notes on collective and personal exhaustion, and the fear of return

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(trigger warning: mention of r*pe, genocide, misogyny)

I’ve been feeling extremely apathetic lately, a relatively foreign feeling, as someone who uses their rage as fuel to write for connection, and not only for my healing and trauma work, but to contribute to…


Meena Kumari in Kaajal, dir. Ram Maheshwari (1965)

“But when the case for a woman’s worth is built partly on the unfairness of what’s leveled at her, things get slippery, especially as the internet expands the range and reach of hate and unfair scrutiny into infinity — a fact that holds even as feminist ideas become mainstream. Every woman faces backlash and criticism. Extraordinary women face a lot of it. And that criticism always exists in the context of sexism, just like everything else in a woman’s life. These three facts have collapsed into one another, creating the idea that harsh criticism of a woman is itself always…


Just a warning: I talk about childhood sexual abuse, disordered eating, and gender-based violence.

Ben Crouse

“And then the occasion arose when I had to meet the white man’s eyes. An unfamiliar weight burdened on me. The real world challenged my claims. In the white world the man of colour encounters difficulties in the development of his bodily schema. Consciousness of the body is a solely negating activity. It is a third-person consciousness. The body is surrounded by an atmosphere of certain uncertainty. I know that if I want to smoke, I shall have to reach out my right arm and take…


I grew up between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, a common rite of passage for many South Asian families in search of a “better life”, between home and a place that is similar — yet not quite.

You’re not an immigrant, nor will you ever be a citizen; even the diasporic element is amiss. That desert space is filled with an array of South Asian dialects and shades of brown skin. …


♫ MJRH (Lifafa)

Devdas (1955) directed by Bimal Roy

Most people make me anxious. I remember the first time I, a hopeful and optimistic teenager, began recognizing what I referred to as adult “weirdness”: the obvious projection of people’s shadows. As a child, I would frantically and unashamedly call my mother multiple times from our landline — like an anxious-attached lover — had she not returned home by my bedtime. Some days, afraid of being bullied by white children, I would complain of a stomach ache, and after pushing me to go for at least half the day, she would finally give up and tell our…


Shame and violence are natural emotions that have always gone hand-in-hand. Nearly two decades ago, as a young child, I recall the first time I witnessed and learned how shame manifests into violence, in the physical and verbal abuse my father would impose upon my mother. (My father would impose his cowardice, not to be mistaken for strength). Once my anxious seven-year-old self had calmed down and my father had left the room, I would fearfully approach and sit beside my mother to provide her hugs, love and ultimately, comfort — acting in a reversed role as a parent. …


“The East offering its riches to Britannia” by Spiridione Roma. via The British Library.

I’ve been privileged enough to reside outside of Pakistan, roughly maintaining the same standard of living in my other two places of residence, Dubai and Toronto, complete with childhood summer vacations in Europe. I belonged to a very small percentage of Pakistanis who grew up with the privilege of Westernization and unconsciously use it to their utmost advantage (except when we’re questioned by the TSA, then our life-long entitlement tends to immediately retract). The general population of Elite Pakistanis overseas, from my experience, remain in their bubbles of wealth and privilege; typically residing in higher-end, exclusive residences, fully-funded trips (once…


When I was a kid, I loved going grocery shopping with my mother.

We’d excitedly peruse the large grocery store Carrefour in Dubai, but eventually, at some point, we’d both be distracted and separate. And whenever I’d realize she wasn’t nearby, I’d frantically begin searching for her. I was extremely anxious as a child (I still am) and I was very attached to my mother (I still am). My frantic searching would evolve into a severe panic attack. In the midst of my decreasing oxygen levels, I’d wonder if she wandered off on purpose. …


I was born in Islamabad, the federal capital of Pakistan, and returned to live there from 2003 to 2010 — i.e., during the most sensitive period the capital has recently experienced, due to the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) siege, a confrontation between Islamic fundamentalist militants (Pakistani Taliban) and the Pakistani government, under Pervez Musharraf’s militant based presidency at the time. The siege took place in July 2007 — however, the effects of its aftermath remained and impacted the capital for quite some time after. It was a fearful era in Pakistan’s recent history. It was time we were required to…

Zahra Haider

Toronto-based Pakistani-Canadian writer and comedian. I explore issues of gendered violence and women’s trauma in South Asia.

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