His father used to work at the refinery, which was a good job. His father brought home a new toy every evening, that’s what Bilal remembers. Many of the toys are still at home, stuffed under his mother’s bed: speaking animals, racing cars, things that work if you have batteries.

Bilal thought his father had a round and jolly face, but this thought contradicted the stern, gaunt photograph framed on the living room wall. The photograph was a fact – unlike Bilal’s thought, which was only a thought, as vague and blurry at the edges as thoughts tend to be.

A couple of years ago, a long time now, his father had been arrested and taken away. This happened to a lot of people and was nothing much to cry about.

There was some confusion as to his father’s exact location. One aunt said he was in the local prison. One said he was in prison in the capital. His uncles squeezed his shoulder and said nothing at all.

One aunt said he was in heaven. When Bilal heard her he thought his father had been killed and he began to cry inconsolably. But his mother told him that that aunt was just upset and raving, that his father was in prison in the capital, and that Bilal would meet him again one day when he’d grown up and done something that his father could be really proud of. She said people don’t die in any case. And Bilal was consoled.

He was the oldest child, the only son, in a way the head of the household now. He bossed around his two sisters who were too little to obey him. He knew he bore responsibility for them and for his mother whose wages paid the rent on their flat but didn’t put food on the table. That was his job. But what he suffered in responsibility he regained in freedom.

Continue reading “Petrol”

It’s Called Dignity

Mohammad Hanif, author of the Booker Prize-listed novel “A Case of Exploding Mangoes“, writes for the Guardian about the worsening aftermath of the floods in Pakistan and the lot of Pakistan’s poor, floods or not.

Last month, in a camp set up for flood refugees outside Pakistan’s southern city of Sukkur, a group of men and boys gathered around the medical tent complaining about the rising cases of stomach infections. “They give us food that’s too spicy,” they said.

“What do they give you?” I asked a young man.

“Korma,” he said. “But they put too many spices in it. We don’t like these spices.”

A relief worker at the camp who overheard our conversation cursed under his breath. “They get to eat korma every day and still they complain.” The implication was clear: could they afford to eat korma before this flood made them homeless? Shouldn’t they be grateful?

Continue reading “It’s Called Dignity”

Manufacturing Consent and Violence: Azadi, Arundhati, Hindutva Terror, and Indian Media

by Huma Dar

At a groundbreaking seminar, ‘Azadi: The Only Way,’ organized by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) in New Delhi, India, on October 21st, 2010, the minutes record that Arundhati Roy, the prize-winning author of The God of Small Things, asserted that

[Kashmir] has never been an integral part of India and the Indian government recognised it as a disputed territory and took it to the UN on its own accord. In 1947 we were told that India became a sovereign democracy. But it became a country as per the imagination of its colonizer, and continued to be a colonizer even after the British left the country. Indian state forcibly or deceitfully annexed the North-East, Goa, Junagarh, Telangana, etc… the Indian state has waged a protracted war against the people which it calls its own. Who are the people it has waged war against? The people of North-East, Kashmir, Punjab, etc. This is an upper caste Hindu state waging a continuing struggle against the people. Continue reading “Manufacturing Consent and Violence: Azadi, Arundhati, Hindutva Terror, and Indian Media”