April and May in review

April and May have been even more hectic for me. I struggled with my motivation to write and even read, thus ending up missing most of my deadlines. Again.

But considering all the stuff I did get done in these two months I have been unexpectedly productive. For example, I read a total of seven books in two months, three of them on Wattpad Classics, as well as a new novel, which I’m not counting here.

Books I finished:

  • A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  • Our Story Ends Here, Sara Naveed (review to be published elsewhere)
  • Carmilla, J. Sheridan Le Fanu
  • First Love, Last Rites, Ian McEwan
  • Dracula, Bram Stoker (re-read)
  • How it Happened, Shazaf Fatima Haider (review to follow)
  • Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories, Bram Stoker

Currently reading:

  • A Cup of Rage, Raduan Nassar
  • Stay With Me, Maniza Naqvi

I have just begun A Cup of Rage and so far it seems that reading Nassar might just help me to finally reading and finishing Stay With Me. Both are quite similar in style and possibly in content, so yeah.


Books to read in June:

While writing down the books I’d read so far in 2017, I realised that I have read only five books by women. Books by women were supposed to constitute three-quarters of all the books I read this year. So I’ve now rearranged my TBR list to focus more on women authors.

Women authors:

  • Nobody Killed Her, Sabyn Javeri
  • Night and Day, Virginia Woolf
  • Jacob’s Room, Virginia Woolf
  • My Ántonia, Willa Cather
  • One of Our Own, Willa Cather

Male authors:

  • Black Dogs, Ian McEwan
  • Enduring Love, Ian McEwan
  • Atonement, Ian McEwan


  • Angaaray, Sajjad Zaheer, Ahmed Ali, Rashid Jahan, and Mahmuduzzafar
  • Selected Stories, Alice Munro

This blogging-shlogging is getting tedious!

I have begun to find blogging tedious. Even writing this blog was a struggle. There is so much I want to say but can’t seem to put it into words. I’m trying to resolve this by writing a little everyday in longhand in my bullet journal. Maybe I’ll write a blog about it too. But, not now. Later, maybe.

Have you ever experienced this too? I mean, not being able to keep updating your blog content because write you just. Can’t. Share your experiences in the comments.





Review: A Brief History of Time

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Photo by Author

ISBN: 9780553176988


My rating: 3 stars out of 5


I’d have given this one 4 stars, but Chapter 8 on the the origins of the universe was so damn long that I lost my interest. I don’t know why but it took me nearly a month to get through that one chapter.


My favourite thing about A Brief History of Time is that at some points through the book, I actually began to understand the physics of time and space, and all this quantum theory shizz, as depicted in Doctor Who.

Another thing I liked was that concepts such the ‘psychological’ and other ‘arrow[s]’ of time stuck in my head long after I had finished the book, and I actually referred to it in a panel discussion I participated in. Since I don’t usually have such moments, this particular moment means a lot to me.

I plan to read further on the physics of time and space. String theory section in Hawking’s book was slightly boring. However, I am still interested in theoretical physics as a subject, especially the physics of time and space. Next on my list are Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and A Pale Blue Dot — mainly because a friend of mine insisted that I must read Sagan before venturing any further in this area.

Have you read A Brief History of Time? Please share your thoughts in the Comments below.

Who am I? How do I know who am I?

Inner Cosmos_spacevorobey.tumblr.com_tumblr_nyroxsji7T1sgn87so1_1280
Artwork from spacevorobey.tumblr.com/post/134446277143. All rights belong to the original artist who is not known

It’s the fragments of thought, of memory, and shreds of recalled memories. Things that we’d known long ago, or we thought we knew, but now we aren’t so sure anymore. And we’re fighting the deluge, fighting like a battalion of desperate-for-End warriors. Yet, we know we shall sink beneath the waves anyway. That’s where we’re headed. That’s where we had come from. Nothingness to nothingness, that’s all this is. This Life. This is the deluge that tries to beats us back as we embark upon the Voyage, outwards. The Voyage Out. To never to return. At least, not like what we used to be.

This deluge, so far, has now brought me to the shore, familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. I do not know where to go, but I do have an idea of the general direction Life is leading me into. It’s a solitary path to the edge. A path that entwines with those of others momentarily, and then diverges, to may or may not converge again. The Essential Aloneness. The quest to be self-sufficient, emotionally and psychologically. A quest I was led on to by another. But now it has become mine, my goal, my quest. My life. And it excludes them, or at least I wish to exclude them anyway.

‘breaking’ by Boicu Marinela (artist)

It is much better in here. It is happier in here. Sunnier than the outside. More flowers there than are to be found outside. No anxiety. Just bouts of severe lethargy of a depressive episode. Along with the deep, painful pull of Functionality, and Priorities, helped by Empathy and Compassion, the Core Values. My Core Competencies that the outside world will never give a rat’s arse about.

And outside?

Outside, it’s pain. Lethargy. Apathy. People being treated like a bunch of Android- and iOS-operated robots, judged for their different ways of working, marked as just another fact or a figure. Their humanness is of negligible value, unless they are ‘productive’ and, thus, deserve to be treated as human. So that’s that then. They are more human than I am to you. They are more trustworthy than I am to you. They will easily face ruthless tests, whereas I will fail, fall flat on my face; and with my fall, insult you in front of your benefactor, so badly so that you’ll never be able to show face in the Conference Room again. That was, then, all there ever was to my humanness.

Empathy, or compassion, doesn’t mean a thing. It’s the Product. An object, multi-layered, hewn together in an insanely small period of time, and expected to brave the storms of critiques, of the public opinion. If it falls, it is my neck on the line. If it stands, you are put on the pedestal. The Heroine of Our Publishing Year.

But it is only I who knows exactly how much of my precious blood, sweat, and tears were poured into that ‘product’. It is only I who sees a precious amalgamation of the sheer backbreaking work done by me and the original creator come together into the blessed, sacred form of a book.

It is only I who documents the ever-evolving, the new-and-improved abstractions called ‘soft skills’. These abstractions, rapidly-growing micro-organisms of the world of work, are important only if balanced out by one’s ‘hard’ skills. More tangible, will clang deafeningly if struck with a steel rod. Not at all like the itsy bitsy teeny weeny things that are so abstract as to not exist in your eyes. Abstract is, then, what I’m made of.

Yes. That’s me, then. I am. Abstract.

Does that explain your lack of trust in me?

It does to me.

February and March in review

So, February flew by faster for me and was less productive than January. I didn’t publish a single blog. I finished only one book during the whole month, but only because there was a deadline to it, and started one other. Worse, it was generally an emotionally taxing month for me, and that interfered with my ability to focus on the task at hand. As a result, I couldn’t read or write as much as I’d have liked.

March, on the contrary, was much better. I finished three books, two of them pretty intense ones. One of these was Amsterdam by Ian McEwan, which I finished in five days. Quite a big achievement for me!

However, a lot of other things went well for me in the last two months. In February, I sarvathasincoverread a book by an old school friend and wrote a review of it for Books & AuthorsI read out my first published poem at the official (sort of) launch of The Mongrel Book of Voices, Volume I: Breakups. At the Karachi Literature Festival 2017, copies of my Mongrel Books anthology was available at the Liberty Books stall. Some of my friends of my friends bought their copies and I signed those for them. One idiotic thing I did do was sign the whole damned page and not leave much space for others to sign. (Eeek!) But the best part was finding a prominently-displayed copy of Urdu Poetry, 1935–1970: A Progressive Episode by Carlo Coppola, the book that I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into, at the OUP bookstall. I bought the book immediately and ran around showing it off to my friends and family all day.

In March, I started working at the Karachi Biennale as Assistant Publications and Marketing Coordinator. March was a good month, despite all the mood slumps. I wrote a lot. My bullet journal and the Memo app on my phone are filled with notes and scribblings collected throughout the last month. I am now working on creating blog drafts and scheduled posts for my blog from all these notes so I can keep updating my blog over the course of the next few weeks.

Another good thing that happened in March is that my editorial team at the Zabaan: A Journal of Art and Literature resumed operations and submissions have been reopened on the usual rolling basis. I am happy and proud of the progress we have made so far, despite our continuing slow pace.  

Some things I have realised in the last two months:

  1. I do not have the discipline to sit down every week and produce well-written, high-quality blog posts.
  2. Discipline and routine does not come naturally to all writers, and definitely not to me.
  3. My strength as a writer is writing stuff that is full of raw, bursting emotion, and I think The Life and Adventures of a Bibliophile must cater to my strengths, instead of focusing on forcing myself to be something I am not.

Books I finished reading:

Books I’m still reading:

  • A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  • Stay With Me, Maniza Naqvi

Books on my TBR list:

  • Nobody Killed Her, Sabyn Javeri
  • How It Happened, Shazaf Fatima Haider
  • First Love, Last Rites, Ian McEwan


In April, I’m looking forward to making my way through my TBR list. What are your plans for April?

January in review

Here we are, already at the beginning of February.

January 2017 was overall a sluggish month for me. That applies to not just my progress with the Reading Challenge, but also to other aspects of my life.

I spent the first half of the month travelling in Italy and setting up my new bullet journal for this year. In the latter half, I struggled to get over the jet lag, grappling with too much sleeping at times and too little sleeping at others, and, of course, writing, reading, blogging, and sending out job applications. So, of course, my reading progress did suffer in the previous month.

Books I finished:

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. This was carried forward from December 2016. This is also going to be the first book I review in 2017. Review forthcoming this month. So, no spoilers for now.

A Tranquil Star by Primo Levi. Unpublished stories by the renowned Italian Jewish author of The Periodic Table, Survival in Auschwitz, and If Not Now, When. Tranquil Star has been on my TBR list since March 2016, when my sister bought me a copy from the Luxembourg International Bookshop in Torino, Italy. It wasn’t a particularly good read. I’d rather have re-read The Periodic Table instead. It would have been a much more illuminating experience. Clearly, these unpublished stories are unpublished for a reason.

My Current Reads:

The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf. Her first book, which was published in 1915. I am reading this as part of my Woolf Chronology reading session. It’s also the first book by a woman writer that I am reading as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. Review to follow soon.

Books to be read next:

This Wide Night by debutante Sarvat Hasin.

Things I’m looking forward to in February:

  1. The 8th Karachi Literature Festival scheduled to take place on 10, 11, and 12 February 2017.
  2. New books by Pakistani women writers are being released this month. I’m particularly looking forward to Hybrid Tapestries: The Development of Pakistani Literature in English by Muneeza Shamsie and Nobody Killed Her by Sabyn Javeri. Both books are going to be launched at the KLF this year.
  3. Pakistan’s Women’s Day on 12 February 2017.


In the next few weeks, I will be covering all of the above events, as well as publish my reviews of The Pillars of the Earth and The Voyage Out.


So how was January for y’all? Anything interesting planned for February? Let me know in the comments.

My Year of Reading Women

Reading Challenge 2017

I have been participating in the Goodreads’ Annual Reading Challenge every year since 2013. Those Reading Challenges are rather basic as they are essentially just reading resolutions each user makes for the New Year. And that’s exactly what I did. Only in the last year or so did I discover more rigorous reading challenges. I attempted one in 2015, and one last year. Unfortunately, I failed to finish either of them.

But for 2017, I have decided to embark on a new reading challenge, which is unlike what I’ve attempted before. It isn’t brand-new, so you can chill.

My Reading Challenge for 2017 *drumroll* is going to be my Year of Reading Women.

That’s not the challenging part, by the way. I have an entire shelf consisting of books by women, about 30 of them. That’s a year’s worth of books.

The challenging part is that I am combining my personal reading challenge with POPSUGAR’s 2017 Reading Challenge.

Mine is simply reading books by women. There is no dearth of them in my home. I have so many books by women, and so do my parents. The challenging bit is to find a book written by a woman for each of the categories given in the 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. That, and blogging about my experience regularly throughout the year.

I can’t wait to start the challenge properly!

I have set a few guidelines for myself. One of them is that my first choice for each book I read this year will be one written by a woman. Such books must make up at least 90 per cent of my 2017 TBR list. And every month, I’m going to publish at least 2 blog posts, including a monthly overview of the books I read each month. I will be using certain hashtags during the challenge on my blogs and on social media, especially Instagram. See the tags below.


What are your reading resolutions for 2017? Are you participating in a reading challenge? Let me know below.


The Crossroads of Should and Must, My Journey So Far – Part II

It’s been over a year since I posted anything on my blog. It might have been a good idea because I am not the same person I was a year and a half ago. So this break from blogging might just have worked out fine.

I’d ended Part I of this essay by saying that I once again intended to begin searching for a full-time job that suited me better. And I did find one, an editorial one in a reputed multinational publishing house, that I really enjoyed at times. It did eventually lose its appeal, but the actual work itself never once failed to make me happy and satisfied with my work and capabilities.

Early last year (2016), however, I began to fall into the familiar slump of not being able to work on my creative projects, or even to take out time to read every day. This had been one of the reasons why I left my journalism job: I’d had neither the time nor energy to devote to what is my Must.

So, what is my Must?

Fortunately, I can easily answer this question now.

I am, first and foremost, a Reader as well as a Writer. I am an Editor, second. (I understand this might jeopardise my current job search, but so would an out-and-out lie. And I’d rather tell the truth.)

My inner Self is made up of the abovementioned three entities intertwined with other. Their way of functioning is somewhat confusing: for example, the Editor in me is an amalgamation of itself and the Reader and the Writer. In other words, I write like a Reader and an Editor. I edit like a Reader and a Writer. When I read, I am both the Editor and the Writer.

Maybe this is why I have editorial abilities that are a little different than those of my colleagues in the field.

Maybe this is why it doesn’t take too long for me to start feeling unfulfilled in a job.

So, the last time I experienced this, I realised that if I resigned from my job, it would mean no monies to invest in my creative work. So I was left with one option which I chose, even though I knew it would knock out all energy from me.

Hence, I actively sought opportunities that would provide me a creative outlet and, by extension, a deep sense of satisfaction.

This was also why we started Zabaan Writers’ Collective. This was why I started volunteering at T2F. This was why I spent weeks and weeks running off to the annual NAPA theatre festival, or other similar events, every day after finishing work.

To tell you the truth, my real Life only began when the clock struck 5:30pm every day, 6:00pm on Fridays.

All of the above was in spite of the satisfaction I gained from doing good work during the office hours. Whatever satisfaction I gained was only from the sweet messages I received from authors or manuscript reviewers, saying that it was a pleasure to work with me and thanking me for my good job. They never failed to make my day, and I will always cherish them. Honestly, I couldn’t have survived my time there if it wasn’t for these warm messages.

That’s all past now, all the bad stuff. Best to leave it behind in 2016.

The good stuff, though, has been amazing and satisfying, and I cannot leave it behind. Ever.

As Maria Popova of Brainpickings quoted Elle Luna in her article, it is necessary to be intimate with Should in order to better understand Must. And this is the most important thing I have learnt in the past year: What, exactly, is my Must, and what I Should do to achieve it?

I know for a fact that my Should, which consists of having a source of regular income, must become entirely subservient to my Must, which consists of all the things that make me happy to be alive and satisfied. In short, my creative work.


I am once again searching for jobs. This time, I am looking for something that pays enough so I can bear my expenses and am left with a certain amount that I can utilise for my creative projects. A job with regular hours that leaves my evenings free so I can devote two to three hours everyday to do what I Must do.

I also know that this is probably too much to ask. Yet, I don’t want to lose hope this time and settle for anything and everything that is even moderately well-paying.

This is how I hope to achieve the subservience of my Should to my Must.

It is quite normal to spend about five to six months looking for a suitable job, as I learnt from my Dad and my best friend. So, apart from earning a little to manage my expenses through some freelance projects, I could utilise the next few months in completing my translation project, maybe even preparing it for publication.

In any case, I have Zabaan, which, by end of this year, I hope to see it established enough so it can function without my constant attention next year.

And so it begins, a new chapter in my book.

This is me, now. A person who thrives on positive feedback (of course, this includes criticism as well) and good relations with people she works with.

I do, however, need to learn how to use negative feedback to improve, stand up to workplace bullies.


Looks like 2017 is going to be another year of learning.

Such fun!


P.S. What about your experiences in the job market? Have you managed to find satisfying work yet? How long did it take you to reach this point in your lives? Do share your experiences below.

On Reading Mitch Albom’s The Timekeeper

This time it was a friend of my parents, Tina Sani, a renowned singer of Urdu ghazals and someone whom I respect very much, who recommended to me a book, titled The Time keeper, written by an author I had never heard of before. I immediately added the book to my burgeoning To-buy list of books. It took me quite a few months before I was able to buy the book from anywhere. As far as I can remember, I had had found other books by Albom at my local bookshop, but not The Time keeper. I finally came across a dusty, but unused, copy while browsing the second-hand bookstalls at the D.H.A. Sunday Bazaar — I bought it without a second thought. For some reason, I had been looking forward to acquiring a copy of the book, even if it languished on my shelves at home, staying unread for many more months. This happened sometime in February, or early March. On the 3rd of July, according to my reading journal, I finally picked up the book, having stolen a few moments of solitude from the guests that were visiting us that day. I managed to read up to page 7 within a few minutes. I quite liked what I read. I also guessed that once I had properly started the book I could easily finish it in short period of time, maximum a week, a minimum of three to four days. The fact that The Time keeper is an easy read is one of the good things about the book. I properly started reading the book on the 17th of July, two weeks after I first picked it up, and finished it last night, on the 22nd of July. If one regularly takes out time during the day to spend it reading this book, one might even finish it in a day, maybe two. It’s that easy to read. Probably the most interesting aspect of the novel is its subject matter: Time. Various aspects of it, which are quite abstract, have been addressed in the novel: such as, how valuable it is, the obsessive monitoring of it done by humans, their attempts to control it with actions like making schedules. And yet, despite everything, the “time flies” and humans, greedily, want, and demand, even more of it. In fact, by making Time his subject, Albom has attempted to make people think, and rethink, about “their own notions of” Time. I found all this rather interesting. Albom does succeed, to some extent, in making us think about our attitudes towards Time. I definitely thought about it. Having read numerous articles on Being and on Existence on Brain Pickings, The Time keeper ended up becoming a sort of a catalyst, a final straw, for me. Last night, after having read the book, I realised that it really is good to live in the moment, in the present—to feel it, to enjoy it—even if I only do it sometimes, and definitely not at the expense of not bearing a practical outlook towards Life. Living in the moment, as far as I understand, means to stop everything one is doing, take a deep breath and focus on one’s surroundings, then fully immersing themselves into that particular moment. It seems to resemble the act and experience of doing either yoga or meditation, maybe even both. Nevertheless, an astute reader will definitely be able to perceive the moralistic undertones in the novel, even though Albom has tried to hide them under the guise of subtleness. But then, The Time keeper is meant to be a parable, of course, or it wouldn’t say “compelling fable” on the back cover of the book. And yes, I say this despite having experienced some of the very same feelings that the author was trying to communicate from his tale. What I felt while reading the book still doesn’t change the fact that his tone is overly didactic. He comes across as a teacher who tells his pupils a story, implying that they must, at any cost, imbibe the very virtues endorsed in the tale they have just been told as doing so will lead them to success. They are reminiscent, to an extent, of the values eschewed by Nim and the rest of the community of Dor’s original era. Albom has created some relatable, even believable, characters in Dor, Victor Delamonte, and Sarah Lemon. I think the book works mainly because of them, supported by his “spare” prose, which makes The Timekeeper a very quick read, and proportionately easy to understand. Nevertheless, reading this book would have been a much more enjoyable experience, had it not been for Albom’s moralistic treatment of his subject matter.

The Crossroads of Should and Must — My Journey, So Far

This photo does not belong to me. The credit lies entirely with the creator of this image, whom I am very grateful to.
This photo does not belong to me. The credit lies entirely with the creator of this image, to whom I am very grateful.

Feeling bored one Sunday afternoon and unsure about how to occupy my time, I decided to take a look at the Brain Pickings website. It had been several weeks since I had visited the website so my decision made sense. And it turned out to be a good idea, for I came across an article, on the very top of the home page, titled The Crossroads of Should and Must: An Intelligent Illustrated Field Guide to Finding Your Bliss. Quite an apt read for the overly self-reflective (read: self-critical) phase that I have been going through for some time now.

Ever since I was a child I have loved books. I read so much that it would seem that I was not just reading, but, quite literally, devouring the books every day. It soon worsened to the point that I preferred to spend a major chunk of my time with my books. This occurred, I believe, sometime in Class One or Two. It was so bad that I wouldn’t revise for exams, which compelled my mother to lock my beloved books up in a corner of her wardrobe. Luckily, as far as I can remember, it was the same shelf where Mum stored our snacks for school. Being the sneaky little kids that we were, my sister and I used to spend our afternoons and Saturday mornings gorging on the snacks. I distinctly remember, therefore, that when my mother locked my books in that same supposedly secret place, I went into my parents’ room in their absence, opened that closet, and continued to spend a long time reading my books, not even thinking how uncomfortable it could be to sit on the cold concrete floor for so long. I eventually became more responsible, when I entered Class Three. School, lessons, and all that learning became more enjoyable as I started getting good marks, which was enough of an incentive for me to keep up my academic performance. However, I still preferred to read during study breaks rather than watch TV, the only exception being certain TV programmes that I enjoyed watching. I also borrowed lots of books from my school library, which made me quite a favourite with the librarians. As a reward for my attentions, I was regularly awarded various certificates and recognition for being an Avid Reader. At the start of every school holiday, especially the long summer ones, Dad would get me new books as a way of celebrating the end of exams and the start of the holidays. And, being what I am, I’d be through with them in a matter of days or weeks. There would always be too many holidays left at the end of my holiday to-read list.

Later, in my late teens, I also became interested in writing and studying Literature, slowly growing more attuned to the realisation that this would essentially be the path I must choose. After several false starts, I finally decided that I’d like to teach English during my third and final year of my undergraduate studies. However, there were certain issues regarding how to make the start that I needed. I had been considering going back to the school where I did my A –Levels from and teach there, possibly as an assistant to one of my former Literature teachers. That plan got derailed because I got offered a job by my dad’s friend from university who was running the website of the newspaper where Dad works. As expected, it was a journalism-related job. There had always been one constant in all my years of grappling with the question of my future career: I always knew, instinctively, that I never wanted to be a journalist. Not for a single moment, unless my probable career as a journalist involved reporting on book launches, reviews, literary events, interacting with authors. I could do this, I thought, and I could do it well, even enjoy it. This subfield of journalism evoked in me the same kind of excitement, the same thrill of happiness that I got from being in a bookshop or at a literary event. I experienced this exact euphoria after my supervisor put me on the coverage team for the Karachi Literature Festival in 2014. But nothing substantial materialised on this front. A few months later I decided to give up my steady income that I was getting for doing some very soul-sucking work. I, then, left that job, so graciously offered to me by my dad’s friend, to enter the crazy world of freelancing.

I do not, however, regret my decision to forfeit a steady income. I had a good reason for it: my soul needed rescuing, and I was, literally, the only one who could save it. No one else would, or could, have saved my soul for me. So, if I have to do it all over again, I will still make the same decision, even if the consequences are the same, or worse, as now.

So far, I have been able to acquire a bit of work: reviews, mostly of films, and occasionally of books; a large report-writing assignment, as well as a research article and editing/proofreading assignments. The latter three paid me pretty well, while the money I got from the reviews was better than what most local publications pay their reviewers. I also got a job—an unpaid, voluntary one—as an Associate Prose Editor with Papercuts, a literary magazine published by the Desi Writers’ Lounge, which I enjoy very much. It’s the very job that I needed—a job that makes me happy and provides a steady income. Although it doesn’t do the latter for now, I can, at least, hope that based on this experience I can eventually acquire a similar job that pays well and I am able to independently subsist on the remuneration that it provides.

I have realised, though, that freelancing is an immensely difficult career in Pakistan. I cannot, at any cost, make it my primary career because doing so would be an impractical step on my part. So what must I do, then? Look for jobs that will take me further on my chosen career path, and also be a source of happiness and satisfaction to me. And, of course, they must pay me moderately well, so that I can save up for my postgraduate studies.

It is time, once again, to enter the job search. And I intend to succeed this time.

A Letter That Was Written Too Late

To the one,

Who became my little brother,

Today, you’d have turned 17, and might have been starting Sixth Form, or A-Levels, this September. I wonder what subjects you might have opted for. You and your brothers were always into Maths and Science, so maybe you would have chosen A-Level Maths and Further Maths, or just Maths, Physics, and Chemistry. Or, maybe you’d have switched to Arts and Business-related subjects by now. You were good at Maths in school, I remember clearly. You’d get lots of appreciation certificates from school for your good behaviour, for your class work and homework, and other school activities. Everybody loved you at school, from what I have gathered; they all thought of you a wonderful, a most loving and caring boy. I wonder which college you would have gone to: Bishop Douglas school/college near the East Finchley tube station, or the Mill Hill School just a bus ride away from your home. Or, would it have been that college somewhere near the North Finchley area where your brother applied?

It is your birthday today, but you can’t read this letter.

I can’t see you, ever, except in photographs of us together, and those of you alone. Maybe you can see me, maybe you can’t. I have no way knowing.

You’re gone…to a faraway place…a place where we, the living, can’t follow you before our time.

I don’t grudge you your demise. It was better for you to leave us than live a substandard life, a life where you may or may not have been able to run, walk, play with other boys your age; most of all, not be able to spend time with your best friend doing the typical stuff boys your age would do with their friends. It was better this way, and knowing so made me a little bit stronger in dealing with your loss.

I also knew you were in terrible pain, something that most of us couldn’t even begin to fathom. Your death was your release, and it’s okay. We all understood. And let me just say this: I admire you for your courage in fighting your battles with brain tumour. I truly do.

But I do grudge some things: My own regrets.

I regret the fact that I could never be good elder sister to you. Yes, I could say I was going through a bad phase, that I couldn’t be bothered with a youngster all the time. But that’s no excuse at all, especially when I knew how much you loved and esteemed me. I understood that myself; I’d heard your mother and everybody else in your family had told me that. Even when you left us, your uncle told my mother that a few days before he came to Pakistan, everyone teased you about the fact that you will never have anyone call you ‘Mama’*. You had retorted that my children would. And you know what? They really will. My children will know you and they will know you as their Mama. I promise you that.

I regret that I never cherished you enough while you were here. I now wish I had. You were and will always be the little brother I never had. I’d never thought about having a brother; I had never felt like I needed a brother in my life, younger or elder to me. But, you made me realise that having a brother like you was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

But do you know what I regret the most? It’s never telling you that I loved you. Since your passing, I have thought about this so many times that I have lost count by now. It’s been a little over two years, too. But hear it, remember it, feel it—because I know you are a part of me and you can feel what I feel—know that I have loved you deeply and always will, unconditionally.

Your passing taught me to cherish the people around me, especially my family and those few friends that have always made their way back into my life in one way or the other. Thank you, my Medium One, for teaching me this! I can’t believe I had forgotten such a vital life lesson.

I’m gradually becoming a better sister, a better friend now; I try hard to be a better daughter; basically, a better person, overall.

But now, as I watch myself grow as a person, I sometimes feel guilty about depriving you of the person I have now become, of the sister and friend that I have become now, of not being there for you when you needed me the most. I am so, so, so sorry, little brother. I truly am.

I love you, okay? I really do, and I miss you. I miss the fact that we will never hug again. It fills me with regret about not lingering in your hugs, not hugging you closer because for some reason I never thought you’d go away so soon—that there will always be another chance to rectify this; that there would be a tomorrow when things would be different. I just didn’t want to believe that you could leave me so soon. But you did, eventually, and I understand why, too.

Yet, that doesn’t make it any better for me because I still regret everything I never did for you. My regrets aren’t going anywhere for a very long time, because they have come to define me, in many ways. They have made me the person I am today.

I hope you are having a great birthday party up there in the heavens, little brother.

Rest in peace, my Medium One, I love you.

*Mama – A word used to address one’s maternal uncle in the Sindhi language, which originated from the province of Sindh in Pakistan. In several other languages, especially English and French, the word is used to address one’s mother.