“Trust Study #1 centers on a dialogue about the informal and illegal money transfer system originating in South Asia known as hawala. The conversation unfolds in silence through text against a backdrop of still images from a 1960s Pakistani travel guide. As the images move from the background to the foreground, another layer to the structure of hawala emerges. Trust Study #1 is the first in a larger body of work including sculptures, photography, and writing.”

“Trust Study #2 is a series of interconnected short stories borne from a quiet storytelling tradition among a group of hawaladars—the subjects of my film Trust Study #1 (2020). This project adopts their unique storytelling process, encoding details of hawala transactions within each story, a method that requires images from a state-issued Pakistani travel guide for decryption. This practice, once a secure channel for financial exchange among these hawaladars, now serves as the foundation for an evolving, speculative universe of stories.”


Bebe pushed the vial of cold clear liquid into my hand with more force than someone in her condition should have had. The mountain air was dry. Her hand was soft. Z hunched over us and assessed the vial. No one else in the family could see. Bebe raised her voice as Z tried to whisper something to me. I do not remember her exact words but Z and I later agreed that we had heard something similar—I trust you both, your father has been through enough and your uncle would never allow it. The cold vial had started to warm in my hands. I tucked it into my pocket, next to the soft rocks I had collected when we arrived at the lake, and I watched Z’s face, trying to find an emotion to hold on to. But there was nothing there. She only nodded as if it was a tic, as if Bebe was still speaking, as if she was swallowing and slowly digesting what our mother had said, trying not to let the words come vomiting out. Z asked Bebe a question, and she responded, but I was elsewhere. I was gripping the vial and scraping the soft rocks against its surface. I couldn’t follow their words. And then Z and I were walking away from the lake’s edge to our campsite, towards Uncle’s voice, for what felt like an hour. 

Uncle was drunk on cheap, illegal roadside liquor, which he had bought with Pyo at a roadside stand on our drive up the mountain the afternoon before. The children were not allowed out of their respective cars. We were parked on the opposite side of the road from the hut. I got up on my knees in the back of our small hatchback and peered out the rear window to see what my cousins thought. They did not look up at me. They did not look out to see the interaction between our fathers and the three men smoking inside the small wooden hut. They did not see the sun beating down on the cars, flushing our skin. They did not seem to notice how drunk their father was. 

Z and I reached Uncle’s voice. We had traded places with Pyo, who sat close to Bebe by the lake. Auntie and her children were together a few meters away from us. Uncle was lying on a blanket made from our great grandmother’s clothes. He was a large man with skinny arms and a wide, bulbous torso, even though we never saw him eat much. “Your mother will outlive us all.” Uncle’s words dribbled out of his mouth. “You know she’s very sick. She’s been sick for so long but she can’t die. Now that she’s home she can’t die. Your arrogant country tried to kill her but she’s too strong. What did it give you? Nothing. Show me your passports! Show them to me! You can’t because your arrogant country no longer exists. It was ruled by idiots and now it is ruled by none!” Z stared at our cousins, all three sitting eating sandwiches and drinking tea. Could they not hear their father’s rant? 

His glass of cheap liquor clanked to the ground. It reminded me of Pyo knocking on the car window when we had been near the liquor hut, by which point Bebe had been somewhere deep inside herself. Z had rolled down the backseat window. I pretended to sleep. Pyo told us that we would wait until the alcohol arrived at the hut, because Uncle insisted—this might be the last stand before the lake. “Just be patient and stay in the car.” I opened my eyes and peeked over the back headrest as Pyo and Uncle disappeared down the curvy mountain road. I didn’t know where they were going. “Phone call,” Z whispered, without turning to me. “There is no mobile service on the mountain so they are going to a phone stand.” I opened my door quietly and slid out. I walked toward the wooden hut where the three men selling liquor were hiding from the sun. Auntie watched me from the other car. But as usual, she did not care what we did.

The wooden liquor stand was weak and poorly built and barely taller than the tallest man inside. All three stared at me. “Your father will be back soon,” said the tall, slender man with wide shoulders and a short wool sweater. “Do you make the liquor?” I blurted out. The man with the dyed beard creaked down over the wooden counter. “Why do you speak like that?” This was the first time anyone had asked me that question since we left our old home. “I’m not from here. We just moved here.” The shortest man whispered to the bearded man, and they all focused their attention on me. “What was it like there? Did you live on the water?” I hadn’t understood what he meant by that. “No.” I told him we had lived in a tall building with many other people, and everyone was from a different place. 

I remember wondering whether Bebe was still sleeping in the car, if her head was pressed against the window glass, if her cheek was cold from the mountain air or warm from the sun. A gentle shriek came down the mountain. The man in the sweater craned his thin neck down, as if to remind me that I was a child and the sound should scare me. “It’s only a tahr,” he said. “They are shy as long as you keep your distance.” I had never heard the word he used: tahr. I couldn’t even imagine it.

I hear the gentle shriek again. Eventually, I will hear the shriek enough times to be able to imagine it. We hold Bebe’s hands as she lowers her feet into the water. Uncle sits drunk in her wheelchair. “The water needs to cover her feet to work.” We pin the bottom of her mauve dress up to keep the water from soaking it. We wait for the water to work.


They told Z that she had been going to meet her friends. They told her that it was the summer and she was still very tempestuous—she hated the heat but loved the sun. They said she left early in the morning that day and returned by lunch. That it was a small thing. Z said small things are reflections of big things which is why she wants to know about this small thing. Z asked if they remembered what she had been wearing that day. They said something red and orange, a bit like a kameez, but much looser and more favorable to her wild spirit. Z said she did not recall being wild. But yes, she had been wearing an orange and red patterned dress. She asked if they remembered what time it had happened. They said it was sometime between when she had left and when she returned that day. They said that there had been warnings of a heatwave that week, so they told her to go out early and return before it got too hot. Z asked if they knew who she was meeting. They said no. Z asked if they remembered how she did her hair. They said her hair was long and that she had two long pigtails and a part in the middle.  Z asked what she looked like when she returned home that day. They said she had a cut on her chin that was visible but small. They said that it seemed very unserious. Z asked what they did about it. They said nothing really. They said they put some bandages on her face and asked her what happened and that she said she fell and cut herself. They said they took her to get takeout from her favorite fast food restaurant and came home and ate it together while watching television. Z asked how they had found her. They said they did not understand. Z said that she knew that they were there when she fell. They said they were sorry, she was right. They were sorry they had never said anything. They had followed her that day. It had been her first day on her own, after having had a hard time being on her own at school, and she was so excited. And they were so proud of her. Z asked why they didn’t help her. They said they felt guilty. That they had only wanted to commemorate her day with a photo, to surprise her later. But when they took the photo the sound of the shutter had made her fall. Z asked if they were sure. They said they were sure until she asked. They asked if they could see the photo. Z said no. Z had told me about that day. Z had heard sounds coming from the forest alongside the creek. She heard people in the forest and was distracted and fell. After she fell, she looked to see who was there and heard a loud clicking sound and people walking off. There was blood and she wiped it on her clothes. She tried to find the people walking through the forest but never found them. She sat by the creek for the rest of the morning. They said, no, this story is not correct, that they had taken the photo before she fell. They said it was the reason she fell. Z said that was not true. Z pulled the photo from her bag and set it on the table. Uncle and Auntie and the cousins all came to see. Z was looking in the direction of the camera. She was on the ground, her left hand stabilizing her body. She said she heard the sound of the shutter after she had fallen. In the photo, she was getting up to look where the sound had come from. They said they did not understand how that was possible. But that they were sorry. They said they did not think it was a big deal since she was okay that day. Z said that it was a small thing, but that she had spent the day wondering who the two people were, wandering around the forest trying to find them. I said that Z’s story was correct because she had told me it before. She told me to shut up and stay out of it.


Both horns of the tahr jutted out from underneath the large rock. Several of the herd had not even noticed something had happened and had continued moving up the side of the mountain. The three older tahrs that had noticed had turned back to join the two that had been behind the dead tahr. They hovered around the horns, lingering around the body of their crushed kin. They took stock of the blood that had run out from under the rock. One delicately dipped its horn into the blood. It had already started freezing. Only a droplet clung to the tahr’s horn as it lifted its head. 

A small movement happened in repetition: the two that were behind moved in front, and the three in front moved to the back. Four repetitions each happening with a fluidity unbecoming of the tahr. One tahr pushed the large boulder forward and the bones cracked as they shifted. The two tahr on the opposite side pushed back in opposition, causing the boulder to lie where it was.  

They all gathered in front. They turned to follow the others up the path. All five trotted quickly away and left the dead tahr’s body to freeze beneath the rock. 

Within an hour, the edges of its skin and flesh had frozen. Only the deepest internal organs were still wet. The legs that had not been crushed became two large branches, stiff and flecked with frozen hair. 


The sirens went off and the fisherman knew it was his last fish. The water slowly rose and he packed quickly. As the waters rose faster, he imagined himself from a distance, from above, like a small speck in the landscape. He imagined a wave like a mountain range of snow-capped white peaks. It came rushing down and he saw the tiny speck pummeled underneath the wave.

He kept packing. He would not be that speck. He held his fishing gear precariously in his arms, all the random tools he brought but did not need. As he moved from rock to rock, up the river bank, he knew what he was doing was inefficient, then and now. When he had been a young man at work for the first time, carrying as many stacked steel cups as he could in his two hands and underneath his arms, he would walk from the storage in the basement to the front of the store. There his uncle would glare, wondering why his brother’s son was so stupid and didn’t just use a crate like everyone else. He could hear the waters coming. He ran up the bank to the least steep incline he could find and began to climb. With each step he felt like he would tip back and tumble down into the river. But he did not. Maybe those years of irresponsible carrying had paid off. He saw a tree and suddenly felt safe, knowing that the flood would likely not reach this far. He grabbed the tree and wrapped his body around it, whipping his head around to look down at the flooding river.