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Portraits of Longing & Lost Legacies

Updated: May 14, 2022

Nazuk Iftikhar Rao & Tapu Javeri

Note: The following is a curation by Mina Malik from our archives. This digital piece combines Nazuk Iftikhar Rao's prose poetry with Tapu Javeri's photographs of old buildings in Karachi. Both were originally published in The Aleph Review, Vol. 3 (2019).

Saddar (Karachi)

My Jaan, when Calvino wrote about his invisible cities, he only wrote about one, in a million beautiful ways. And when Berger’s various letters in A to X were written, they were written to only one lover. I write to you, mi amor, about the parts of our city, where we lived once. You can only live such beauty once. I have included with it my portraits of longing. Longing is not just about yearning or forgetting, it is also about remembering and laughing. I remember someone once told me, that it is the most fulfilled word and we mistake it for incomplete and obscure emotions we cannot name. It encompasses all shades of living, laughing, loving, remembering and forgetting. My love, that city we lived in once, will always be our happy secret. At least we had that. Remember me, N.

Elphinstone Street (Karachi)

Mi Guapo,

It is the city where the traveller forgets their paper maps. Every corner is mapped according to the traveller’s memory, and changes with each laughter. Every signpost is an anagram of an anagram of the city we met in. The traveller finds bits of their past in each turn of the street, at every wave crash, amongst its many underground cenotes. This city appears only when the traveller feels lost, like a sudden mirage, a relief. It exists to explain that the traveller once laughed, once lived, once loved.

Remember me,


Cloth Market (Karachi)

il mio amante,

The street signs in this city are all anagrams of that one name, the name of the city we met in, many seasons ago. I follow the map from memory, but the streets seem to shift continuously into anagrams of anagrams, and soon the city is just a memory map from my mind. How can I forget that? How can I forget us? How can I forget our laughter? Do you remember anything?


All photos courtesy of Tapu Javeri.


Nazuk Iftikhar Rao is a Lahore based development economist with degrees from Columbia University and University of Glasgow. She is currently working on her photo series ‘Portraits of Longing’ and her debut novel on the theme of loneliness (like everyone else). She has worked with the UN in Pakistan and New York City in the areas of humanitarian communication and poverty reduction. She was the managing features editor for Columbia University’s The Morningside Post and the Journal of International Affairs in 2015-17.

Tapu Javeri is one of Pakistan’s foremost photographers. Credited with numerous fashion, photojournalism and personality shoots, he has exhibited his work both nationally and internationally. Tapu is author of several eminent books on photography. He is a regular guest speaker at academic institutions in Pakistan and abroad—Cambridge University, UK, National History Museum in Sophia, Bulgaria, among others. In 2016, he was named one of Nikon’s top 32 Nikon Pro photographers. Tapu has had the privilege of photographing eminent personalities of international acclaim: Princess Sarwat of Jordan, Aung San Suu Ki, Shashi Kapoor and the iconic diva, Nur Jahan. Tapu’s creativity is not exclusive to photographs—he is the son, and partner, of famous jeweller Hassan Ali Mohammad Javeri and has an extensive career of over 30 years in jewellery manufacture and design. He is also brand ambassador and official photographer for several social and charity projects, such as SIUT.

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