Bilal Baig's Acha Bacha a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers
We are so excited to share that Bilal Baig's Acha Bacha has been named a finalist for the 2022 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers! The Prize is presented annually from the Writers' Trust of Canada to a Canadian writer from the LGBTQ2S+ community for a debut book in any genre. The winner, to be announced on November 2, will win $10,000, and the finalists will be awarded $1,000.
In the play, Zaya has, for years, delicately balanced his relationship with his Muslim faith and queer identity by keeping his genderqueer lover and manipulative mother apart. But when his mother ends up in the hospital on the same day his partner is leaving for pilgrimage, Zaya’s worlds come crashing in on each other, opening a space for traumatic memories to resurface.
Here's why the Prize's jury (Billy-Ray Belcourt, Samra Habib, and Zoey Leigh Peterson) picked Acha Bacha: “With Acha Bacha, Bilal Baig preserves the sacredness of subtleties expressed in Urdu without compromise. Their work expertly navigates translation, capturing unspeakable and complex truths that are often lost in translation. The characters find their way to themselves by expressing love, loss, longing, and betrayal in contexts that acknowledge and affirm their realities. The text is an important addition to Canadian literature and offers a much-needed perspective on what it feels like to search for love, self-acceptance, and pockets of safety while living in the Pakistani diaspora as a second-generation queer person.”
Congratulations, Bilal! You can order a copy of Acha Bacha here.
Read an excerpt from the play below.
ZAYA: Oh, hey, pretty woman. Hey . . .
MA fully opens her eyes and slaps ZAYA’s hand away.
MA: Hey hey, ka bacha, salaam karne bul gaye?
ZAYA: Oh my god, Ma, I was just saying hi.
MA: Tho phir salaam karo.
MA: Good. Walekum’assalaam.
MA inspects ZAYA.
Arey, yeh patiwi pant kyun pein rahey ho?
MA touches the rips in ZAYA’s jeans.
ZAYA: It’s fashion, Ma. I love your outfit.
MA: Shukriya. You look tired.
ZAYA: Oh, thank you.
MA: You are sleeping?
ZAYA: Yes. Kind of. Look, I know you aren’t sleeping. You fell this morning way before you usually wake up. Are you okay? How’s your wrist?
MA: Teekh hai.
ZAYA: How did it happen? How did you fall?
MA: Mera shawl floor pey tha.
ZAYA: Why was your shawl on the floor?
MA: Mujhe kaise patha?
MA: Kya seriously? I don’t see it aur meh girgayi. Next time I open my eye meh yahan pey hoon. Since eight-thirty a.m.!!!
ZAYA: Sorry . . . I got delayed getting here.
MA: Kaise aayo?
ZAYA: My friend drove me.
ZAYA: Salim. The teacher? Remember? The one who would ask for your biryani recipe / every time—
MA: Oh. Haan, haan.
ZAYA: Yeah, they’re just—Salim’s just—we’ve got a lot of things to do today . . . So I actually can’t stay too long. I’m sorry.
ZAYA: Well I need a ride back home.
MA: Laila dey sakti hai.
ZAYA: No, she can’t. I’m pretty sure she said she can’t get here for a few hours.
MA: Tho phir wait karo. Mere saath.
ZAYA: I can’t. I told you I’ve got things to do today.
MA: Work hai?
ZAYA: No, but I—
MA: Tho phir kya?
ZAYA: Well Salim’s leaving for a big trip tonight and—actually, Salim’s gonna do Umrah. With their mom.
ZAYA: You know, Mecca. The pilgrimage thing?
MA: Tum mujhe Umrah explain karo gey?
ZAYA: No, sorry. Uh, so Salim needs to finish packing and buy a gift for their mom and I wanna help with that, so . . .
MA: Uske paas koi aur friends nahi hai jo—
ZAYA: Ma, I want to help.
MA: Tho phir yahan kyun aayo?
ZAYA: I want to see you. I just can’t stay too long.
MA: Faida kya hai?
ZAYA: Ma, come on, I’ll see you in two days for Eid.
MA: Nahi nahi, tum jao. Agar tum jaana chathey hai tho jao, aur meh yahan akheli mar jaaongi. Teekh hai?
ZAYA: Don’t say that. You’re not gonna die, Ma.
MA: Tumko kaise patha?
ZAYA: The nurse said you’re fine.
MA: Nurse don’t know ke I have son who don’t care for me. Meh aisi mar jaaongi, I guarantee you!
ZAYA: Ma, I do care about you—I do.
MA: Good. Tho phir aaj mere saath gahar aao. Bas. Yeh done deal hai.
MA: No more Ma Ma Ma! No, no!
ZAYA can’t say anything. He checks his phone for a text from SALIM. Nothing. He puts it away.
ZAYA: Hey, so um, just this morning I started thinking about that masjid we used to go to, like twenty years ago. You remember it?
MA: Kaun sa masjid?
ZAYA: It was in the basement of a house. You sent Laila and me there every day after school for a couple of months or something.
MA: Oh, haan haan.
ZAYA: Do you—remember anything about it? Like, do you remember walking down the stairs and wasn’t the smaller prayer room on the—
MA: Beta, why you are asking me? Mujhe nahi patha . . .
ZAYA: But do you remember anything about it? Do you remember when the masjid closed down? The day after Eid that year?
MA: Twenty year ago is so long time, kaise yeh umeed rakh saktey ho ke mujhe / yeh sab yaad ho ga?
ZAYA: You remember the maulana saab at least, right?
Beat. MA nods.
Okay, and his son Mubeen? Or, Farah auntie? Do you still keep in touch with any of the aunties?
MA: Haan, hum . . . baat kartey hain.
ZAYA: What about Naima auntie? She was always so loud, right? And remember her daughter Sadiya? Laila’s old friend?
MA: Oh haan, Sadiya, very sweet girl. Acha ab bathao, tumhari biwi kahan hai?
MA: Kab shaadi karo gey?
ZAYA: I’m not talking about this.
ZAYA checks his phone again.
MA: Kyun nahi?
ZAYA: I told you before, I’m not ready.
MA: Kab ready ho gey? You are twenty-eight . . .
ZAYA: So what?
MA: Tho jab mein yahan se nik lungi, meh seedhi Pakistan jaongi aur tumhari pretty woman ko ley kar aaongi here. Bas.
ZAYA: No, thank you.
MA: No thank you ka bacha, tum kaun si type ki ladki pasand karte ho? Bathao na. Bathao na beta!!!
ZAYA: Okay! Okay okay.
I like naughty girls, I guess.
MA: Teekh hai. I find naughty girl for you. Mallika Sherawat jaisi.
ZAYA: Great. I like Mallika.
MA: Yeh joke nahi hai.
ZAYA: I’m not joking either.
And when are you gonna get married?
MA: Aise mat joke karna mere saath.
ZAYA: No, I’m actually serious, Ma. I think you’re strong, and beautiful, and smart, and funny. And young.
MA: Haan haan, meh yeh sab kuch hoon, aur bahot busy too.
ZAYA: I can make your profile on shaadi.com.
MA: Arey chup!
ZAYA: Laila can take your photo when you get home.
MA: Yeh nahi ho sakta hai. Meh busy hoon.
ZAYA: Oh yeah? Doing what?
MA: Meri pehli appointment afternoo—
MA stops herself.
ZAYA: Appointment? For what? Wait. For like cutting hair? Ma, we’ve talked about this. Laila and I can pay for stuff. You don’t have to be working.
MA: Oh haan haan, bilkul bilkul. Eid two days mein hai, busy busy time of year for me, aur I don’t work? / Good idea, beta!
ZAYA: Oh my god, just retire already!!
MA: Mera kam important hai. All my client depend me. Meh koi retail shetail mein kam nahi karti hoon.
ZAYA: Okay, just so we’re clear, I’m a store manager.
MA: You fold clothes.
MA: Ma, Ma, ka bacha, such nahi hai?
ZAYA: We’re not talking about me. This is about you and it’s serious and I just don’t think you understand—
Find out what happens in Acha Bacha here.