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.
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."
A Chandnagar Wedding
Rabia Khawar Malik
Sneaking a cigarette on the rooftop as the guests arrive for her Mehendi, a bride hears a startling confession.
"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.”."
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."
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."
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"
"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."
A young doctor learns that each individual expresses loss in their own distinct and unexpected ways.
Noor Us Sabah Tauqeer
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.