Losing the Plot: Habits of the Heart (Complete Novel)

by Maniza Naqvi Poppy

Chapter One: The Little Coffee Shop

Chapter Two: The Hotel

Chapter Three: Dreaming Dulles

Chapter Four: Civil War

Chapter Five: Stanley’s Girl

Chapter Six: Hope

“We are just props for validating and furthering their policy! We say no to them and they punch us hard and prove their point with another explosion! Can't you see that?”

“No, jan–I cannot–You have made this a habit–of blaming America for everything!”

“No I have not made it a habit! Isn’t it curious that every time they make a policy statement—quoting D’Touqueville to us—-every time they want to force Pakistan to take a position in their war and Pakistan resists—some sort of a violent event takes place in Pakistan to prove their point? Isn’t that just a little suspect? They are going to increase their troops here—they are going to expand the war into Pakistan—they are going to occupy us—just wait and see!” Zarmeenay had argued, in an urgent tone, her eyes wide and serious as she had packed to leave for Baluchistan. “ We have to stop them Mama.—we have to push back! Amir, Amreekah, Mama! Amir Amreekah!”

“I don’t know Zarmeenay.” Rukhsana had argued with her daughter, “Maybe it’s time we stopped blaming everybody else for all the criminals that have been created right here in Pakistan in the name of religion.’

“Mama! Please—there no such thing as Al Qaeda! There’s no such thing as the Taliban! This is all the same old, same old, overt-covert good old CIA—now breaking up Pakistan—we will have Pushunistan, Baluchistan—Serakiistan—Kashmir, Baluchistan, Karachistan, Sindhistan—just wait. They will do worse to us than what they did to Yugoslavia and the breaking apart of the Soviet Union—just wait—……They will murder all of us!”


“Don’t you agree with me Mama, that they killed Benazir Bhutto? They already knew who was her murderer the moment she died? They had decided who to accuse of her murder the day she was murdered? So Benazir is dead, and Baitullah Mesud is dead—But they can’t find Osama Bin Laden in all these ten years of looking for him with all the sophisticated technology that they have?”

“Really! I’m so worried about you darling! Zarmeenay, you are beginning to go too far! I’m scared for you! You talk like this everywhere in public and I’m afraid for you! ” Rukhsana had said to Zarmeenay just before she had left the house.

“Don’t be afraid, Mama. Don’t be afraid! That’s been our main problem we’ve been afraid for too long. It’s too late to be afraid now, we have to take action. We have to save ourselves, our country! You’ll see Mama! I’m right! It’s time to listen to your heart Mama, I’m listening to mine. We have to fight for Pakistan!”

And Zarmeenay had disappeared. Just like that vanished. Now she was dead.

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Losing the Plot: (Civil War)

Maniza Naqvi Meanguy

Chapter One: The Little Coffee Shop

Chapter Two: The Hotel

Chapter 3: Dreaming Dulles

Stanley knew—Eileen would have him murdered. It was understandable. At another time he would have done the same. And the hours left to save her—someone who was life itself to him–were but a few. Madness—to have made so much of nothing—But Eileen would've and had. Eileen had been directed to find a problem. Eileen had done as she was told. Damned if the eager ambitious good soldier wouldn’t have done her job—reported success. No one on either side of the river ever admitted failure. And Eileen, when this was done, and as was the way, would move on. Up and on. Propelled by a sense of entitled good fortune. A higher calling another institution. Perhaps even a corner office and a view of the Potomac. Collateral damage would be the job left to be unearthed by researchers, decades from now—But there are no remedies, no reparations, no atonements for the loss of flesh and blood. Stanley would not be able to bear it. Not now. He would have to make it right.

Eileen had gone back and returned now—on Labor Day weekend. Must have been something pressing to miss out on a long weekend and be here instead. Missing Memorial Day and this one, was not done often by Washingtonians. A tradition revered: of saluting warriors and nodding to workers punctuating the beginning and end of a short summer. He thought back to those weekends away—affairs, of shadows and shades of verandahs and spires—–and out there on the beach—sunshine–umbrellas, dolphins–children jumping waves and gathering Cape May diamonds scooping them into empty vanilla shake cups—The crowds on the Boardwalk—families strolling in packs, clans and tribes–—crew cuts—ray bans; breasts, bleached hair–and tanned thighs— the accents speaking lines of foreign lands—and those Mason-Dixon lines. Hard candy, fudge and Southern Fried- and stomping on chickens and frogs in arcades–The flag lowering ceremonies at sunset, his hand on his heart back then—choking with emotion and pride. God Bless America—my home sweet home! A long time ago–all that. Now an echo of whatever never came to be.

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