Note: The following is part of a longer piece, entitled Kalaam e Haibat, first published in the Alternative Writing section of The Aleph Review, Vol. 2 (2018). The author manipulates the visual layout of the words to create a profound reading experience. We suggest you pick up a copy of Volume 2 to enjoy Palvashay's work as it was intended. Snippets of the visual layout will be made available on our social media.
Look at me—just look at me—because I’m the best thing this city has to offer. Clean lines, efficient use of space, and a vision of glass and concrete that rises beyond the tangled mess of this city. As you see me soaring to unknown heights, the passage of your eyes will be blinded by the light of the sun because he made me in his image and, by God, it’s luxurious. Class. Sophistication. Power. I’m everything money can buy and then some. Not for the faint of heart or those with shallow pockets. This city has been looking for a sense of direction and I can tell you the only way is up. Reach for the stars? I’ll pierce for the roof of the universe. When Iqbal said, khudi ko kar baland itna, he was talking about me. Talking about how we can lift ourselves out of our circumstances if we try. Poverty? Misfortune? Pain? That’s currency for the weak-willed and those destined to be destitute. Everyone dreams big but not everyone can take charge of their destiny because while we don’t choose where we’re born, we choose how we live. And what’s the point of living life if not to the fullest? See, I know what you’re thinking but forget it because I earned this and, believe me, I earned all of this. I’m a self-made man and I deserve everything money can buy. You think it’s obscene to live this way? There’s no shame in success and I have worked for so many years to amass all this, then why not think of me as a pioneer? A symbol of hope that rises above the petty, everyday trouble of the city. People look at me, pray to be me and think of me as an icon. Elegant. Posh. Did I mention classy? By the way, I’ve heard the rumours. They say I stole, cheated and exploited to achieve all of this and here’s the thing about stealing, cheating and exploiting: if I’ve done any of these things, it’s because people allowed them to happen. Say what you want about me, but I always offer a fair price. And what happens should you refuse it? That’s your problem, but let me tell you what I can offer. Roti? Kapda? Makaan? Those aren’t needs. The twenty first century Karachi citizen has different needs. The world is moving faster than we know it and it’s time we move on to bigger and better things—the things that matter. State-of-the-art cinema. Jacuzzis. Gold-plated bathroom fixtures—it’s a functional concern because things rust faster than you can say Altaf Bhai in this city. Did I mention the view? The best that money can buy. There’s a special joy in eating when you have a view as fine as mine; a panoramic view like no other. You see the line of light? String upon string of fairy lights, rippling, glowing, ebbing and flowing down below? This beautiful, mad-bad city, stretching on, no end in sight. Come up to the top and watch with me.
Palvashay Sethi is content to exist on most days. On others, she's assailed with fears of ceasing to be and starts scribbling. Her contributions have appeared in minor literature[s], Severine, and FishFood Magazine.
About the artist: Amal Fatima Uppal is a traditional painter, muralist, digital illustrator and game environment artist. A graduate of the prestigious NCA, Amal also illustrates children’s books, working with both Oxford University Press and IndiReads and has had her digital works featured in FuriaMag, Spain. She has participated in many exhibitions and her work updates can be found on Instagram: @amals.studio. Artwork courtesy of Studio O.