Equal as the Teeth of a Comb

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi Ami, my mother, does my hair, “Helen-of-Troy-style,” a high pony tail with strands wrapped around it on days there is extra time before school. She remembers the hairdo from an old movie which she talks about often, along with her other favorite The Taming of the Shrew with Liz Taylor. When…

In the Agora of Socrates

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi No one knows if it was really in the state prison, the ruins of which are visible today outside the ancient Agora of Athens, that Socrates was kept during the final days before his execution, so many times has the area been destroyed and reconstructed— walking past it sends a chill…

The Locked Doors of Delhi

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi “I’m on a roadside perch,” writes Ghalib in a letter, “lounging on a takht, enjoying the sunshine, writing this letter. The weather is cold…,” he continues, as he does in most letters, with a ticklish observation or a humble admission ending on a philosophical note, a comment tinged with great sadness…

“Once upon a time, Europe really did not matter.” The Silk Roads: An Illustrated New History of the World

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi “You start with a scarf…each 90-by-90-centimeter silk carré, printed in Lyon on twill made from thread created by the label’s own silkworms, holds a story. Since 1937, almost 2,500 original artworks have been produced, such as a 19th-century street scene from Ruedu Faubourg St.-Honore, the company’s home since 1880. The flora…

Song of the Silk Road: A Photo Essay

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi In Tian Shan mountains of the legendary snow leopard, errant wisps of mist float with the speed of scurrying ghosts, there is a climbers’ cemetery, Himalayan Griffin vultures and golden eagles are often sighted, though my attention is completely arrested by a Blue whistling thrush alighting on a rock— its plumage,…

From the Khyber Pass to the Great Black Swamp: a conversation with Dr. Amjad Hussain

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi On particularly tough days of my first Ramadan in college, I had vivid dreams of Peshawar, my hometown. Eager to succeed as an international student, I would never have confessed to being homesick but for my Psychology course “Sleep and Dreaming” which required a dream journal. “It’s mid-day,” I noted in…

The Female Anatomy of Letters: A Five-part Essay

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi Writing lives in the gut, like the good bacteria and the bad; it carries on an endless flirtation, an infuriating, nagging conversation with the gut’s long-married partner, the psyche. From time to time, it may traverse its underground-cityscape of anxiety, nostalgia, compulsion, its contradictory pull between instinct and fact-checking, its love-hate…

Escaping the Margins: Poetry of Protest, Poetry of Power

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi The author as a student at Kinnaird College I began writing poetry on a campus of red-brick corridors, ancient oaks, belligerent crows, and sharp-witted, lively women who thrived on critical thinking— Kinnaird college, in Lahore, Pakistan. In my earliest writing, I seem to have tested truths, grappled with the abstract, as…