The Final Conquest

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Perched on my favorite rocking chair in the wooden porch of my small house, I was swaying back and forth. A backward stroke of the chair, and dark shadows engulfed my charcoal skin. The magic of physical laws brought it back to its initial position and sparkling sunshine made my face glisten. Darkness after light… Light after darkness…

I closed my eyes to relish my victory. Years of protests, neck-breaking efforts, and innumerable insults had borne fruit. We were free at last. Screens of every gadget I owned were live with a single news.

“The feminist movement has destroyed misogyny once and for all. The last group resisting the change surrendered yesterday night after a heated debate between the two leading parties ended unanimously in the favor of women.”

It was a bittersweet moment for me as a thousand disturbing images flashed across my eyes.

Beautiful feminine features made hideous by the pettiness of male ego. Uncountable pregnancies aborted forcefully and an even greater number of forced pregnancies. People tearing one girl’s scarf and forcing it on another. Glass ceiling, domestic abuse, honor killings, acid throwing, marital rape, sexist comments, and varying shades of sexual harassment. I had seen it all, experienced it all, and fought it all.

It was now a decade ago when one of my male colleagues had said it in defense of his gender but the low blow still stung me. We were having our usual lunch break discussions about the increased surfacing of rape case. He said, “If somebody has a key and they find a keyhole, they insert it in there. That is natural.”

I’d wanted to smack his deplorable face but I acted exactly how my gender did when angered and triggered; calmly but sarcastically. “That means if I find a bat somewhere, I can hit your balls real hard with it because you know it’d be very natural too,” was my tart retort.

Looking back at it, I was burning with anger at the audacity of that piece of sh** when a small crowd disturbed my solitude by blocking the sun. There were other lights though — flashes and cameras. “Ma’am we want to interview you.” Journalists! I thought.

“Go ahead!” I relented.

“Do you think men are your enemy?” asked a kind looking bespectacled man. His glasses were slipping down his nose after every other second.

“No!” I declared, “My biggest supporter throughout the movement had been a man. In fact, it was his brilliant idea that proved to be the stepping stone of our success.”

“Do you mind sharing that secret with us?” he asked visibly thrilled at the opportunity of asking me questions and even more so at getting prompt responses.

“I would love to,” I replied, “It’s not a secret, really. Do you know how the biggest reform came when men began supporting our cause and safeguarding our rights?” I saw him nodding vehemently, which was a dangerous risk, considering the condition of his horn-rimmed glasses.

“The man I am referring to had advised me to teach the womenfolk to raise feminist sons and that I believe did the trick. The opposing party called us whores and the poor men who stood for us were called impotent or gay. My great mentor used to say gays and impotent men are much better humans than these pathetic excuses of men who lack even basic decency I’d chop off my dick any day if it made me such an arrogant bastard.”

“You talk about your mentor a lot. Why didn’t you ever reveal his identity?” It was a different journalist this time.

“I didn’t want him to get hurt,” was my curt reply.

“Does him being a man bother you ever?” asked the guy with the slippery glasses. Good question, I thought. Something bothered me about my mentor but his gender was not it.

“No!” I replied, “Feminists believe in equality and not female Supremacy. We advocate humanity.”

They wanted to ask more questions, but I had had enough and thus excused myself. I retreated inside my home. I needed to talk to my mentor.

“Why am I a man?” He asked me.

“You know why,” I said evasively.

“No, I don’t,” he said, “Is it because the world wouldn’t listen to a woman?”

“No, not the world! The women wouldn’t have listened to another woman,” I admitted reluctantly.

“So you created a visage of a man who ‘helped’ you?” He said in a fake deep voice.

I nodded and said “The world had ingrained women to listen to men for so long. Therefore, I used our psychology to bring us some happiness. I could have saved them from men but how was I to protect them from themselves?” My eyes brimmed.

“It’s all right! You did great,” My reflection told me in a voice that was a distasteful mockery of Liam Neeson.

I smiled at it. No longer was he a figment of female imagination — a man who understood.

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Originally published on Medium

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The Politically Correct Coward

The dead screen of my old Nokia phone sprang to life as my rather annoying ring tone pierced the silence of the empty auditorium. I ignored it.

Ba Dum TSS

Another beep. My 6-year-old niece had set this tone when she was visiting me with her Mama. I kept the tune because it reminded me of her and made me smile. I am a sentimental fool. I often wonder if my students have any idea how ordinary a person I am. They idolize me for my radical philosophies. Little do they know, I only play a part, since impressing them is my job. The other day, I heard one of the boys comparing me to Iron Man. I have no such delusions. At the most, I am Groot — the little one!

The phone stopped buzzing. Safe to handle, I thought. A few missed calls and two messages from the same number! I opened one of them.

“Your short story has won second prize. Congratulations! Time to celebrate. PBS.”

PBS was my editor-cum-publisher. I should be dancing joyously for my huge accomplishment — international recognition and an actual prize! I tried to smile but my cemented jaws did not permit me that indulgence. The spacious hall felt claustrophobic. I pocketed my phone, hung my bag, and left the lecture hall.

I needed fresh air. I decided to walk home instead of taking the bus. I retrieved the manuscript of my story from my satchel. I had been carrying this copy with me since the past seven years. PBS got his hands on it just a year ago. Before that, it had visited the desks of at least 50 different publishers. At one time, my friends used to joke that every publisher in America must have read and rejected my story at least once in their career.

“What is the most common interview question for an editor/publisher’s job in America?” one of my comrades told this joke on every gathering.

“What?”

“Have you rejected Khizer Hassan’s story? And if the applicant’s reply is in the affirmative, they hire him on the spot.” My friends are jerks!

I glanced at the loosely bound white sheets, heavily edited by PBS. I read one particularly red paragraph.

The h̶a̶z̶e̶l̶ colored eyes of the little boy were devoid of all emotion except for hatred. The abhorrence was a reflection from the weapon pointing at his chest. The P̶a̶l̶e̶s̶t̶i̶n̶i̶a̶n̶ boy had acknowledged defeat. ‘Perfect’, thought the war photographer as he captured the expression in his camera. It was art, for which he will win many awards.”

I looked away in disgust. My cellphone was now ringing incessantly. Congratulations were pouring in. “Finally! =P,” my clown of a friend had texted. I put it on silent mode. I forced myself to look at another paragraph.

The woman was begging them to spare her. Yet, their hateful lust was not familiar with mercy. T̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶p̶u̶l̶l̶e̶d̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶h̶e̶a̶d̶s̶c̶a̶r̶f̶,̶ ̶l̶a̶u̶g̶h̶i̶n̶g̶…”

There was no other mention of the character’s ethnicity/religion in that part and so there were no other edits either. My house was only a few strides away. I decided to stop at the nearby café for a cup of coffee. As I went through the rest of the story, sipping my scalding espresso, I registered various replaced, marked, and deleted words. I̶s̶l̶a̶m̶,̶ ̶M̶u̶s̶l̶i̶m̶s̶,̶ ̶F̶a̶i̶t̶h̶,̶ ̶P̶a̶l̶e̶s̶t̶i̶n̶e̶,̶ ̶R̶o̶h̶i̶n̶g̶y̶a̶,̶ ̶K̶a̶s̶h̶m̶i̶r̶,̶ ̶I̶s̶l̶a̶m̶o̶p̶h̶o̶b̶i̶a̶, so on and so forth.

PBS had cleansed it thoroughly. There was not even a shadow left of the context I wrote it in. I recalled my meeting with him. I was visiting my sister in the States when he had called me. He needed to discuss the story with me.

“Khizer,” he had said, “Great literature is never specific. Reach out to everyone.”

“That will just murder my perspective,” I had protested, “The pleas of my people will drown in the sea of this generalization.”

This offended him. In those 6 years, he was the only one to recognize the potential in my tale. I didn’t want to tickle him the wrong way. Yet, I couldn’t stop feeling that he missed the whole point of my work.

“Everyone has rejected your story,” he said. “Because of its political incorrectness. Stick to your stubbornness and you can spend the rest of your life with this manuscript dangling at your side.”

He hurled the pages towards me, gesturing for me to leave.

When I reached the door, he added, “Or you can always publish it with any of your local publishers.” He sniggered and lighted a cigar.

I can’t say if his demeaning behavior made me do it or my desperation to see the work of my life in print, but next day I submitted the story to him.

“Publish it,” I told him and he beamed with victory.

“Keep the edits,” I added in a small voice, rather unnecessarily. He returned me the battered manuscript. He had a soft copy.

I was home now. I found the published version of the story and read the heart wrenching tale. I could tell that every mother reading it will shed tears at the little boy’s death. Every mother, I thought, Muslim, American, Israelite, Indian… I pictured how the rape of the innocent woman will break everyone’s heart into a million pieces. The suffering of humanity will move them. They will tell each other what a touching story this Asian guy has penned. “So relatable, given the current situation of the world,” one of them would say, imagining the atrocities their race might be facing. “So true,” their friend would reply thinking of their own pains.

Nobody will grasp my side of the story. Being politically correct has robbed me of my opinion. I know it’s a nice a story but not the one I wanted to tell.


Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, entities, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

Originally Published at Medium for our WringoInk Project

Genre, Current Events.

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Why So Serious?

“Hi, doctor!” Jaz greeted Dr. Domestica. A poker face stared at him as she lowered her veil.

Duzan Domestica, however, had been too long in this line of business to miss why this green-skinned, strange looking girl was there in his clinic. Despite her emotionless face and heavy makeup, her smile lines were more than visible. Fanning out at the corner of her eyes were several small wrinkles resembling a cat’s whiskers or a crow’s feet. Then there were the horrible concaves bracketing her thick lips, almost conquering her nasolabial region. Duzan focused hard on her left cheek but was not sure what to make of it. He reflected for a while. Then, “Smile,” he sighed and issued the one command that only he could give without risking his life.

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As if waiting to do so all her life, Jaz gave him the brightest of smiles he had ever received. It indicated that she was in her happy place and probably knew that it was the last time she would be there because her smile was a classic clichéd one. The one that came straight from the heart or could illuminate the darkest of the hours, you know the magical one!

Duzan shook his head in despair. It was there alright — deep enough to house a million of microscopic entities or a very tiny grain — depending on which you are more likely to carry. She had the cursed symbol that alone could have destroyed her forever. She had a dimple!

“Is it that bad?” asked Jaz. Her eyes were moist because there was a lot of smoke in the dingy clinic of the damned doctor. Duzan, however, misinterpreted it to be tears of sadness.

He took a step backward from her and barked, “Hold the waterworks, please. I hate emotions. I will fix this for you but you must never do it again.”

“Do what?” asked Jaz, “The S-word?”

“Smile, laugh, giggle, snicker… nothing!” he told her, “Or else…”

“You are giving me the last stage treatment, huh?”

“I have to,” he said, “orders are orders.”


A few hours later Jaz emerged from “Domestica Cosmetica.” She was the same woman who had entered the loathsome glass building with only one exception — her face was now completely devoid of any line.

With Zac gone, she did not have any reason to smile anymore. Zac would probably be under some kind of genetic experiment at the moment that the West is notorious for, she thought, meanwhile I am stuck in the pathetic East aka the rat hole where women can’t smile.

“Women do not smile like we do,” A man on a large screen which were very common throughout the country was saying, “Their smile is a weapon more lethal than the most dangerous bomb you and I could ever invent.”

“What b*******!” Jaz checked herself just in time. She was about to scoff.

“Therefore, we suggest that all the women should pay a visit to Domestica Cosmetica and be free from the wretched signs once and for all,” the screen man concluded with a smile.

“And become a ticking time bomb the moment they dare to stretch their lips only a centimeter wider from their natural position,” Jaz muttered to herself.

She was very upset now. She missed her childhood, where all the sci-fi villainy belonged to her imagination and her mother played the role of an evil person by imposing certain rules. This real-life nefariousness was taking a toll on her nerves.

“If it got really difficult,” she told herself, “I will just laugh my worries out.”


Originally published on Medium

Read more about the siblings:

Their childhood — The Midday Adventures of Zac and Jaz

What happened to Zac — SPPRIG Testing Laboratory

Rebellion

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They wanted me to rebel,

against their atrocities,

which they committed,

mainly to provoke me.

I knew they were wrong,

that they needed to be stopped,

Or Brutus would once again

finish Caesar off.

But I also knew their wants

and to rebel would be to conform.

To accept their expectations,

To give them the control.

And thus, I feigned

Indifference.

because not rebelling at all

Was my rebellion.