Security Risk

by Samia Altaf In October of 2014, a bunch of young men and women did their university proud. A couple of engineers, two finance graduates, a biology major, some finishing accounting and business degrees, and a clutch from the school of humanities and social sciences; Muslims mostly, two Christians, a lone Hindu, one Buddhist wannabe,…

Dead Girls Giggling

by Samia Altaf Mandra health center, outside Islamabad, on this spring morning, without the cacophony and confusion of health centers in the city, was the picture of serenity. An emaciated woman of indeterminate age sits coughing in the corridor, in a chair that bears the logo of the United States Agency for International Development, next…

Stars Above, Part 2

by Samia Altaf Part 1 of this essay is here. Pakistani cinema of the nineteen-sixties was active and vibrant, its death knell still a decade away. Memorable movies were made and ran for weeks—Do Ansoo, a silver jubilee hit from fifties, Heera Aur Pathar, Ghunghat, Chakori amongst others, and, of course, the great hit Armaan.…

Stars Above

by Samia Altaf In the 1960s, in the sleepy little city of Sialkot, almost in no-man’s land between India and Pakistan and of little significance except for its large cantonment and its factories of surgical instruments and sports goods, there were two cinema houses, all within a mile of our house, No. 3 Kutchery Road.…

To Be Fair

by Samia Altaf “This girl will never be able to find a husband,” declared Baiji, big mother, my maternal grandmother, soon after she took her first look at me. “Hai hai,” she almost beat her chest, “look at her, just look.” She points at me holding herself back as if from a contaminant, appealing to…