Guest post – A short story by Aroosa Mushtaq Malik

Bakhtawar barged in through the door. Her chaddar had slipped off her head, and a look of sheer panic and agony tormented her face, for she knew it now: there was no saving her daughter from the merciless mob.

They were on the doorstep now, banging on the wooden door. A small chain lock was not enough to keep the men out; men who howled like wild animals set free from captivity, like hounds, let loose on prey. She wrapped her arms tightly around her daughter, who cried soundlessly in her arms, awaiting her fate.

Forcing their way in, knocking over everything in the path, dust rose around their feet as they stampeded into her room. Bakhtawar could only scream as the men lunged at her daughter, pulling her from arms and dragged her outside. She was stripped off of her clothing in the street, the men tearing her esteem apart, shaming and ogling her, finding excuses to touch the swell of her nubile breasts, brushing palms against her pelvis. Bakhtawar’s cries were muffled amidst the wild shouting of the crowd. She wanted to laugh at the irony of it too; lustful animals, the lot of them, stoning her daughter for honor’s sake.

She was taken to the boys’ playground where a football match was already underway. It stopped as the crowd lugging her daughter emerged into the playfield. The players stopped in mid-runs and mid-shouts and the ball bounced off someone’s leg unnoticed. They paused and stood, mouths agape. She watched them lead her daughter among the vultures, her path blocked by other women.

“You heartless animal! They will kill my daughter. Have you no mercy, have you no shame? She’s naked among them. My daughter…”

Bakhtawar wept in the tangles of arms that kept her from going to her daughter.


Guest post – A story by Nishat Shuja.


It was the day when my world collapsed. I could not save my brother instead I continued to watch with disbelief as he was shot in the back of his head. I was so helpless. Why? I told him it was not a good plan but he was determined to leave Damascus. His stubbornness took his life. I remember gazing at him as he took his last breaths in my lap. I wish I could have died there with him. It was hard enough to realise that our parents were killed in an airstrike and now he left me as well.

Asil sat in a hospital bed in Riyaq after fleeing Syria in the middle of all the chaos. She cursed herself to have survived with some bruises while Hayan became a target in the border clashes. These were common punishments to Syrians who tried to flee to Lebanon for safety.Sons getting killed in front of their mothers’ eyes and brothers bidding farewell in sisters’ hands was a regular practice.

“It was Hayan’s plan to escape the chaos” Asil cried while talking to a nurse. “I knew it was impossible but he did not listen. He justified by saying that we were going to be killed back in the homeland eventually, so why not try our luck for once”.

He ignored the fact that luck is scarce for Syrians. Nobody there is sure to see the dawn of a new day. Each day is a continuous effort to survive till the next. And there have been numerous Hayans who died similarly or more brutally by the violence. Some were beheaded while others were shot. Most were escaping to Lebanon but it was a fool’s gold for Hayan. This calamity left Asil a soulless body and made her a living corpse.

First love.

A shooting star over her head,
Those shiny, twinkling street lamps,
Empty pathways and silent longings;
11:11, make a prayer!

She stayed quiet and slowly uttered,
Instantly then,
The aching heart whispered;
“First love never dies”.

Just a fraction of second,
Shuddering the shoulders,
She continued walking,
“Some hopes always remain unfed.”


The crispy sound echoed around

as he turned the pages,

walking slowly along the shore,

Far away the horizons met,

colors merging, waves meeting and then, leaving again.

“Didn’t it all splash just in a second?”

He felt like the roaring waves would question,

everytime he looked at them.


So, it is true,

He thought to himself,

Sunsets are not forever gloomy

but they always speak of parting.

“Sigh! What an irony”,

“Some find happiness in their going away”, a calm wave touched his feet,

a cold memory surged down his spine,


“Patience, dear heart”


Have you ever wondered
what does the back tell?
That every little thing the mouth
is reluctant to speak about.
All the moments witnessed
by the eyes but untold,
the unopened aches of the heart,
the darkness of night,
the silently endured miseries.
This is why,
in this little dangling life,
the other day
when I stepped over a hurdle and
I realized, my spine weighed so heavy,
for it actually carried all the burden singly
and never complained,
telling about each gust and every gaze
fallen upon it, to the one who listened.


And how many more
silent nights and dead mornings
would it take, till you finally realize
this aching pang in your chest,
that surges, with every sip of coffee
pouring down into your soul, telling secretly;
it has ended,
that sacred love of yours
which once started on the same table 3
of this empty cafè, with a steaming cup of coffee,
and struggled through the same long night,
to ultimately, dissolve in the very darkness;
my sweet luck,
always so melodramatic.
– H

To a long lost memory.

These lingering thoughts
consuming my inside,
the sruggle continues, bewildered,
the heart that is polluted and a mind –
ever so numb,
these mixed feelings that flash
as I keep on trying
to shut them up,
my soul feels exhausted
in this battle of denial & acceptance,
You know! As they say in stories,
‘to wish upon the shooting star’
ever since then,
I have been in a hope
that my love, no matter, so fragile
and lost; will heal.
The burnt bridges, the crumbled letters,
and all things cracked, the abstract
will let the light to come in,
For not all things torn
are meant to be gone.
So, let me wish,
upon the rays of every rising sun
and the new dawn;
that smiles may return,
the laughter may echo,
the love will reunite
and I,
I will start believing
in the beauty of the ordinary,
the split, the shattered, the hopelessly hopeful and all that is broken.
– H