Shaheen

Fiction. Its an interesting thing isn’t it? Inherently false yet at the same time often truer than even the truest encyclopaedia. Not quite real yet not quite fake either. A kind of no man’s land between the reality that we witness before our eyes and the jumble of threads that make up the complex machinery behind our hardened skulls. A half-existence.

It is in this land of half-existence that we find our protagonist: Shaheen. A being neither old nor young. Neither bright nor dull. Neither handsome nor ugly. Neither fat nor skinny. Neither fast nor slow. Neither man nor woman. Neither real nor fake. A truly – yet at the same time falsely – half-real half-fake being. Well, that depends if you even consider Shaheen a being. For how can something that only half-exists, “be”?

You see, Shaheen knows that she is merely the product of an author’s imagination. And an underdeveloped product at that. He knows that she half-exists. She knows that what he knows she only knows because the author has decided that he knows. She is aware that the boundary of his half-real half-fake half-existence starts and ends with the page upon which her author has written. He will never be more nor less than that. She will forever remain constant. Trapped by the page never really existing but never really not.

Shaheen got his name from her father. A father that didn’t exist until just now when the author decided they did. The name Shaheen means “falcon” in Persian. However, it is not from Persian that the author got the name but instead another language: Urdu. In many ways, Shaheen is like Urdu and Urdu is like Shaheen. A half-real half-fake language in a state of half-existence. Upon laying their eyes on Urdu, one may be forgiven for mistaking it for Persian. Upon hearing Urdu, one may also be forgiven for mistaking it for Hindi. However, regardless of how one encountered Urdu, they would not fail to realise the beauty of the language. And as with all beautiful languages; Urdu is famous for its poetry.

شاہین کبھی پرواز سے تھک کر نہیں گرتا
پُردم ہے اگر تو‘ تو نہیں خطرہ اُفتاد

Shaheen Kabhi Parwaz Se Thak Kar Nahin Girta.
Pur Dam Hai Agar Tu To Nahin Khatra-e-Uftad.

The falcon is never tired of flight, Does not drop gasping on the ground:
If unwearied it remains on wings, From huntersʹ dread is safe and sound.

Allama Iqbal

The author originally came across this poem from their father. Not Shaheen’s half-real half-fake father but instead a fully real non-fake human being. One not confined to the page as Shaheen and his father are. It is from this poem that the author picked out Shaheen’s name for Shaheen’s father to give to her. Neither Shaheen nor his father would really have any choice in the matter. They thought what the author wanted them to think and did what the author wanted them to do. They were only aware of this fact because the author allowed them to be aware. Perhaps, they felt grateful for being given this awareness? Or maybe they felt resentful? Neither Shaheen nor her father nor the author nor the author’s father knew the answer to this question. Could Shaheen and her father even feel? Nobody knew because the author hadn’t decided yet.

The poet who brought the couplet into existence went by many names. “Shair-e-Mashriq” (“Poet of the East”), “Hakeem-ul-Ummat” (“The Sage of the Ummah”), “Muffakir-e-Pakistan” (“The Thinker of Pakistan”) were just a few of his titles. Shaheen found that last title interesting. It is said that the poet envisioned a nation. One that didn’t exist yet at the same time always existed. Not quite real yet not quite fake either. A half-existence just like him. However, unlike Shaheen, the nation wasn’t confined to a page. In fact, the nation was able to elevate from a place of half-existence to a full existence. And this made her feel jealous.

The author had finally decided to let Shaheen feel. Whether Shaheen’s father could feel or not was a different question. The author decided they’d leave that up to the reader to decide. The author was fond of leaving loose ends after all. What is certain is that the author and the author’s father could feel. They were fully real non-fake beings that lived a full existence. But was this true because it was indeed true or was it true because the author said it was true? This left the author puzzled.

While the author struggled to contemplate the truth of their own existence, Shaheen was well aware of the truth of his existence. She was a half-real half-fake being living a half-existence. He was an idea. But just like a nation, ideas could become a reality.

Perhaps one day, the author may name their child Shaheen. Thus, elevating Shaheen from a half-existence to a full existence. At least in name anyway. Perhaps, the author might invest more time into making Shaheen a more fully-fledged character like in the novels they read as a child. This wouldn’t elevate her to a place of full existence, but it would make his half-existence more bearable.

Unfortunately for Shaheen, she was but a skelf of a thought in the author’s head. They had only bothered to bring him into her half-existence because the very idea of Shaheen was keeping them awake at night. Having done so. Having expunged Shaheen from their mind, the author will move on with their life. Thus, leaving Shaheen to her half-real half-fake half-existence. Whether he would ever become anything more than her current state would depend upon the author’s author. For the author only thought what their author wanted them to think and did what their author wanted them to do.

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