Saqib Manzoor muses on the art of being able (or unable) to write


I try to write but I fail- not a word, a phrase, or even a sentence comes to me.

I force myself to scribble one damned word/figure/line. But I mess it up terribly and stain the hem of my shirt with distorted stuff.

I think,

I pull the curtains aside,

I look at the photographs pinned to the wall,

I chew on the cap of my pen, and

I draw the curtains back.

I keep thinking about writers:

How did Manto write?

Did stories really live in his pockets? Was it that easy?

And how did Bukowski write? Hangover? Of pain, grief, alcohol…?

Kafka? Hemingway? What was it?

And, how is this happy and employed man with a small and happy family of our village, able to write such intricate and poignant lines?


I pick up the books in my hand, which have been covered with dust in the corner of the ledge. I start reading and I curse myself- for I fail to write.

After pondering over it for a good amount of time, I take a deep sigh and put the book aside in the overly dark corner, which is occupied by stinky bag—a dustbin momentarily, and an out-of-order laptop I borrowed from my uncle. The only light bulb in the room is dull and lifeless, and I wait for the power to come back on.

I feel a closeness to this bag, the laptop, and the dull bulb- there are things accumulating inside me, but I am numb and out-of-order.

I leave the room, slamming the door behind me. I mean, you need something to vent your surging anger of ‘failing to write’ on something. I might rip the pages of a notebook, unzip the pockets of bag, fling a pillow in the air or slam the door. Pitiful.

Instead of descending the stairs, I sit on the wooden stairs, and rapidly slide down to the dark corridor.

This is what I do and

Become; insane, a lunatic, a miserable and cursed person,

When I am unable to write anything.

I run to the kitchen, the only place of soothing sounds and pleasing smells. I go to;

Look if there is anything stored in the refrigerator,

Mashed garlic and ginger in the mortar,

Chop the green chillies/steak/onion,

Stare at the simmering Razma Dal in pressure cooker,

Swap the utensils on burners of gas stove as commanded by mother,

Then, I drink a glass of water, and leave.

I stroll through the dimly lit corridor towards the marbled porch which is usually occupied by the well-fed yet strangely starving, purring cat. At first, she gives me an innocent look, trying to lure me into getting her a cup of milk. When she feels I am too reluctant to move even an inch, she changes into a merciless beast and starts purring and glaring at me. I run back to the kitchen to fetch milk for her. I feed her and she starts meowing for more. She does it throughout the day, month, year and I keep feeding her every time.

I wish I were a cat; it would be easy to find food. Perhaps I could find words and stories too.

I go outside and notice things in my surroundings which have been there for a long time now, but today, as I fail to write anything I contemplate these things.

I see a wall that is leaning and about to crumble down to rubble. This wall is older than my existence and has been safeguarding this two-storey cemented structure, house, home, for a very long time now. Bricks, half broken/shattered, are clutching to one another in order to keep the strength of this old wall which helps in keeping the roving wolves, snarling dogs, and starving monsters that snatch children of mothers, away from the home.

In the midst of cold waves of December, I see birds leaving their nests and moving to other warmer places. At first, it is too harrowing to see the birds leave their constructed homes atop the trees, and in the empty spaces under the roof of houses, but then, the inevitable and impending arrival of spring gives me a hope, hope of the return of these birds and their jolly singing. They sing beautifully without using any instrument or auto tune, haha. These nests look dreary and ugly without the birds. When these get covered under the drape of snow and its piercing silence, I sniff mourning in the air.

I hear the loud silence of winter, signalling it is going to snow anytime soon. This feeling is inexpressible. You just feel it and can not give it a name or share with anyone. I stand still on the threshold, looking at the winter sky, too cold and cloudy, and reminisce about the days when my grandfather would tell me that these clouds were the sheared wool of our sheep that was floating in air and would fall soon upon us as new and fresh snowflakes. He would tell me how he would scoop it and put back to the skin of our sheep. Gone are those bearable and happy days, and so is my kind, pious grandfather.

Then, I see; the embers, which were too intense last night, dying in kangid/kangir, the falling stumps of the batsman who usually brags about his ‘skilled’ batting which is actually too shallow, and embarrassing to watch, and the diminishing rattle of helicopter which does an unsolicited hovering and surveillance over our homes. Indeed, there is death of everything; the boasted intensity, always an ugly egoism, and the unwanted illegitimate existence and foundation.

I look around and see people gathering the pruned twigs. While their backs are bent down, they are carefully gathering the sharp, and the distorted twigs. Meanwhile, an unprecedented, rare sight of two twigs embracing one another, captured my undivided attention. It felt like these twigs, which emerged from two different boughs, were clinging to one another with their thousand hands as if these had taken the vows of being together for centuries, which was not the case days ago when these two twigs existed separately on the same tree; too easy to be twisted and bent. I looked at each standing tree and found each one had these two particular twigs in the middle connected; some of which had fully merged and got fixed for eternity.  ‘Interesting and brilliant art,’ my father says.

As dusk arrives, I see tired people, and the birds that haven’t left the homeland returning to their homes after a hectic day. I can sniff the aroma of Razma Dal to which the mashed garlic and ginger, chopped steak etc. have been added, and also, I can smell the amalgam of different smells exuding from various dishes cooked in the neighbourhood. The merriment of aromas it is.

I can hear elderly people splashing water while doing wudhu. The trees appear too lonely in winter. Soon, the azaan sounds from the speakers placed on the tall minarets of masjids.

The sun is gone. moon is here. I am back! I am back to my room, still bereft of electricity and lantern, to do writing but

I fail to write a word, a phrase or a sentence.



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