Each week we spotlight two short stories from our longlist. This year's writing displays a diversity of subject matter. Themes range from the personal to the public, from marriage to rebellion to assassination attempts. 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.
"She felt her brain glimmer as it always did before she lost it. 'Found yourself' Gula had said from behind her hippocampus when she had been whisked into the inner spaces of her mind in those early days. Zoya had smiled her bright smile at her ...
Gula and her little sister Zoya lived inside. In Zainab’s mind."
"It had taken some time for Laila and Salman to find something akin to a rhythm in their relationship. The terms of their marriage had become clear to them both fairly swiftly. She was a simple middle class girl. He was a handsome and wealthy catch ...Together, their only job in the Seth universe was to procreate "
"His almond-pinched eyes sifted through the sea of white shalwar kameez and loose ponytails around the school gate, surveying the same chapped lips and subtle outlines of training bras until he noticed a young mother ... Saabir stared at the nude lipstick caked on her full lips almost in a trance."
Ghost of the Waxing Woman
"She doesn’t know if it humbles those women to come face to face in a non-transactional circumstance, with someone who has seen their stubbly body hair everywhere, waxed it out of nooks and corners, but is in this rare setting, all things disregarded, their equal."
Illustration by Laiba Raja
"It was the year of political unrest in Pakistan when I turned eighteen… Lahore was echoing with the slogans of freedom; from the tyrant government, the criminal justice system, and the villainous law enforcement agencies. Joining this landscape of struggle, I raised my own voice.
'I want to cut my hair short.' ”
"She named the podcast 'Rare But There'. The name was more than a moniker to her; it was her silent hope and most ardent prayer: 'Please God, don’t let my search for hidden jewels of integrity end in disappointment. Please let me discover that intelligence, honesty, virtue, bravery, and conscientiousness are rare but they are there.' ”