It’s something that every first time author has heard: ‘write what you know’. Write about places you’ve been to, people you’ve met, spent time with, understood, situations you’ve experienced. And for a first book, that’s great advice, particular when it comes to creating characters. Characters react in different ways to different situations and an understanding of why they act that way will influence their actions in your story. The more believable your characters, the more likely they are to resonate with your readers.
At a literary event earlier this year, I met a number of people I had gone to school with; people I knew in college, people I worked with and people I had randomly met at some time or the other. The event, held in the gardens of Mohatta Palace in Clifton, was a glittery, shining tribute to the arts. It was full of people, people who all belonged to an elite segment based on their income, their language (they all spoke English more than they spoke Urdu) and the fact that they all went to the same schools and colleges.
I hate shopping. I’m one of those people who rushes through shopping malls with the wind at my heels. Before I leave the house, I have a list and I don’t make impulse purchases. The thought of roaming through shops and simply browsing or buying things bores me. The only shopping I enjoy is for stationery and art materials. I love the smell of paint, the texture of watercolour paper, the crumbling graphite of a freshly sharpened pencil. But take me to a shoe shop and I can’t wait to get out of there.
Creating Rumi for Butterfly Season was the easiest part of writing a book for me. I modeled her on a very dear, very old friend of mine (let’s call her Saira) whom I’ve known since college. Saira is an extraordinarily beautiful woman. Even though there were a number of good-looking women at my college, Saira overshadows them all. She is small, slim, with slanted black eyes, a dead straight nose and a pointed chin (think Kristen Bell, except prettier). Twenty years later, she’s still stunning.
A month ago, we found a rat living in our pantry and had to clear the whole room out. We dropped rat poison and waited a few days before the creature came out to the kitchen and flopped down under one of the cabinets. My three cats, none of whom could be bothered to catch the animal while it was still alive, spent hours in front of the dead body, waiting for it to move so that they could play with it (they play fair, you see. If it doesn’t move, they won’t attack it).
The last time my sister came to Pakistan was 5 years ago. In five years, she’s missed the passing of several close relatives, two weddings and a newborn baby (18 days old). From among her friends, she’s missed three new births and another two weddings. She was more than excited at the thought of finally coming home, even if it was for just ten days.
January 20 marks the end of the month Rabi-ul-Awwal in the Islamic Calendar. Rabi-ul-Awwal literally means ‘the first month of Spring’, and is important to Muslims because the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday falls on the 12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal. The 12th is celebrated as our third major festival, or Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi (Festival of the birth of the Prophet).
About a month ago, I had a mishap with my laptop and was unplugged for almost a week. My old trusty MacBook Pro is on its last legs. Apparently the graphics card crashed and while the computer started up, the screen stayed black. And unlike older models, the graphics card on these macs is soldered on to the motherboard, so the whole motherboard had to be replaced.
“I belong to a nation whose children scare the life out of you.
What a terrifying force you are, fighting with children…”
The children of Army Public School returned to school this week. This is their tribute to their fallen classmates.
Peshawar, December 16 2014.