Presented by Eithne Cullen
I’m delighted to be introducing our Writer Of The Month, Farzana Hakim, who has been a writer friend for a long time. We met through Pen to Print and The Book Challenge and she’s had great success in that competition with her two novels. Today, she’s sharing some extracts with us on this page.
You may also know her writing from her Write On! extra Thursday Connectors page, which you can access on the following link:
March is Women’s Month and, as we have recently celebrated Mother’s Day, Farzana is starting us off with this poem. She tells us: I think my poem was inspired by my grandma’s life, to a great extent. Twelve years back, she was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer and sadly died after fighting a five-month battle with the disease. I watched her transform from being a strong, brave and empowered woman to a small shell of her usual self. At the time, my feelings came out in the form of poetry, and I wrote this piece. When a woman hits her lowest, she sees the world from a different perspective.
The section I’ve chosen to share is about the last years of a mother’s life:
Her granddaughters are growing up like blossoms
My mother, often told me; I too grew up way too fast
I work hard at 50, to give them the best
Yet for me that isn’t my biggest challenge
Life is, oh so dull without our mums
My mother, I miss even more than my spouse
It’s the truth, believe me you must.
An old woman I’ve become at 60,
My children all settled and blessed
My mother, I swear was never this lonely
I was always over and fussing
Life with its goings on today,
It’s seriously much messed
My mother, lived a better life than I, her daughter,
Striving for every second to make it homely.
My last words, what shall they be?
My mother’s, I remember were sweet and sincere
She looked around at me, eyes rested and full of glee
Oh, my mother, I’m looking at emptiness at 70
Hearing others coughing and calling from behind the curtained walls
I am searching desperately for somebody
Anybody to come and hold my hand
To help me whisper your name one last time
As I taste the salt from my final tear.
© Farzana Hakim, 2021
Many of Farzana’s stories are inspired by her Pakistani heritage. Sweethearts Of Ilford Lane is based around the topsy-turvy, problematic love story of Samina and Hassan – a story many British Asian young adults can relate to It’s a struggle between culture and country; a theme which is all too familiar to many!
Here’s an extract, which happens to be one of Farzana’s favourite passages:
A Bad Girl By Night
The next few minutes the only sounds which could be heard in Hassan’s living room were the noises of transgression and dishonour being committed by none other than us two seventeen year old, clueless teenagers, who’d forgotten everything ever taught to them.
We had lost our way. Everything about that moment was wrong. The whole night was evil and corrupt. It was stupid and if I could take back time, believe me that night I would have stayed in my own room, fast asleep. Safe and chaste.
Not only the religious rules, we bypassed our culture, the values and norms which we had grown up learning and following. We crossed all the barriers set by family, set by etiquette and set by God.
We broke them all.
By letting Hassan near me, I was breaking my promise to Habib and Uncle and Aunty. I was committing the worst sin of all.
I was dishonouring my family.
But I swear I wouldn’t have let anybody blame Hassan for any of this because it was me who went to him. It was me who allowed him to suck all the morals out of me. I allowed him to strip all the layers of dignity and modesty which I’d proudly worn until then.
That night I was allowing Hassan to rip each bit of cloth away from my guarded self, revealing only my shame, my nudity and my obsession for him.
I regret that night. It wasn’t meant to happen.
But it did.
© Farzana Hakim, 2019
Sweethearts Of Ilford Lane is available to purchase at all major online bookstores and on Amazon following the link below:
Farzana has recently been hosting her own workshops, promoting creative writing as a tool for women’s growth and empowerment. She believes writing gives her a voice and wants more women to find their own voices and share their stories. She enjoys reading the pieces written by the women who attend the workshops.
This next piece was created by herself in one of the workshops, in less than ten minutes, using writing prompts. The prompt was the colour orange and the piece had to begin with the words Today I Am and then the colour.
Today I Am Orange
Today I am orange infused with flavours from my eastern past
Mountains of rich saffron and bitter turmeric, fond memories from afar.
I am also a fusion of the west
Juiced and nurtured from sweet clementine and sour mandarins.
Yet I seek other places to go
Travelling from one city, one village, one town, to the next.
Telling my stories and hearing yours
Like a mystic; a wandering Dervish
I fight the embers,
The flickering flames of emotion in my heart,
I so wish to extinguish.
Despite my passions, I bounce high in determination and ambition
Like a ball of joy, I watch the crimson sun rise each dawn.
And when night breaks and the blood moon appears
The orange in me takes leave
Instead, I lay down on a bed of fragrant lilies
I close my eyes to dream of adventure
And a new story to tell
Perhaps tomorrow you’ll find me in the emerald grass
And the day after in the sapphire skies.
© Farzana Hakim, 2021
You can find out about the workshops using this link:
Hear My Voice Workshop https://pentoprint.org/?s=Hear+my+voice
The following is the opening chapter from her current work-in-progress, which, she tells us, is one of her most challenging pieces of writing so far. She studied slavery at University and reminds us it’s a part of history which should never be forgotten. Her novel is about an African Chief who finds himself aboard a slave ship bound for the Americas. He is not ready for a life in bondage and would rather succumb to the ocean. That’s all she’s prepared to reveal at this stage, so watch this space!
The Chief Of The Atlantic
‘The waters will swallow you…’
Tendi had warned not to look into its translucent, endless, form.
‘The sea is an evil creature with cannibalistic habits. It pleasures in slurping the blood from of our type, and it takes no time expanding its gluttonous belly for loins of our warm flesh. It’s the sleek ebony skins and our hardened muscles he prefers to chew on, you see. But for now, remember it is all a test. A game of how far we can survive this on-going occurrence. The spirits are watching, laughing and mocking at every point, waiting for us to succumb. Always remain vigilant and do not attract attention. Otherwise, it will eat you. All of us will be eaten…’
Yet the water seems too tranquil for his words to be of any credit. Standing before it, I am bearing witness it is not a man-eating monster and I also bear witness the Ocean is wrongly accused of crimes it can never do and never in any form be a part of. I am certain with the last drop of anything accosting to faith left in me that the ocean will receive me with open arms.
I hereby willingly, as freely as I once was, let go of all myth and verity and close my eyes to prove you wrong. Tendi my brother, my blood, my friend, despite your unwillingness to accept the godly beliefs I follow, I leave you behind under the mercy of Allah. May he protect you and may he protect the remainder of this cargo.
© Farzana Hakim, 2021
The final piece is, according to Farzana, her most sentimental piece of writing. It’s an excerpt from her novel, The Silence Of A Deep River, which won the Pen to Print Book Challenge in 2016 and is currently with an agent, who is working hard to get it published. This novel is inspired by real-life events which took place during the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. It’s a story she’d heard from her late Granddad many times and is her favourite-ever project:
‘The river calls for me Janna…’
‘I think you should take it easy today. We’ll see the river tomorrow.’
‘Tomorrow may never come my dear.’
She shakes her head. But denying it won’t alter the reality. The doctors have come and gone already. I am hanging onto life with a thread made up of tiny particles of sand, dust and one last desire. And the sand is sipping, taking me away, slowly, slowly…
I’m determined though, to face it once. I’m old, too old to even stand on my own legs by myself without quivering like a new born chick; and then there’s the mighty river, the Chenab. As old as a billion of me, yet as young as ever.
This surprises me. I know from experience, having lived the second half of my life making rounds to the doctor’s surgery every other week that stresses, sorrows and heartaches weaken man considerably. It’s a miracle, like I’ve said umpteen times before, that I have lasted this long.
Imagine how strenuous some of my nights came to be carrying the burdens, which thankfully today have been removed. And now, I find myself wanting to fall into a much needed sleep. By returning to Saniyapur and witnessing my village sprouting lush green grass under endless blue skies has proved fruitful. Finding Munna and Naghma here has taken all the weight away and believe me I do feel lighter. I feel glorious.
I can sing and shout and yell today of being fulfilled.
But this river. How come it’s still running and racing from the white mountains of the Himalayas into the fields, meadows and valleys of the Indian summers and winters, whilst gallantly crossing the borders into Pakistan without a sigh?
Just imagine how many sorrows must have drowned in it?
It needs to roar. It needs to shout. It needs to unburden itself.
Like I have done by telling this story. And by coming back home.
‘I need to go the river. Take me there please…’
© Farzana Hakim, 2016
I’ve enjoyed sharing these pieces and can hear Farzana’s voice in each and every one of them. She’s able to perfectly capture flavours and emotions, and her enjoyment of writing and being a writer shines through.
Thank you for being our Writer Of The Month, Farzana!
Farzana believes writing gives her a voice and wants more women to find their own voices and share their stories.