many people have slept on it ...  I think of dream catchers. Something here is a trap imprinting something metaphysical in the air for centuries to come."

Fatima Taqvi

AHAPAWD00029_C_zoom.jpg
Mirrorwork Chador

A young doctor learns that  each individual expresses  loss in their own distinct and unexpected ways.

Samia Altaf

Screen Shot 2022-01-05 at 8.51.56 pm.png
Sehra

Lashings of qorma and lab-e-shireen, the chaotic timing of events, the judgemental guests, are all familiar tropes captured in this well-observed  story of a Pakistani wedding. 

Noor Us Sabah Tauqeer