When I was a child, I was really naughty. I used to steal, fight, and tell lots of lies. I was a disruption in the classroom. The only thing that ever scared me was when my mum shouted, ‘If you don’t stop this bad behaviour, I’m going to send you to Pakistan.’ Pakistan must be worse than Coventry, I thought.

Like all poets of the ghazal, Mirza Asadullah Khan (1797-1869) is best known by his takhallus, Ghalib, the pen-name with which he signed his ghazals. He was born in Agra, moved to Delhi at an early age, and but for an absence of three years during which he visited Calcutta, he never left Delhi again, not even during the great rebellion of 1857.

Atia Jilani is a self-taught calligrapher, a painter and a writer living in the village of Mohammad Abad. She is the first Asian woman to inscribe the entire Qur’an in the elegant calligraphic style of Naskh, despite never attending an art school.

I drew a secret line around the borders of Pakistan and rarely stepped over it. In the fall of 2007, I began teaching Islamic history at a small liberal arts college in San Francisco; even though my classes on South Asia and the Middle East could easily have included Pakistan, I made sure to exclude Pakistan from all my syllabi.

There are no billboards on the streets. For the last four years, a week or so before the new season of Coke Studio is launched, most of the important billboards in major Pakistani cities are taken up by snazzy advertisements announcing the featured artists of the season.

In the last three years, Pakistani literature has been undergoing a ‘boom’, an odd appellation that makes me think of both Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions and the exploits of its cricket star Shahid ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi: all fire and drama that creates a blinding flash, performs inconsistently, then burns out quickly.