An Article under Compulsion by Ahmad Salman

It all started a month ago when I congratulated my ‘big’ sister, Leena Hashir, for her writing prowess and for touching a nerve so effectively. The power of her words is such that go straight to the heart and the only response is emotional. During the conversation she turned the tables and asked me why don’t I write myself.

Clearly, she had put me in a predicament. She thought that I could write, and not just write, she professed that I would be good at it too. Deep down I have always feared losing credibility due to an acute case of the imposter syndrome. But I did not want to let her down. Yet I went on to procrastinate on this for over a month.

First she asked nicely, then she reminded me politely that she was waiting,……still waiting, and then with her patience wearing thin she wrote

سلمان بھائی۔۔۔۔۔۔

۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔ اب لکھ بھی لیجئے   (Salman bhai ——————————–Now write it, Goddammit- Well you get the drift don’t you).

So, when push comes to shove, I do make the transition, and open up the page to write. But here I am stuck with the writer’s block. And to top it off I thought I had to write it in Urdu. O’ what have I gotten myself into. Now not only do I have to write but also try to write in Urdu, which ironically is not my thinking language. The way I see it, I am one of those confused “desi’s” who supposedly can speak and read Urdu well, but when it comes to writing my mother tongue which is Urdu, no wait wasn’t it Punjabi. And then I thought to myself, maybe I should write it in English first anyways. Thus, all is not lost here. Hence to get it over with, I did decide to write this piece but not yet in Urdu as I am about to elucidate below.

Since I was attempting to find good (read proper) translations for some of the words that I have used in this piece. And this was on top of faking it to make my writing appear a bit more sophisticated than the rustic pedestrian disquisition it is now.

Here is how our conversation went according to me and google translate (in parenthesis) went.

اپ کے الفاظ روح میں پیوست ھو جاتے ھیں۔ میرے تو آنسو ھی نھی تھم رھے۔


(Your words are bound in the spirit. Do not worry about me).

ھم لوگ اجتماعی بے حس بھی ھیں اور تماش بین بن گئے ھیں۔ اب بڑے سے بڑا المیہ بھی ھمارے لیے صرف اک پل کی بریکنگ نیوز اور واجبی اظہار افسوس سے آگے نھی بڑھتا


(They are also collectively unhappy and become spectacular. Now the biggest cause for us is only for the sake of just one bridge breaking news and the wonders.)

درست کہتے ہیں ہم لوگ بے حسی کی انتہا کو پہنچ چکے ہیں


(The truth is that we have reached the extremist extremist)

ویسے بھائی آپ کیوں نہیں لکھتے؟


(Well brother why don’t you write?)

اردو میں تو میں پیدل ھوں لیکن لکھنے کی خواہش ضرور ھے۔


(I am pedestrians in urdu but desire to write)

کیوں مجھے شرمندہ کرتے ہیں اگر آپ پیدل ہیں تو مجھے تو لکھنا ہی نہیں چاہیے


(Why embarrass me if you are pedestrian then I should not write)

پلیز لکھیں


(Please write)

البتہ انگریزی میں طبع آزمائ ضرور کی جا سکتی ھے


(However, English can be tried independently)

By now you should get the idea that this is quite a perfect recipe for a real disaster. The situation is further exasperating with the totally inadequate online dictionaries and thesaurus. Here I am stuck thinking (read asking Sheikh google) how do you translate imposter. Do I use the word جعلی, or فریبی or دغاباز. For ‘syndrome’ what could be a good Urdu substitute: بیماری, پیچیدگی, or علامات. And for ‘procrastinator’ should I use the words laggard, lethargic, sluggish or lazy which ironically come up as the word سست. Am I really سست?  Does it ever convey the meaning appropriately? And don’t get me started on translating writer’s block. Besides my memory is forever ingrained with the classic translation of Jean Claude Van Dame’s movie ‘One armed boxer’ as ٹنڈا بدمعاش.

I thought let me first write it how I think it, than may be I will put it out there for a wider audience to give me ideas on how to best express this in Urdu. So what do you think?

Ahmad Salman has made a career out of being a procrastinator. And when he is not doing that he is procrastinating about procrastinating. Besides he does waste a lot of his time as full time facebook stalker and part time keyboard warrior, which gives people the impression that he may be on to something rather than on something. He can be reached at

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