To depict a loveless and macabre world—a world of the scarecrow acting as the Lord of blood-thirsty crows, of the harridan decked out as a beauty queen . . . a world of debased flesh and servile manners. . . . This bitter vision of reality may not be the whole truth.

—Faiz Ahmed Faiz on the art of Sadequain

I’d rather die deceived by dreams than give my heart to home and trade and never live.

Farīd al-Dīn ‘At ̧t ̧ār

The Conference of the Birds

In 2015, my mother passed away. She was there and then suddenly she was gone—and with her, the songbirds and parrots, all the little visitors she entertained. My father still puts out the birdseed in the afternoons, but he does not have the patience or temperament to sit and wait on the birds, and sometimes he forgets. Natural selection, he supposes, should be permitted to have its way. Down the street, the ritual at the neighbor’s house continues, carried out according to the instructions of the owners, suspicious newcomers to Karachi from some faraway village.