Here’s another story that takes on gender, religion, and class issues and is also set in an office. A US-educated, free-willed young woman starts working at a government office in Lahore, Pakistan and disrupts the lives of the four conservative men reporting to her. The first-person plural point-of-view is used rather skillfully here to show both the collective mindset and the lack of self-knowledge among these men. Overall, it’s a sly, satirical take on that ancient, misogynistic belief that when a man is agitated by a woman’s appearance or behavior, it is the woman who must be stopped to told to behave differently. Zaheer avoids tired, old tropes here, though, and lets events run their natural course as they would in the real world. Also, that’s a terrific opening — setting up a whole lot of reader expectations upfront.
First published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Winter/Spring 2018, and available to read here