Pakistan 7


I wanted to show you what I saw

And heard

And understood

But it was so boring

Like talking to myself

A conversation I had before

Things I already know

And I know you don’t know it

But it was boring nevertheless

Because to explain

I have to say too much

Describe too much


And if I don’t explain

I say


I saw

Wheat fields and corn fields carefully cultivated

Spreading as far as the eye can see

And an area where land was fallow

Because there was a dispute between two people

And the jirgah had suspended rights

To everybody

And I sat in the sunlight

On manjis, basking in the sunlight

And talked to the women

Who said that their village

Would be prettier than Islamabad

And I told them it already was

And they laughed

But it was true

And the women

Were prettier than the ones in Islamabad

Because they were brown

And wrinkled

And sturdy

And self-sufficient

And inter-dependent

And gorgeous

And in the car

The driver told me about the floods

In Nowshera

How his aunt and her village

Went to the building on the highest ground

I think it was the mosque

But am not sure

And how the women and children

Spent the week

On the roof

And the men

On the first floor

And the rain wouldn’t stop falling

And the river wouldn’t stop rising

And the women sat upstairs, drenched

And the men stood downstairs

For a week

And how the batteries

Of their mobile phones

Started finishing

And his aunt,

A lady health visitor

Suggested that everyone switch off their phones

And use her phone to call

Until her battery finished

When they could switch

To someone else’s

And how the only thing

Protected from the rain

Were the mobile phones

Stuck in plastic bags

And how the driver’s mother

Cried for her sister

And begged her family

To go get her

But even trucks couldn’t go through

And at the end of the story

We laughed our heads off

Because the driver said

That even the army

Was stuck in the floods

And people were wondering

Where it was, why it was taking so long

How were they

Supposed to know

That the Army was saying

Someone please save us

And then we’ll see

About saving others

That struck us both

As terribly funny

And how, in Charsadda, the water had boiled up

Through the floor

The family suddenly realized

There was a flood coming

And the women of the family

Being very resourceful

Went and roped the tires of their cars

To two trees

And then sat on the roof

Watching the cars

Swinging in the river

And thus saved some of their property

And the women I talked to

Sitting in the bright sun

Sitting in the sunlight

On the manjis


We have no water

No gas

No electricity

We have a hand-pump for water

And wood for fire

And light

And they mimicked how

The smoke enveloped their faces

And they all laughed

And they insisted we join them for lunch

And fed us the most delicious

Home-cooked meal

That I must describe still

To my cousin, a connoisseur,

To make him jealous

And to the driver I said

In the urban jungle of Peshawar

How I thought many women must die

Crossing streets

In their restrictive burka

And he said that drivers

Watched out for women, slowed down automatically

But he agreed

That accidents happened

And I told him how, when I went to Swabi

With my head covered

We reached an area

Where our community worker

Covered her face

And I did the same, to dress appropriately

But then I couldn’t breathe

So I took it off

And said the head covering was enough for me

And we both laughed

We found it terribly funny

And on our way back

I wondered why

Urbanity was so ugly

Why rural areas

Danced with color

Which receded in our

Drab urban jungles

Did the earth itself


that her children

Dreamt grey dreams

Dreams that banned her

And did she recede

Until, desperate, they would return to her

Of their own accord

Throwing away nightmares of transcendence

Their preconceptions of separation

And become whole?


Mahvesh Khan

Mahvesh Khan grew up in Lahore and Islamabad. She obtained a Masters in Business, specializing in MIS and has worked in various positions, including in different organizations in the Development Sector. She has a deep interest in books and sometimes write short stories, poems & essays.

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