Ten Questions for Author Saadia Faruqi


Houston-based author Saadia Faruqi, recently released her debut short story collection, Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan. Deonna Kelli Sayed caught up with Saadia to discuss the book, her interfaith work, and what it is like to live in a chai-free household.

Deonna Kelli Sayed (DKS): You are in an elevator with someone and you have a minute to convince them to read Brick Walls. What do you say?

Saadia Faruqi (SF): Remember when short stories were in vogue? Well, those times are back with Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan! What’s that, you ask? Well, Brick Walls is a collection of short stories based in Pakistan, my birth country. Although the characters are fictional, the situations they face are very real, very tough and very different from the image of Pakistan in western media. The stories are a portrait of everyday life with all its challenges and realities. The best thing is that they showcase the beautiful aspects of Pakistani culture: the food, the scenes, the people with kindness and courage in their hearts.
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Arnesa B

Arnesa B

They ask me why I always wear black.

And I answer, “I am in mourning”.

They ask me who am I mourning.

I’m mourning my grandfather, I say.

They found his bones 10 years after his head was cut off, Quran in hand.

I’m mourning my uncle too; his remains still not found. I wonder how much he suffered.

I’m mourning my grandmother, killed by the grenades that left her son handicapped.

I’m mourning the thousands of Ahmeds, Aishas and Fatimas massacred for being Bosniaks, for being Muslim. I’m mourning my Bosnia, the land of milk and honey.

I’m mourning Palestine and her olive trees. I’m mourning Palestine and the land my friends will never get to see.

I’m mourning Palestine and her rascal children, now gone.
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The Life and Death of a First Love


First love can be a bittersweet and intense experience, especially if it is unrequited. It can also change us in ways we may not grasp until much later.

I discovered love for the first time when I was seven years old. He was a distant cousin — one amongst many thanks to my large close-knit family in Lahore, Pakistan. We gravitated towards each other, despite the fact that I was the younger, studious little girl while he was a rambunctious boy. We spent our time mostly play acting in our world of Star Wars, space travels and building blocks.

We were sitting in the dirt one evening when I looked at him in wonder. In my seven-year-old mentality, I realized that I loved this little boy. I wanted to marry him so that we could always play together and build castles and spaceships.

From that moment, I knew he was THE ONE. And I didn’t tell a soul.

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The Real Ones


The Real Ones

Something happened in the development sector
Something we forgot
Something we should have known
That humans aren’t blank slates
Awaiting our arrival
To scribble new thoughts, new words, new ways of living
Over their faces

That humans aren’t blank slates
Awaiting our arrival
To draw them anew and say
Now you know
How to live, how to think, how to behave
Now you have rights

We don’t walk into empty fields, we don’t walk into barren lands,
We don’t walk in with the only ploughs, we didn’t create the only hoes
The earth laughs, but not for us
The earth … she laughs at us
We are not her only children, we are not the only ones
We walk into communities that wrested life from an alien land
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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
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In a vibrant new video, journalist Nushmia Khan examines the hands of the Pakistanis she met while reporting.

“With all these hands, I could only see potential — potential in a country that has been deemed a failure by so many,” she writes.

The False Phoenix

Love, Inshallah’s fiction debut!


The False Phoenix

Not a drop of rain had fallen in six weeks. Then one August afternoon, Zeenat watched from her window as day turned to night in under a minute, pregnant charcoal clouds overpowered the sun, and the sky roared as rain started to pour.

Zeenat had a tingling sensation in her fingertips, as a strange half smile teased her lips. She watched the sheets of rain appear and disappear like magical clothes swaying on a clothesline, their visibility a series of staccatos, from her window. There was not a soul in sight so she wasn’t worried about the outside staff catching a glimpse of her uncovered head; there was no need to hide behind a drawn curtain and tilt her head to peek out onto the courtyard, as was custom for the women in the house she had come to call her own.

Before her marriage she had looked upon the event with the optimism characteristic to most young ladies; she had believed her marriage would be a liberating experience, she would have her own house, a husband and at some point obedient children. Perhaps it would all give her license to make her own decisions, the way her mother seemed to do while she was growing up. She didn’t realize the invisible hand of societal pressure would not only follow her into her new house, but a similar burden in the shape of a whole other set of norms would be waiting for her in her father-in-law’s large haveli, where she was welcomed as daughter-in-law and wife of the eldest son.

It had been two years since she had agreed to marry Abid, and though her marriage wasn’t what she had hoped for she had found comfortable crevices, compromises and half-sacrifices, and had conveniently settled into them. She considered herself to be – for the most part – happy.

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