ON A MORNING in early January, I depart from Tromsø, Northern Norway’s largest city, on a 90-minute flight to Svalbard, a cluster of glacial islands halfway between the mainland and the North Pole. Behind me the horizon is a fiery line and ahead, though it’s barely noon, the sky is already dark.
Svalbard is so far north that in winter the sun doesn’t rise for more than three months, and in summer it never sets. It’s a constellation of extremities: the darkest, the lightest, the wildest, the most desolate, the northernmost..
More Than Just Power and Oppression: Six Books About Patriarchs
To blame the patriarchy for anything or everything is so common, it’s become cavalier, off-hand, meme-worthy. But in this moment (has there ever been another?) with the patriarchy in seemingly unstoppable ascendance, flaunting its dominion over female bodies, queer bodies, colored bodies, threatening to police us ever more repressively, where should I direct my blame? Where are the patriarchs?
The trouble with the patriarchy is that, no matter how ubiquitous the force of its oppression, it remains nebulous…
Read more of More Than Just Power and Oppression: Six Books About Patriarchs on LitHub.
Athena and the Grand Reveal
“Athena doesn’t need a grand reveal,” Amer said. He did not say: It’s a hustle, it’s a scam. He said: “She’s the real deal.”
“The problem,” Robin said, “is, a, you can’t do it, and, b, you don’t get it.”
“I expected more from the house, after all that,” Amer said. From Minori, a sleepy fishing village about twenty miles up the bay, they’d hitched a ride on a donkey cart and rattled around in the back with a couple of crates of knobbled lemons. When they’d spotted the black gate and the giant sandstone urns, they’d hopped off and below a tangle of vines, found a worn marble plaque etched in gold: la rondinaia. They’d climbed 324 narrow steps between tall rows of cypresses and this was the house: a simple, single-story, stucco thing. If it was old, Amer couldn’t tell. “They must have pots of money,” he said. “With her at the Getty and him in finance. I expected an infinity pool.”
I start forgetting things. Sometimes I remember that I’m forgetting but sometimes I don’t so I keep a list. I note the consequences because I think that may provide an incentive for me to remember in the future.
Forgot: to wear sash.
Consequence: beaten on soles of feet and pay docked for three days as couldn’t work.
Forgot: to salute the Valide Sultan when she returned to the palace after an excursion to the Sweet Waters of Asia.
Consequence: beaten on the backs of knees with cane and pay docked for two days for insolence.
Forgot: to appear for dawn prayer.
Consequence: beaten on the ribs by mufti with bare hand and severe punishment undoubtedly to come in Afterlife.
Forgot: words and motions of midday prayer.
Consequence: no one noticed as initially forgot prayer time and so was at back of congregation. Punishment in Afterlife of course much worse—beg forgiveness from Almighty.
The man who sleeps beside me in our barracks—an Assyrian with sad eyes and a handsome face that condemns him to the most menial jobs in the palace—provides me with kind and useful prompts when he sees me.
“What should you be remembering right now?”
“To have lunch.”
“To deliver the note in your hand —” (here he taps the package wrapped in an embroidered handkerchief that I am holding at my side) “—to the Sultana that the Master of the Robes gave you only minutes ago. Then to have lunch.”
I never forget lunch. Especially on the days we have aubergine and pilav.
The Contract Law of Pakistan is a comprehensive description and analysis of the law on contract. The text is structured thematically and provides an authoritative and accessible account of the principles of contract law with detailed descriptions of applicable case law. The author gives particular regard to the source of law. Where the law has adopted foreign principles, the author includes a comparative study of related local and foreign principles. The text is an invaluable source of reference for students, academics, and practitioners.
The water will arrive tomorrow, someone says, and the following morning there’s a muddy slough in the broad channel that crosses our land. It swells over
the coming days into a shallow pool – then a brown stream – that crawls unhurriedly across the bed and trickles into the narrow courses that branch out along the fields. Our farmers wedge makeshift dams of earth and stone in places to stop it seeping onto the land as it rises.
The scrawny boys usually chasing goats and buffalo into the brush are sliding backwards down the steep canal banks, splashing heels-first into the water. And the stray dogs otherwise guarding the towpaths – barking at the windows of our jeep – are gamboling muddy-pawed by the bank or wading in after them.
The happiest women, like the happiest nations, have no history,” writes George Eliot (née Mary Ann Evans) in The Mill on the Floss, the (necessarily tragic) history of Maggie Tulliver. Pakistan seems to prove her right for the wrong reasons. The fates of our leaders read like the popular mnemonic for Henry VIII’s wives. Assassinated, dismissed, resigned. Take your pick. Our twenty-third prime minister was the first to complete a full term. The unpleasantly rich history of an unhappy nation, then. The women of Pakistan fare considerably better though, if, as per Eliot, their welfare is inversely proportional to the space they occupy in our public narrative. They have no history at all. But I’m not sure Eliot provides a mathematical equation. In the context, it reads more like a comment on the constraints of her time.
The Epic of the Soil, The Friday Times, January 2009
A renowned Sri Lankan architect, visiting Sindh, travelled from Sukkur, where he was designing a department store, to our farm in Jacobabad late last year at my invitation. “The landscape is luxuriant,” he said, “from Hyderabad to Sukkur. Beyond, it is uninspiring.”
Dense groves of bananas and orchards of dates and mangoes, often intercropped, shade the roads to and from Khairpur. And Sukkur perched on the banks of the Indus is a town of low bridges and leafy gardens. But as you turn away from the river towards Balochistan, gardens and orchards dwindle and the landscape becomes drier. Broad plains on either side reach as far as the eye can see, varied by an occasional cluster of tree, redbrick and thatch. It is uninspiring insofar as it is nature at her sparest. Unadorned with mountain or forest or oasis. Only man and landscape and the elements at their least merciful. We grow wheat in the winter and spring and rice in the summer and autumn and in this landscape the harvest is the ultimate testament to the reward of toil.