Week Three: Parwaaz – Urdu Short Stories By Women

This is the third book in the books I’m reading this year. Around now I should be writing the review of my  seventh book. Hopefully the new blog will inspire me to write more! This book was read from 13th January to 19th.

Short Mein Bole Toh: This was my first serious reading of this year. Though my reasons for reading this book were purely academic (borrowed from library); I think I’ll read the short stories once again someday.

If you’ve time, then please read the rest of my opinion of this book.

I never understood what “afsana likh rahi hoon” meant. The introduction to this collection of short stories is so brilliant and well researched that it makes a case for reading all stories even if they may not all be good. This particular genre is called the afsana literature in Urdu writing and though preferred by women for most part, the influence and some seminal works by men are talked of too.

“Parwaaz” is a compendium of short stories by women authors translated from Urdu by Sayeeda. S. Hameed and Sughra Mehdi. Though “short” at only 11 stories, the book is by no means a light read. Some of the stories are so deeply disturbing, that I wished at times that I could stop picturing them.

Parwaaz in Urdu means to rise or to soar (translation mine, anyone have a better term?) With stories that come from India and across the border from Pakistan, the most obvious theme would be the partition; however, the condition of women and the life in purdah form the main theme.

The authors in this collection are Rasheed Jahan, Hijab Imtiaz Ali, Khursheed Mirza, Ismat Chugtai, Saliha Abid Husain, Razia Sajjad Zaheer, Qurratulain Hyder, Hajira Masroor, Khadija Mastur, Jeelani Bano and Wajida Tabassum. I’ve previous read a couple of them, but a majority of these women were revelations for me and I think I’ll treat this book as an index to their works.

Perhaps, the most upsetting story was the last one by Tabassum called Cast-offs (Utran). If you’ve seen the popular show on Indian television by the same name, you’ll know how the story begins but there’s no possibility of being able to predict the end.


This is my fifth compendium of translated writing in India by women in the last three months. After ten stories or so, the themes start to blend and every character feels the same. A couple of stories stayed with me much after I finished reading this book, and that’s saying a lot when you read literature like you consume ordinary media.

The best part about reading this book may turn out to be the fact that I am, once again, interested in learning and reading more Urdu.

Who Should Read: If you’re interested to get a woman’s perspective into the excessive crimes of the partition and want to read stories that may be very very ordinary but special at the same time.

Who Should Not Read: If you cannot handle moderate to extreme violence and prefer happy endings. If translated works are not your thing.

If you would like to read someone else’s opinion on the same, you can read it here.


Week Two: The Book of Humour by Ruskin Bond.

There were supposed to be four posts by now, but this is only the second! Though I am continuing with my weekly book promise to myself, writing a post about it too is proving to be quite a task! Here’s to hoping I improve soon! This book was read from 7th January to 12th!

Short Mein Bole Toh: I wish I had a life as wonderful as Bond’s. If nothing, then an uncle as eccentric as his.
If you’ve time, then please read the rest of my opinion of this book.
Perhaps the first Ruskin Bond story I read was Night Train to Deoli. It was in the Maharashtra State Board English textbook along with Lady on Platform Number 8 and The Cherry Tree. I remember thinking then that the story was so good, it would make such a beautiful and haunting movie.
I’ve read scores of books by him including his biographical stories, books on road trips, places, people etc., but never an anthology solely on humour. The Book of Humour is divided into several parts that are all “crazy”. Crazy relatives, crazy places, crazy animals etc. and ends with Crazy Writer.
He signed my book at the Times Literary Carnival '14! :) I'm the one in green.

He signed my book at the Times Literary Carnival ’14! 🙂
I’m the one in green.

My most favourite among all would be about the crazy crow that is the first story of the second part. In a book that is laced with the typical brand of Bond’s humour, it is difficult to not like anything, frankly. But my fear of birds aside, this crow was nice. The story makes you wonder exactly what would have prompted Bond to think from a crow’s perspective. If this story is inspired by true incidents, then I think I would be perfectly cast in the role of one who is tormented by the crow! 🙂

If you’ve read his writing before, then you know that humour and quirky writing comes to Bond effortlessly. It’s the underlying feeling even in his ghost stories! With this book, he raises the notch another level. It’s mirth and emotion along with a dash of introspection into the life of everyday Indians who stay in a world very different from mine.
I was hooked to this book, I laughed in trains, buses and outside the dentist’s waiting room. Made people wonder what on earth was wrong with me when I giggled at the silly events in Bond’s life. The stories never let you off once its fangs are dug into you. Give it a read.
I’ve gifted friends, younger cousins, my teachers etc. with a Ruskin Bond book for a long time now. Reading this book made me appreciate the author and realise how generations of readers could read his works and still enjoy them. I’m glad I gift his books to people!
Who Should Read: Anyone who can read. Or can be read to. Seriously.
Who Should Not Read: I cannot, for the life of me, think of anyone who would not want to read this book!

He Lived.

He was about 2 yrs old when he made his first demand, “I want a balloon”, and met with the same answer that he was to get to his various demand over the years. “There is no money, maybe later….”

As he thought of that moment standing outside a shop, admiring a shirt he would have like to have brought, he admired another thing that he hadn’t known as a child, the helplessness a father felt when he was not able to provide something which his son demanded.

The shirt was blue, his favourite colour, with white stripes. The shop was a fancy one. The one in which he would shop in his dreams. Thinking of the money he had in his wallet, he decided to enter the shop, and finally once, buy what he wanted.
He stopped at the last step, he had to buy his son a new school bag. And like numerous times before, he let his family’s dreams be fulfilled before his.

He was like this as long as he could remember; it used to be his siblings at first, then his girlfriend, then his parents, then his wife, and now the children. Had he lived for himself? Yes, he said to himself, I am living for them.

He walked on, feeling elated, that he had made the choice that he should ideally make. No, that wasn’t true. He was deflated, he was tired of wearing the same clothes for so long, which were now worn due to the hardwork he put it through the day. For the past seven Diwalis now he hadn’t brought himself new clothes since his children wanted crackers, wife wanted money.

Where was the time for luxuries? This is the life of a man, he consoled himself. To provide for his family, to work 15 hours a day, to put others needs before his. After all, he had seen his father do the same. And he had died peacefully, seeing his children satisfied. Yes, this was the right way to live.

He walked in home, and the routine went on. Somewhere at the back of his mind was the blue and white striped shirt. Stifled, like his other desires.

What plans he had had as a child! He wanted to have a big house, a loving wife, children who would look up to him, a big office where there would be no corruption and only prosperity. And where had he landed up, a chawl in the ever crowded city, with a wife who only grumbled about his uselessness, children who despised him and a job where he would be bent double over cash registers tallying every single rupee spent and covering up the expenses that were unanswered for. He was a defeated man, abandoned by the principles he had grown up on, disillusioned by his marital life, and most of all, a man who couldn’t provide for his children.

It was his encounter with the blue and white striped shirt that got him retrospective. He had to live for himself. What was he waiting for? His children to grow up and support him? No that would never happen; his wife would leave him too, in every probability. What had he achieved so far? A job where he was despised by all inspite of his hard work. Dissatisfaction in life. And no say in his own life. Was this what he wanted to live for?

No, said a voice inside him. He wouldn’t live his life his way. He hadn’t had a sip of beer all his life, he lived the ideal life. Never smoked, never touched beef or pork, never looked at a woman obscenely, never hit his children, never disrespected elders. All for this?

That day as he left his workplace, he took the route he usually avoided, the one which passed by the magnificent Arabian Sea, and plush hotels and bars. He gazed into the orange horizon, yes, he said to himself. I will do all that I never did. I was never allowed to.

Transfixed by the superb hues made by the setting sun in the sky for miles around, he discovered himself. Tonight, he thought, I am reborn!

He walked, as far as his legs would take him. He observed some tourists as they clicked pictures alongside a 5 star hotel. He saw the hotel; he had wanted to go to its namesake in Agra as a teenager, full of romantic fantasies. Then, like a million others, it had remained a dream.

Next month, he resolved, I will be in Agra. He walked through the by-lanes. Roads he had never travelled before by, but knew where it would lead him to. It was time to drown all the sorrows. The way his favourite film stars did it.

He walked behind that five star hotel, walked on bit by bit. Yes, he had come here before. His children would shop here often. Clothes were cheap there, he thought, unlike the locality it was in. He saw the bar to his left. It would be nice for a change, to spend his night in a restaurant cum bar, something he had always avoided when out with his family. He walked in. Took a seat by the one of the many counters. He saw the menu, knowing exactly what he wanted. Then his eyes wandered off to the prices, and gulped. That was all the money he had. Never mind he thought. Today I am living. He ordered his drink and waited. Thinking of his life.

Then it happened, in a matter of seconds. A boy barged in, with a gun in his hand. Their eyes met, and in that one last second, he knew. This was what his existence was for. He was not supposed to live. It was his fate. To live a drab existence, devoid of pleasures for himself. He was a loser, condemned to a lowly life.

As the realisation dawned, a smile spread across his lips even as the bullet nestled in his chest. He had at least, tried to live. He was one of the first to die in the carnage that followed for the next two days, but for him, his carnaged life was salvaged by that one bullet. The silhouette of his dreams, lay there. Unrealised, unfulfilled, never to be enjoyed  by him.

He had tried to live.

Note: This story was written by me, almost a year back. Never thought it was worthy enough for someone to read it. Now, I think I am ready to face the criticism. Please give me your opinion, whoever does read it. Because that would encourage me certainly. Brickbats invited too! 🙂