Far off places.

“But we can call him, can’t we?” Hope lightened his eyes.

“No, we can’t.” I stroked his hair with affection.

“Didn’t he take his phone?”

“No, he couldn’t.” I replied.

“Why?” Hope gave way to confusion.

Because death wouldn’t allow it, honey.


Of Old-homes and Madarsahs

From a black sparkling Toyota XLi, they pulled off a man onto a wheel-chair and took him into the shelter home; the board outside, read “Gill’s Shelter Home”. Two men in crisp white got off from the same car and shuffled hurriedly behind the man on the wheel-chair. They had some documents in their hands. I sighed.

The inhabitants of the shelter-home are always brought in this way. Their departure sometimes is very grand when their family takes them back for a nice and grand burial, ignore the sarcasm if you’ll please. While sometimes their departure is as quiet as their arrival.

All through the year, the shelter-home remains a forlorn, lonely place. Some people, who notice it, click their tongues a couple of times and pass. Some, like me pledge that they will pay a visit sometimes. Some however fail to see it altogether, their vision fogged by their own problems.

I remember the day it opened, or rather the day they put up the sign board; I was taken aback. I had heard of such places, but for the first time I saw one. The “inauguration”, of the shelter-home was a quiet one. And although I did not for a moment expect fireworks, I thought that may be the people of the area will not let cobwebs adorn the place. Days passed. I forgot; so did the people I guess.

Until the day, when in the same locality, a Madarsah opened.

There was a grand inauguration. A dars, refreshments and the inhabitants of the area were invited. Most of them went, pledged to read the word of God, and send their children. People were assigned duties so that the Madarsah never remains un-attended.

This was the day when I remembered the shelter-home again.

The Quran has been read, understood and preached around me ever since I was a kid. After 2 decades of seeing the word of God being honored and held to the hearts, I wonder, when will come the time, to practice it.

As a student of medicine, I see life at its least and highest worth in the same place all day long. I see people struggling to arrange money for one basic diagnostic test in ways un-imaginable. I see them being dragged on stretchers underneath the buildings of Civil Hospital Karachi that are under-construction and through alleys where uncovered man-holes puke all the human shit out of their bellies.

And at the end of this day when I get back home and attend a wedding because it is rude not to, I see the same people who preach, and read the Quran at the Madarsah spending millions over the food and deco.

I do not weigh and put everyone in the same scale nor am I one to mock at the Madarsahs or against Quran being read and preached. But I simply want us all to realize that it’s high time we stop making religion an excuse for our puny irrational motives and politics and live up to it, instead. The best way to reach God is through His people. That is what we need to be teaching our kids more. The best way is to make them realize what they have, that others don’t and let the love of God brew in their hearts. No amount of incorporating Insha-Allahs and Jazakillahs in our lives, can bring us closer to Him as compared to using our time and money for His people.

©2014. Habiba Danyal

P.S. Turning off the like button. Comments are deeply welcomed.

They don’t let go…

He struggled hard to breath. His lungs were full of smoke and the stench that surrounded him.  The thought of what his feet had touched made his stomach lurch and his guts emptied the burden of what he had seen out of his system. His heart remained heavy though. No outlet for the poor thing…

“Will you make me a promise Sheheryar?” 

“Yes maa.”

“Promise that you’ll be a good…”

“… good man and I’ll prove that I was raised by a queen.” Sheheryar finished her words.

She laughed, her head fell back and her lips stretched into a smile he adored. She kissed his fore-head in that moment of mirth and held his face in her hands. She loved it when he improvised it that way and called her a queen.

Sheheryar Sikander felt dampness on his cheeks. He rubbed his fingers on his face and brought them before his eyes. Dirt and tears. She had taught him never to hide his tears.

“Boys do cry Sheheryar. It’s okay.”

“But everyone else says they don’t.” He pulled his face straight and refused to give in to tears.

She smiled that saintly smile of hers and held his hand between her two. “What’s more important is, that boys don’t make others cry.”

He met her eyes and let her words sink in. They found an easy passage all the way to his heart. Tears came and then some more. He buried his face in her and cried like a child.

“Does this mean that I am weak?” He asked.

“This means, son, that you have a strong and kind heart.” She pulled him back into her embrace and cried with him until they both felt better.

He had left his boots back near the cinders; where he carelessly threw them off to distance himself from the woman. But he could feel something. It was the hand, he had stepped on in his haste to pull off his boots. He wished he had kept them on. The fire would have been better than the feel of her flesh. He stood up and rubbed his feet on the leaves that covered the forest floor. He rubbed them against the bark of trees to get her hands off them. His feet bled and hurt. They were back on fire. He fell to the floor, feeling better. He welcomed the fire.

He lay there for hours or may be just a few, he didn’t know. When he woke up, he found himself in the village hospital. The first thing he was aware of was not the strong smell of the place or the bright light that came in through the window and pierced his eyes. It was the hands that clung to his feet beneath the bandages.

He pulled off the bandages like a maniac, howling with pain and frightening the other patients. There was nothing there, but the feeling wouldn’t go. It clung to him like a leech. He raked his fingers through his hair and held his head in his hands, banging his feet on the small cot.

For years Sheheryar Sikander couldn’t shake off the hands that clung to his feet. He was often seen in public without shoes. He gave a thousand pointless excuses for not putting them on. He kept his socks on though. So that no one could see the bruises. He had hurt himself countless times and welcomed the pain.

He knew there was only one way to shake them off. He had to do justice to the woman who was burned alive in the forest.

©2014. Habiba Danyal   600 words for:   This week’s question is:

“Why are your boots off?”


The Elder, carefully tucked the corners of the sheet around her and looked at his companion for approval. The companion gave a quick nod.

“Shall we go then?” The companion asked.

The Elder kept staring at her, the one they were leaving behind.

“She is in good hands,” said the companion.

“I know, I’ve delivered four of her kind here before. But every time I fear, their fate,” said the Elder with a sigh.

“Why should you fear for them? The man has always been a good father, hasn’t he?” Asked the companion.

“Undoubtedly he has. But circumstances change; and so does man. They are unpredictable, these human beings. They mourn what should be celebrated and run after mediocre things. So every time I deliver a girl, I wait and watch their reaction. Its my way of keeping, let’s say… a check on the human race or rather, a check on humanity,” said the Elder.

The companion gave a sad smile and waited along with the Elder.

“Here he comes,” said the Elder, more to himself than his companion. He held his breath as the man took the girl in his arms. He had aged since the last time he saw him.

The man looked at her and said to his wife, “They all look the same to me. Pink, with black hair.”

The Elder sighed with relief and said to his companion,”Time to go good friend. We have more baby girls to deliver. The boys, I’ll do alone.”

The companion looked at him with confusion and asked, “But wasn’t that a weird thing to say? They all look the same to me. Pink, with black hair!

“Weirder than, Take this thing out of my sight and birth a son next time or you’ll be dead, eh?” Replied the Elder with a chuckle. He soared up, towards the heaven with a light heart. They weren’t given one, but still he felt that he had one, sometimes.

A couple of years later, the Elder and his companion were on duty, together. They had left a house where the father had refused to accept the girl as his own. The companion was desolate. The Elder, seeing his state said,”Come I’ll show you something.” He took him to the house where they had earlier delivered the fifth daughter.

The companion saw the man sitting with his legs outstretched, surrounded by his daughters. All of them were engaged in some work while the fifth one was climbing up his shoulders. She climbed down his chest and slid down the man’s legs, gurgling with laughter. The man sat smiling at her and stretched his legs a little more, joining them once more for her next ride.

The companion smiled at the Elder and said, “Really, they are all the same for him, aren’t they? “

The Elder smiled and nodded. He had a vision then.

He saw that man next to Mohammad in a garden of Eden. To the vision he said, “Amen.”

©2014. Habiba Danyal



Be a star thrower with Pakistan mei hum hain!

When we were in school, our Principal once told us a story. The story was from the famous Loren Eiseley’s The Star Thrower. The story inspired us all and left us wondering how we could make a difference.

One student however was driven a little more than the rest of us. So she decided to pick one star fish up and throw it back into the sea to save it from dying. Some friends and family saw what she was doing and joined in. Together they have saved quite a few star fish and God willing, will continue doing so under the banner of “Pakistan mei hum hain”.

Pakistan mei hum hain figuratively adopts kids, our little fish, and pays for their education making sure that they consistently appear at school, quench their thirst for knowledge and are praised and appreciated for their achievements. Because of Pakistan mei hum hain, non-payment of school fee is no more a reason for drop-outs from school for our little fish.

PMHH, with the help of its permanent donors and some wonderful youngsters who buy their special Independence Day tees has been sending seventeen kids to school Alhamdulillah and aspires to increase this number in the upcoming years.

Although its main aim is education, PMHH, does not sit still at times of natural calamities and disasters. In 2013, PMHH, sent donations and food items for the earthquake victims of District Awaran and District Turbat of Balochistan province, through our most trusted source, the Pakistan Army. While in March 2014, with the help of its donors, basic food items, like grains, sugar, milk and medicines sufficient to feed 100 families for a month were sent to Tharparkar.

Pakistan mei hum hain (We exist in Pakistan) strange as the title may sound to you, is actually a reply to the grudging complaining lot who often ask “Pakistan mei hai kia?” (What is there in Pakistan?).

This year’s Pakistan mei hum hain t-shirt, answers this question beautifully.

“Very often people ask “What is the concept behind Pakistan mei hum hain?” 

Pakistan mei hum hain is not just a sentence, it promotes the feeling of owning your country. It is for the people who think they need a good leader to change Pakistan or a miracle. Pakistan mei hum hain tells you that YOU are that miracle. You can make a difference. We can work for the betterment of our nation.

When they say Pakistan mei ab kuch nahi hai, say to yourself abi hum hain. aur jab tk hum hain Pakistan b rahay ga. Insha’Allah

This is what “Pakistan mei hum hain” is all about.”

                                                     -Pakistan mei hum hain

This year as well Pakistan mei hum hain, is selling out some cool tees and hand bands to raise funds for  the education and food of the underprivileged. You can be a part of our star throwing, and hurl one fish back into the sea.

For adopting a fish, donations and details:

Visit their facebook page: Pakistan mei hum hain

Or Call: 0331-2281703

P.S. I am a star thrower. Are you?

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I was here.

Looks can be deceiving. Nadia knew that all along, but little Aliya was the one who reminded her that, now and again. How ironic that life’s biggest lessons are taught by smallest teachers, Nadia reflected. She smiled as she saw Aliya staring at a magazine clipping. The little one wore a funny woolen cap on her head that covered her ear. No matter how stuffy it was, she kept pulling it down to her neck.

“What is this honey?” Nadia asked.

Aliya craned her neck to look up at her. Instead of answering her question, she waved the clipping in front of her nose. Nadia took it from her hand and looked at it. It was a painting of a tree; the most picturesque tree that probably enroots in the whirring brains and imaginations of the little ones.


“It is beautiful. Can I show it to the class?” Nadia asked with a look of admiration and pleading.

Aliya shook her head vigorously. She had developed this habit of answering in gestures rather than words but Nadia chose to ignore it. Aliya had recently lost her mother to cancer. There would be plenty of time to go hunting for her lost words, once she gets over the shock, Nadia decided.

She knocked at the board with her knuckles to draw attention to her self and held out the picture for the kids to see.

“Now look here sweethearts. What do you see?” Nadia asked.

Almost everyone shouted out that it was a tree. Amidst the enthusiastic bunch, who were jumping to answer the question, sat Aliya with a thoughtful look. Miraculously her lips moved. They shaped a word that wasn’t in synchrony with the “tree” of the others.

“Now shush everyone! It’s Aliya’s turn to speak. What did you say sweetheart?” Nadia asked.

“Roots,” Aliya replied with a dazed look in her eyes.

“Oh. We thought it was a tree,” Nadia played along and stared at the painting. Aliya left her seat and walked up to her. She tugged Nadia’s shirt and spread her palm towards her. Nadia handed over the clipping to her, and observed her patiently. As if programmed, she pulled the woolen cap to her neck, turned the clipping upside down and handed it back to Nadia. Nadia looked at it again.

“Well, yes. If you look at it this way, it does look like roots. Doesn’t it?” Nadia said as she held the painting once again, this time upside down. The ‘magic painting’ intrigued the kids so much that they swarmed round her.

Aliya was engrossed in her work already. Like a careless scientist she had started work on a new theory, dismissing the previous one, leaving it at the disposal of the world to admire and benefit from.

Later that day, she spotted Aliya exchanging money for the ‘magic painting’ with her class mate. This troubled Nadia a lot.

Nadia left school that day thinking about her. In her eight years of teaching at the junior school, she had seen many kids. The extra-ordinary ones always stood out, although she tried her hardest to bring out the best in every kid. Aliya was the first one to bring out the best in her. She had changed her whole perspective of looking at things. Every one sees the tree, the birds, and the leaves. In fact some are observant enough to notice the insects that crawled on them and the splits on its bark, but only a few exceptional people see what is hidden, beneath the soil. Aliya was one of them. She was recalling the time when she had asked Aliya why she wore the cap, when she finally arrived at the bank which was opposite the famous Cancer Hospital.

As she came out of the bank with her purse tightly held to her chest she saw a crowd of people in the middle of the road. Through the gap she saw something that caught her attention; a pink funny little woolen cap it was.

She did not remember walking to the centre of the circle, nor did she remember carrying the limp body to her car and driving it to the hospital. The only thing she remembered was the comical way Aliya’s limbs were splayed. Her hair was a mess, as if she had shaved it off herself.  Beside her, lay a jar of coins which was labelled: “cancer hOspital fund”.

Her scream never left her throat that day.

©2014. Habiba Danyal

The speakeasy challege #153:

  • the media prompt is a painting by Dutch artist, Piet Mondrian. Mondrian is best known for his modern work, using primary colours and straight lines, which he called “neo-plasticism.” But his early work was really interesting too. This painting is called Avond (Evening): The Red Tree.
  • this week’s sentence prompt, is to be used as the FIRST line. “Looks can be deceiving.”

The Rainbow children.

In a jubilant mood they dispersed throughout the green meadow. The other kids ran while she chased, they hid, she sought. Until her legs hurt; until her laughter turned into heaves. She bent with her hands on her knees and took deep breaths. Her vision had started to give way, so had her heart. She was afraid, she was five. She had to get back to the others but someone was trying to pull her back. Something was sucking her into a hole.

There were voices and pain where they were pulling her. There was peace in her meadow.

“Oh my God…….beat her up real bad….maintain IV…..arrange blood…….vaginal tears, perineal…..raped by some son-of-a-bitch”

There were four. She felt blood drumming in her ears, the heat was unbearable. It was so cool in the meadow.

They did shameful things to her, she should never tell anyone; she won’t speak. Shrieks of their laughter had rung the meadow and even the birds had joined them.

Someone pricked the back of her hand but it didn’t hurt that bad. Her legs were on fire and what was between them. They had hurt her, the hardest there. She doubted even her mother could rock her to comfort. Pain like nothing she had ever felt before.

“Stay with us dear! …all a bad dream.”

No! It was real. More than her whole existence, more than any horror movie her brother watched where the monster crawled up your face from the neck of your shirt. So real, that the monster was within her and would eat her insides if she stayed. She liked the meadow better.

She felt herself relax. Her body hurt no more, her heart lightened. She scanned the meadow. The kids emerged from their hiding places. They smiled and beckoned her, glad for her and for the choice she had made. They all linked hands and set out to search for the rainbow, at the foot of which lay their robbed childhood, their greatest treasure.

©2013. Habiba Danyal

For Trifecta Week 95

& for all the youthful giggles that were silenced by monsters, anywhere in the world.