The Inaugural Dress

by Samia Altaf Last night I dreamed I was on my way to the tailor’s in the H-Block market to pick up the outfit that Mrs. Obama was to wear at President Obama’s second inauguration. The State Department official who was to transport it in the diplomatic pouch was on the tarmac waiting in the…

How I Learned to Like Beets

by Samia Altaf Soon after President Obama moved into the White House, Mrs. Obama set up her vegetable garden. She planted tubers like carrots and turnips, leafy veggies such as spinach and kale, and herbs—thyme, sage, mint, and whatnot. But she did not plant beets. Why? I was quite perplexed and tried to find out…

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…