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For Saida

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Shahbano Bilgrami

What I remember most about

My Nani were her sea-green eyes,

Like pieces of mottled Herati glass,

Eyes like blasted sand and fused

Quartz and dead plants that

Caught the flame of sunlight

On the water. Uncommon, that

Particular shade of bluish-green in

A region of mostly earthy,

Dark-eyed people.

Her humor, brittle, parched,

Snapped underfoot like twigs or

Crackled like fallen leaves, rose and

Fell with the gusts, flamed against

The drab and non-descript. How many

Times she burnished when animated

By laughter, sarcasm, or idea.

In the end, when age and illness

Burned her skin, drew bones

Out of her flesh, when

She lay as fragile as a child

Upon my lap, and I bound Her to me tightly, the last I saw

Those sea-green eyes,

They blazed.

There she gazes, resolute, from the

Yellowed-grey of that photograph that

Rests on my nightstand. Just sixteen,

Brows furrowed, she refuses to

Engage. She is still unlived, hopeful.

After all, for her to turn and see me now

Is acknowledgement that life has passed.

10th December 2020



Shahbano Bilgrami is a published poet, writer and freelance editor whose debut novel, Without Dreams, was long listed for the Inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize in 2007. Her second novel, Those Children (HarperCollins, 2017; HarperCollins 360, 2018), was long listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Fiction in 2017. An excerpt was included in The Aleph Review, Vol. 1 (2017). Born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Shahbano was educated in Canada, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. Shahbano is both an avid reader and book reviewer. Her articles have been published in print magazines as well as online and she has written and edited extensively for children. She has also participated in a number of literary festivals including the Jaipur Literature Festival, KLF, the Alchemy Festival, and the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival. She is currently working on her third novel and is also involved in a number of projects for young readers, including The Munna Man and Baby Lady Series (Oxford 2017) and Starlight Graded English Readers for Lightstone Publishers. You can see her work at as well as on Instagram @authorshahbanobilgrami.


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