How Inferiority Complex Talks to A Writer Whose Mother Tongue is Urdu

I wake up at 7 am, sleep again for two hours, get up at 9 am to finally work,
open my laptop, remind myself, no big deal, it’s a day, after all, it will pass.
Boss sends a message, could you please take care of this? I agree. I can do it.
I find online tools to work, my own toolkit is empty. Poor at English, bad at using Grammarly.
I juggle with the task-at-hand like a clown and send it over after an hour.
Boss calls me a nut case; I feel a buzzing in my veins. I slam my laptop shut,
take a shower to wash off anxiety and settle on my sofa for the evening;
I flip pages after pages of a book, learn four new words,
forget two before I browse through the dictionary.
The meaning is there, written in bold letters, but the context seems too hazy.
I refill my fountain pen, open my tattered notebook and write,
I CAN DO IT but the ‘CAN’ scatters across the page,
and I wipe it off with clumsy fingers.
I look at them with a wondering sadness, soaked in blue ink, ruined, perhaps forever.
Then stamp the residues of my affirmations on the entire page, in anger.
I begin on a fresh page, a non-native writer, pretending.
My mind, an echo chamber, echoes the subtle voices of my inferiority complex:
I imagine her as a woman in a wedding gown, lying in a coffin,
shrieking so loudly, I fear those nearby may hear,
and call a priest perhaps, to exorcise this demon out of me, calming her incessant shrieks of:

“English poetry is not for you. You’re only meant for writing in Urdu”
“Get moving with Alif, Bay, Pay. ABCs are for people with brains.”
“Don’t waste time learning rhyme and meter, you are too dumb to understand them.”
“Ballads, sonnets and limericks only perch on virtuous minds, they will stare at your ignorance in disbelief”.
“Don’t let pastorals or ghazals lure you to the pen—the beauty of flowers and passionate love will not make a poet out of you.”
“Metaphors will always remain invisible ghosts beyond your grasp, similes are mirrors that will not hold your reflection.’’

For a moment, I shudder at the truth of this voice,
Her honest concern, full of seductive charm laced with venomous hatred
I want to believe her, she cares for me. She wants to spare me the embarrassment
of becoming who I think I can be.
But as a strong gush of wind passes through the window,
and the page – speckled with small dots of ink from my suspended pen- stares at me with dread.

I realize this is what I’m meant to do:
save words from the wrath of my inferior ink.



Fizza Abbas is a writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. She is fond of poetry and music. Her work has appeared in more than 90 journals, both online and in print. Her work has also been nominated for Best of The Net and shortlisted for Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition 2021.