Ich spreche etwas Duetsch.

Last year, I decided I should learn German. It was a whimsical notion that led me to do it in the middle of an already hectic semester but once I have a heady impulse about something, there is no stopping me. My mind programmed it as a ‘have-to-do-it’, rather than a ‘you-may-do-it’ impulse and thus the urge was so strong that I decided to take a plunge in the deep waters.

Now to understand my situation, you need to have an insight about my mother tongue, Urdu. Urdu is a poetic language; complex yet sweet. It has 38 alphabets derived from the Persian and Arabic. Basically it is a hybrid language and has adopted words from Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Turkic and English. Even the locals find hard to comprehend the true Urdu, given the complexity of its nature. However I, who never had much trouble with languages, neither Urdu nor our provincial language Sindhi, had to brace myself for German.

I enrolled myself in a 7 week class, three hours a day and five days a week, at the Goethe-Institut. There were around 30 people in my class, all of whom were either students or had  9-5 jobs and hence had chosen the evening classes like me. The diversity of people who crowded a room named ‘Berlin’ of the institute, still awes me. There were engineers, doctors, a student of arts and sculpture, people who worked at banks and high school kids, all cooped up in that make-believe Berlin. The class room had a smart board and various other audio-visual aids that helped us learn; and of course a teacher who put everyone at ease and encouraged us to participate. The library had books on all subjects that you could borrow, a newspaper and magazine stand which was always up-to-date, movies with English sub-titles and music DVDs.

Although I had to follow a very busy schedule, saw very little of my family and had to steer myself through very tight spots, I loved each and every moment of that time. I came to love the language, the people I interacted with and enjoyed everything from our feeble attempts at phrasing sentences in German to our jokes at each other’s incompetency.

At the end of the seven week period we were given an option to sit through a test or back off with a participation certificate only. This left only around 4-5 students who took the test as they were in dire need of a certificate stating that they had enough grasp of the language that met the A1 level of CEFR in order to apply for jobs or university programmes; and me, since I had a dire need to prove to myself that I was capable of it and worthy of much more. The test had a written component that involved writing a letter, filling out forms, understanding newspaper adverts; and an oral component. Now, those of you who have sat through ANY exam that was an exam, must realize what a raging havoc your mind undergoes during an oral one. And trust me, when you have to speak in a language you have been trying to speak for the past 7 weeks only, it has a more catastrophic effect on your nerves.

Not trying to be boastful or anything, but I cleared the test with a 75% score and it felt as exhilarating as clearing the entry test of my med-school. However, there, among all those people with all those compelling stories, and my own story of course, I learnt a lot more than German.

I learnt that people around the world are mostly the same give or take some beliefs, mannerisms or scruples. They have the same basic necessities: love, happiness, laughter. They may go about them in different ways but their needs are common. Be it any country or the people from my class.

I learnt to laugh at myself. It was easier to laugh rather than be embarrassed about the errors we made that drove other classmates to gales of hilarity. I now find it easier, to forgive myself for times that I was stupid or yearned for mundane things, because they were errors; errors of judgment. I have now learned to laugh at them.

I learnt to read people. I was surrounded by a diverse lot, who were unpredictable. I felt exposed and a little awkward in the beginning, always unsure of how to respond. I learned that the easiest way was to be myself. I imagined a shelf with various blocks in my mind. I held my corner in the room, which was my mind, while I tried to figure out people and fit them into those boxes in the shelf. I labeled them not in a judgmental sort of a way but more in a self-preserving sort of a way. To this day I have that shelf, because it helps me appreciate my corner in the room without losing ground and helps prevent the clutter of people scurrying around, making me unsure of myself or how to react.

I learnt how strong a woman is. I often got the opportunity to talk to some girls from the afternoon class. Most of them were married and were learning German so that they could join their spouses in Germany. Most of them had never been to school, did not know English and found it hard to translate German to Urdu or as in one of the girl’s case, Afghani who had travelled all the way from her homeland. For them it was a three-way process. They were threatened by the society which has a lowly opinion of ‘ordinary’ illiterate housewives and their in-laws and spouses who pronounce upon them the sentence of a divorce lest they fail to clear the test in time.

I learnt a great deal about life in those seven weeks.

P.s. In case you are wondering, I destroyed the longest ever silence on my blog, a writer’s block.




©2015. Habiba Danyal


Dear you,

Dear you,

As I walk past your room everyday, I see your back. Your hands folded behind your head and your eyes staring at the ceiling. Sometimes you light a cigarette and smoke. You carefully keep  your hand by your side, in a vain attempt to hide the lit stub. Sometimes you switch on the television and all day long the sound fills your room. You turn it up more until it becomes unbearable. But you do not wince, not even once.

Sometimes when you aren’t alone, I stop and look at you. Lately, watching you is all I do. Even when surrounded by people, your eyes are somewhere else. Ergo, so are you. You are with them but you aren’t. In a crowd you are that one person who looks and feels lost. The crowd thinks you are one of them but I know, that you aren’t.

When I take a walk with you I keep my eyes on you. Because I know you’ll watch for hurdles for both of us. I look at you and see you walk with a stride. To someone else you may seem like a man with purpose. But to me, and I know; you are a man who wants to put as much distance between the world and yourself as you possibly can. But now I think, in doing that, you out-distanced yourself from life.

I caught you laughing that day which you rarely do. So I stopped time and rewound it. I picked up the cause of your glee. It was a kid. I know you love them. I searched your eyes again trying to see if your heart was in it. It was, and I was taken aback. I saw life in them like flecks of cloud after a satiating rain. I was taken aback for I thought you were already dead. As dead as me.

Dear you, who was me some twenty odd years back,

I regret every moment of our life. I regret being you and I wish upon the whole universe to undo it all; who I was, to be who I really wanted to be. We spent our lives trying to be the best sons, the best brothers and the best of every relation. We led our lives exactly as it was expected of us rather than how we wanted it to be. And in the process we lost ourselves.

And what is worse than losing one’s own self? Trust me when I tell you this, that you own the world as long as you own your spirit, your hopes, your dreams and your ability to love.

With nothing to give, as I stand empty handed and invisible,


who you’ll be some twenty odd years later.

©2015. Habiba Danyal

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.


This year I figured that success is actually three steps away.

1. You take the first step. Purely an impulsive act.

2. You may be pushed back, way back than from where you started. Rejection that you need to accept gracefully.

3. Try a leap this time because you realized earlier that a step wont do. Persistence and determination do the trick, if you’ll take my word.

Bingo! You have what you wanted the most, ergo success.

Proudly announcing, that Precipice Volume 3, A literally Anthology of Write On Edge, is now available for pre-order, with a release date of 11.17.2014, courtesy the Bannerwing Books.

This year’s theme “Boundaries” was open to contributions from authors all around the world. The contributing authors granted the honor of publication include :


Duffy Batzer

Valerie Boersma

Shelton Keys Dunning

Sara Healy

Dina Honour

Ashley Kagaoan

Laura Lord

Jennifer Williams

Elizabeth Yon


Elaine Alguire

Melissa Kirtley

Morgan Kellum

Andrea Mowery

Kristin Shaw

Janice Wilberg


Habiba Barry

Angie Kinghorn

Kirsten Piccini

Find my words and their’s in:



Print editions will be available for purchase on 12.1.2014. The pre-order link is: http://bit.ly/Precipice14

Happy Reading!

©2014. Habiba Danyal


Returning love.

“I’ll go for a Pixie-cut,” said Sandra, eyeing her hair.

Ming carefully placed the brunette’s chopped pony-tail in a Ziploc bag.

“First time, here?” asked Ming.

“Nope. Used to come here for the wig. Just giving back some love, darling,” Sandra replied.

©2014. Habiba Danyal



This week’s question is:

Is this your first time?