The Dream of Flying

In rural Pakistan, one man’s flight of fancy is up against an impossible reality.

Mehreen Zahra-Malik

November 11, 2019

The Dream of Flying
A picture of Muhammad Fayyaz in an Super Mushak aircraft on July, 1 2019 (Mehreen Zahra-Malik)

PAKPATTAN, Pakistan — The fleet of fighter jets rumbled across the sky, leaving behind feathery white contrails and ribbons of exhaust, and thundering so loudly and so close, it felt as if they might almost graze the roofs of the village houses. 

Recounting memories of jets training in the summer skies when he was a little boy, Muhammad Fayyaz, 30, said a tree in the school yard once shed all its leaves in one rapid burst as a gust of wind blew in behind an orchestra of passing planes.

The other kids, even the teachers, would hunker down and cover their ears when the jets came.

“But I was not even a little bit scared. I would just wish that I could catch a plane in the fist of my hand, just like that,” the rakishly handsome Fayyaz said, holding his fist up to grasp thin air.

Perched behind his father on the motorbike on his way back from school, Fayyaz would often spread out his arms and pretend to take flight. Sometimes, as father and son sped down the pitted streets of the village, Fayyaz would hold out different-sized textbooks in each hand, moving them up and down, left and right, to see how the air pressure changed and pushed the books upwards.