Witness.

Write about the city you know. Write about the people who you know are not the way the newspapers paint them to be. Write about the way the city is changing, growing older and strengthening itself. Of course, it doesn’t want you to write on its behalf – you’re not writing for this city. No, you’re writing about the city. Your pen skids across the paper and here you’ve drawn this amazing city – strong, beautiful and brave.

Write the truth. Don’t censor it. Don’t worry about the consequences of telling the truth. Everyone knows that the city has been on the receiving end of bullets, booted kicks and never-empty threats. Everyone can hear each night that it is this city that cries itself to sleep. Each morning, its this city which washes itself of the grime that covers it with the help of the Indus that is eternally heading southward.

Write so that the people can read. Don’t forget about them. Let them in. Let their stories peek through your words. Here in these stories are the places, the people and the memories that are forever yours. They cant wiretap, haunt or bulldoze these places. They cant take this away from you. Because they don’t know these places. They don’t want to know these places. They can’t bear knowing it – it is too real, too genuine. If they knew the city, they would fall in love with it. And they would never hurt it the way they do. Had they talked to the people, they wouldn’t pull the trigger, they wouldn’t curse them, they wouldn’t cheat them, they wouldn’t rob them of their rights.. This is why they cant afford to know these stories. They wont read that which you write. They’ll censor it, they’ll ban it, they’ll do everything they can to buy your words.

But your words cant be bought in earthly terms. Your words were never for sale.

You tell me that these places are not in the physical world. That the nations we live in have invisible boundaries. That Pakistan is not just a country, it is a thought. It can exist even when the boundaries suggest otherwise. So the boundary becomes the rubber band which keeps stretching as you move from one city to another. As you pack your life in suitcases and travel from one airport to the other. You will carry your words and your heart will threaten to burst from the weight of that which is your burden. The truth is not the easiest of travel items.

Write so that the trees testify. Write so that the land you plant your feet on will be a witness to all that you stood for. Write so that your inky fingers and tired hands can speak for you the day you will be silent. Write so that the generations that have passed before you and the ones that are to come ahead will pass by your basti – your city – and remember you, all the places you carried, all the people you loved, all the memories you documented and the Truth you wrote even when you didn’t know where to begin.

“Does man imagine that We will not be able to bring his bones together again? Indeed; We have the power to remould even his finger-tips.” [Surah Al-Qiyamah (75): 3-4]

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