The Illusion of Learning

Education is beautiful. What a dream, to be numbered and lettered. There are tiny ink-strokes on blank paper that unlock doors to all of human civilisation, perhaps since the beginning of time. Who are we to deny anyone such a treasure, should they wish to acquire it. Who are we to deny anyone the joy of exploring stories, uncovering the world, delving deep into the secrets of the universe. It is all to be found within the written word. Continue reading

Of Oscars and Executions

This 29th of February turned out to be quite a manic Monday for Pakistanis everywhere with even the mildest interest in the currents that shape their country. These currents are many, varied, and not a little unpredictable- as was made clear to all of us who woke up groggy and sleepy-eyed to find social media and the news exploding left right and centre. Continue reading

Perfect Ones

My beautiful broken pieces wandering from one day to the next- don’t you see how wonderful you are? With all your jagged edges, and sharp corners, and peeling paint- don’t you see? Don’t you see how you fit, one with the next, with the next, with the next? There is no rhyme or rhythm to your beauty, but you are awe-inspiring, breath-taking, powerful in your perfection. Look into that mirror. Look. For just one second, See. Continue reading

Little White Bird

Here, hold a mirror. Sit. Let me tell you what I see- hush- just listen. You are a bird- beautiful, soft, white feathers, long graceful wings. You are flying and flying, round and round a cage. It’s a tall, wrought iron cage, circular and unforgiving. You are flying. Sometimes you are frantic and you flap about it and other times, you are defeated. Always, always, gazing through the bars, at the world within. I wonder what you see. I wonder why you do this. Continue reading


It’s very rare I pick up a pen to write a commentary on film or art or writing. Manto revolves around all three, and here I am. There are films that make you think, and films that make you feel, and films that that drag you out by the hair, kicking and screaming in front of a mirror. Like the writer himself, this film grabs you collectively, as a society. It grabs you by the hair and drags you out into the dust, and forces you to look into your own eyes. It forces you to look at blemishes and marks and scars, at the open wounds, and master the involuntary shudders. It forces you to NOT shrink back and NOT close your eyes and glance away. You face the furtive head on.

You face it, and you acknowledge it.

A tiny nod, but it’s a start. A mark of recognition, the starting of a new acquaintanceship. In that one tiny nod, you mark the landscape in the mirror as an equal. A landscape you will walk through and engage with. Your eyes are drawn to the darkness again and again- in shock and in fascination.

In the few hours this film makes you sit alongside this darkness, you find yourself growing accustomed to it. Is the face in the mirror such a stranger really? You gaze at each other. He moves, I move. He closes his eyes, I close mine. He sighs, I sigh. A tear escapes, and we both lift our hands to brush it aside.

We are complex creatures- layers and layers of emotion, thought, soul. The light and dark are so closely knitted together that we exist in ever deepening shades of grey. Unravelling those threads yields the black and the white in comparable measure. They are equally part of the whole, the mix behind the grey.

We ignore the grey. We ignore all that is for some stunted half-image we so desperately idolise. We paint it white and put it on a pedestal and bow down endlessly- the rest shoved hastily aside, doused in black, and doused in hate. The idol on the pedestal would never rise tall and pristine but for the broken pieces littered around it. The white rises only amidst the sea of black.

It is a lie.

It is a pitiful excuse for lopsided, conditional love, a lopsided, conditional self, a lopsided, conditional social mirror. I will see only that which is cast in stark light. The rest is beneath me. I will be the light. I will not be that which enriches it. That which IS in equal measure, a part of this fabric I am knitted from.

Manto is not so much a nod or acknowledgement, as a salute to the is-ness of the world around him. This film magnifies the white and magnifies the black, so lovingly and so powerfully; so unequivocally, that the illusion of both is shattered. There is only grey.

What next?

One asks oneself- what next. What next. And then what next. Imagine yourself in all your glory, leaping from pinnacle to pinnacle. An invincible young warrior- eyes blazing, hair streaming in the bracing wind, sword aloft. The steel of your armour glinting in the sun as the new day rises. You stand among the clouds, untouched by the scurrying of furtive things that crawl the earth. The shoulders that hoisted you up stand hunched in worship. You are beautiful. You are glorious. You are a conquerer. Continue reading