“When the wedding was over, Zarghuna climbed aboard the
bus, leaving the evening’s cool breeze for the pungent, stuffy
air of the women’s section. All in all, there were about forty of
them – men, women and children – returning home from the
celebrations in a neighbouring village. The women sat at the
front, swathed in burqas hiding wedding finery underneath,
their faces made up in carefully hoarded foundation, bright
red lipstick, eyes rimmed with kajal. Earrings and necklaces
clinked as they laughed and talked and gossiped, while
children lay bundled up around them, tired and sleepy in the
dark. Further back, their husbands sat together in the men’s
section, rubbing stomachs full from the six rice dishes served
at the feast.
“It had been Zarghuna’s cousin’s daughter’s wedding; the
other women had teased her cousin, asking if she was ready to
become a grandmother. She was only thirty-five.
‘May you be the grandmother of seven grandsons,’ they
called out to her raucously making her laugh and the bride
cover her face in embarrassment, clearly smiling through her
hennaed fingers. Everyone knew you needed sons for inheritance,
for land, and for feuding. That is to say, for war. Each house had
its own graveyard, at the front of which the bodies of recent
casualties were buried, each grave marked only by a small,
modest stone. The more stones, the more honour for the family.”
This is the first page of my new short story, “A Bird With One Wing”, which appears in the collection of short stories The American Way: Stories of Invasion published by Comma Press. Here’s a snippet from writer Andrew Blackman on what the story is about:
It was a real challenge to write this story. I’ve never been to Waziristan, so I had to do my research and use my imagination. I had read Professor Akbar Ahmad’s excellent The Thistle and the Drone and it helped me understand the intricacies of what was called the Tribal Belt a long time ago. (Professor Ahmad read my short story and provided invaluable feedback).
After the story, in the book, there is an essay by Dr. Ian Shaw, Associate Professor of Global Security Challenges at Leeds University, about drone warfare and its impact in Pakistan. In fact, all the stories in this book are paired with a commentary by an expert on the situation or historical event that form the background of the pieces.
On the 26th of October, there will be a virtual event by Housmans Bookshop in which I’ll be discussing my short story, along with Afghan-American journalist Fariba Nabwa. You can register for the event here.