India-Pakistan History

Reclaiming One’s Voice

17 July 2014

 

 

Raza Rumi cuts through the high decibel terrorism rhetoric to voice some ground realities of Pakistan, all this while braving attempts on his life.

 Quetta

 

A few months back, I had to leave my country simply to ensure that I would not be left dead. The price of public positions is hard. Perhaps I had ruffled too many feathers or was simply unlucky to have caught the attention of those who tried to kill me. I am trying to make sense of things that may have fallen apart for me. But have they? I keep trying at making sense of my country, the one I belong to and the one I love immensely.

Nuclear state. An Islamic Republic. A Failed state? Endless labels and categories have been accorded to what Pakistan represents today to the world at large. Some facts speak for themselves but perceptions are deceptive as they start morphing into realities. Pakistan is also a resilient country and inspires me to fight the odds, the demons that have to be defeated and the endless list of things that need to be done.

Contrary to what most diagnose, Pakistan’s trajectory was not inevitable. The country’s founder, almost a demonic figure in India, attempted to set a direction in his August 11 speech by recognising that religion could mobilise people and politics but cannot be an instrument for governance. “We are starting with this fundamental principle,” said Jinnah, “that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.” The famous words followed: “…in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” Critics say it was too late. Others think this was the only way to shape statecraft when a new state had come into being. Perhaps all of this is irrelevant now. Sixty seven years later, Pakistan is hardly the country it was geographically or otherwise in 1947.

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Do not let the hawks dictate terms, says Raza Rumi on Pakistan

26 May 2014

Raza Rumi

In Pakistan’s neighbourhood, a tectonic political shift seems to be underway. The Indian voters in large numbers have made their choice by preferring ‘strong’ leadership over dynastic rule, jobs over state handouts and ‘good governance’ over accommodation and appeasement of India’s diverse communities. All such choices are driven by a populist construct of Modinomics and promise of a corruption-free, booming India. In a way, this emphasis on performance was echoed earlier in May 2013 when Pakistan’s electorate voted in a new government and-not unlike India-rejected the Pakistan Peoples Party for a more growth-friendly Nawaz Sharif. On balance, this augurs well for the region where voters are getting smarter and the younger population, distanced from the past, is keen for a better life ahead.

 

India’s swing to the right is not different from Pakistan’s either. In the 2013 elections, the victorious Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the second largest party headed by former cricketer Imran Khan were also ‘right-wing’ in their worldview. Both countries now have to tackle the issue of minorities. In Pakistan, the miniscule non-Muslim population is under attack and the Shia minority faces persecution. In the 2014 elections, the Indian Parliament will have the lowest number of Muslim MPs. The strong identification of politics and religion marks the culmination of a century-old political process when religion was infused into political discourse and faith became a plank of political ideologies. (more…)

Khushwant Singh: ‘The last Pakistani living on Indian soil’

12 April 2014

My tribute to KS (first published in DAWN on March 30)

IT is difficult to evaluate the legacy of writer, journalist and an icon of our times Khushwant Singh who passed away last week after leading a full life that many would dream of leading. Singh was immensely popular in Pakistan. For the past two decades I have spotted his books — legit and pirated — at almost all bookstores in every city. His writings had an impact and inspired generations to emulate his incomparable style. His larger than life stature in India was equally recognised in Pakistan.

Singh was born in Hadali village (now in Pakistan), lived in Lahore and until his last never disowned his roots. Such was his worldview that Partition and the ensuing bitterness did not change his empathy for Pakistan. This is why many Pakistanis were his friends and he gave them due attention, respect and time. A photograph of his best friend from pre-Partition days, Manzoor Qadir (jurist and Pakistan’s law minister under Ayub Khan) was displayed prominently in his living room.

It was Singh’s stature in the world of Indian journalism that is perhaps unprecedented for its influential relationship with readers. As a critic of the establishment, Singh guarded his intellectual independence. His proximity to Indira Gandhi and a brief period of closeness aside, he remained a fierce commentator on all things political and cultural. Singh for example returned the honours awarded to him after Gandhi’s operation at the Golden Temple in the 1980s. Over time, his column ‘With Malice Towards One and All’ became a regular window of refreshingly fresh and iconoclastic commentary. Singh’s attitude to Pakistan was always irksome for the rightwing Hindus and often he would get hate mail, which was a source of amusement to his expansive spirit. Of course Singh came from a privileged background and things were easier for him compared to a lot of writers and journalists across the region. But he did give up a career in law and diplomacy to become a writer. And a prolific one at that.

RAZAKHUSHWANT (more…)

Conversation with Mushir ul Hasan on my book

25 March 2014

Last year, my book was released in Delhi. The video and transcript of the discussion have been uploaded now.

Mushir ul Hasan: I’m delighted to be associated with the launch of this book; however, I believe that the subtitle of the book could have been a touch different. ‘The impressions of a Pakistani traveller’ – immediately creates an image in my mind of the ‘distinct other’, and I think it is this sense that we’re probably trying to do away with here. One of the strengths of this book lies with the fact that it does try to bridge the intellectual and cultural gap that exists, or has been created, since both country’s gained independence in 1947.delhi-by-heart-cover21.jpg

I particularly noticed the fact that Raza doesn’t actually look at Delhi, its cultural profile and its social profile as an outsider or someone who hails from Pakistan. He demonstrates empathy and respect for the city and has knowledge of the city’s development and its growth. According to me, he relied on skill and intuition to study some of the features of this city – particularly those of you who have read the sections on the Sufi shrines. They’re not only informative to many readers, but evocative at the same time, and yet in a certain sense, they also represent, the true character and complexion of this diverse city. I would like to thank Mr. Raza for writing a book about ‘our city’; as it is a very lively, vivid and comprehensive narrative.

I would also want to bring to the attention of academicians, that in order to understand the book, one needs to draw a distinction between academic and journalistic writing. The thin line that divides the two is blurred nowadays, which is why I would be glad to recommend your book to my students to understand what eloquent and comprehensive writing is all about. The book has a considerable amount of interesting insights, with the exception of certain sections.

The book is incisive from the outset and it looks at a city through a holistic lens. To eloquently describe its history, its past and its present without having lived here is a commendable effort and I am lending my voice and my views, to the number of reviews that have already appeared in the newspapers, regarding the book. Almost all the reviews that I have read are very interesting and I do hope that this book will go a long way in familiarizing Raza’s countrymen and our countrymen with the vibrancy of this city, its multifaceted personality and the manner in which Delhi has grown over the centuries. Thank you once again, for writing such a good book.

Read full transcript and watch video on my blog “Delhi by Heart

Reviews on Delhi by Heart

17 December 2013

Fiction writer Intizar Hussain (DAWN)

“In his exuberance, Rumi started writing without planning beforehand, knowing not how his narrative will end. The narrative, however, came to an end by itself…”

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Asif Noorani (Daily Dawn)

“Raza Rumi’s Delhi by Heart is a research-based readable account of the city he fell in love with and its dwellers…”

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Yatin Gupta (Iyatingupta)

“Delhi By Heart was an eye opener for me in many ways and so much that I will definitely read it once more in future…”

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Dr Tariq Rehman (The News on Sunday)

“An authentic and readable social history of north Indian Muslim civilization…”

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Abdul Majeed Abid (The News on Sunday)

“A must read for prospective travelers to Delhi and fans of South Asian history”

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Madeeha Gauhar (Theatre Director/Activist)

“You cannot put Raza’s book into one genre, it’s a bit of everything, so beautifully organized that its a real delight…”

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Ishtiaq Ahmad (Daily Times)

“Delhi by Heart is a jolly good, multifaceted account penned by Raza Rumi of Lahore of his sojourns in the Indian capital, Delhi, over many years…”

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Shivani Mohan (The Khaleej Times)

“Breaking barriers: A Pakistani within the heart of Delhi…”

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Kabir Pundit (Flipkart)

“Raza has succinctly revealed the city’s past not just as a mere chronicle but also as the spiritual hub of Muslim Hindoostan. It came as pleasant surprise that Delhi was/is the Sufi Mecca of the East…”

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The Deccan Chronicle

“The book, a sensitively written account of Delhi’s “grand theatre of the past and present”, is sure to make many nostalgic about “the composite identity of India” that got lost in 1947…”

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The Reuters

Delhi by heart” is a kind of travelogue about a city that is the source of a shared heritage that spans hundreds of years…”

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The Indian Express

“Rumi calls this book Delhi by Heart and from the first page, you can make out that a large space in his heart is occupied by Dilli. The Delhis of the past and the present are as enmeshed in the book as they are in reality and that is its strength…”

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The Kashmir Walla

“Raza Rumi’s Delhi by Heart is an important addition to the literatures on Delhi…”

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The Express Tribune

“In candid tones, journalist and analyst Raza Rumi explores an Indian city, and indeed his own identity as a Muslim in the Subcontinent, in his first book, Delhi by Heart…”

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The Caravan Daily

“Raza Rumi’s in-depth research into Delhi’s abundant monuments and the forgotten, sepia-toned sagas attached to them, makes Delhi by Heart a compelling read.

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Amazon

“A sensitively written account of a Pakistani writer’s discovery of Delhi”

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Livemint

“Pakistani journalist and blogger Raza Rumi’s first book is an account of his travels in Delhi and his interactions with its people..”

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Tehelka

“Raza Rumi’s enthralling travelogue Delhi by Heart, is an attempt to rise above the hatred that has marred Indo-Pak relations…”

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The News

“A Lahori’s take on Delhi…”

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The Friday Times

Rumi’s book is not besmirched by preformed ideas or deeply ingrained prejudices, says Dr. Syed Amir

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An Indian Muslim

“It took me sometime before I could buy Raza Rumi’s ‘Delhi by Heart’. But the moment I got it, I just couldn’t put it down. I read the entire book within a day…”

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IBN Live

“The author has ensured that everything you read in this book stays with you for a long time..”

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DNA India          

“Raza Rumi’s recent book Delhi By Heart is a first — a long detailed account of Delhi of the past and the present from a traveler from across the border…”

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Time Out Bengalaru

“The book works on many levels – as a travelogue, or as a potted (and selected) history of a city, and a way of life…”

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Frontline

“While we are familiar with the traditional representations of Delhi, a new book, Delhi by Heart by the Pakistani journalist Raza Rumi, is creating a stir in literary circles…”

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The Tribune India

“This book by Raza Rumi is much more than the “impressions of a Pakistani traveler”. In searching Delhi, the author is trying to understand his as well as the identity of millions of other Muslims of the subcontinent…”

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Time Out Delhi

“The book works on many levels – as a travelogue, or as a potted (and selected) history of a city, and a way of life.”

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HarperCollins

“Rich with history and anecdote, and conversations with Dilliwalas known and unknown,Delhi By Heart offers an unusual perspective and unexpected insights into the political and cultural capital of India… ”

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Rana’s Blog

“It is rare that one comes across a book with a soul and this is a book which is all heart. It is an outpouring of love by a Pakistani based on his visits here…”

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Raza Rumi’s Interview with The Indian Express

“I found myself as a split individual, because my identity and nationalistic pride was with Pakistan, but my entire history, heritage and who I am, is linked to this place — whether it’s cuisine, history or heritage. Lahore and Delhi are like twins…”

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The Real Meena Kumari

8 November 2013

The soulfulness of India’s greatest tragedienne was born of an abiding love for reading and writing. 

Raza Rumi reviews a biography of the alluring star

The real Meena Kumari


Barri Bechari Hai
Meena Kumari
Jisko Lagi Hai

Dil ki Bimari Meena Kumari ruled the world of Indian cinema until her death in 1972 due to liver cirrhosis. Since her death her popular image has been that of a suffering tragic heroine who died of loneliness and excessive drinking. However, the story of Mahjabeen (Meena Kumari’s real name) is neither as simple nor stereotypical as painted by her panegyrists and detractors alike. I recall the days in my childhood when Meena Kumari’s last film Pakeeezah was scheduled to be shown on Doordarshan. The excitement was incredible and everyone I knew anticipated watching it via (illegal) TV signals from across the border. Such was her magic and appeal. And needless to state, sheer beauty.
tft-37-p-16-c

Harper Collins have republished well known Indian editor, Vinod Mehta’s biography of Meena Kumari authored in the 1970s (Meena Kumari: The Classic Biography). This is a fine introduction to a larger-than-life person and performer. By no means authoritative it does give a fairly detailed account of her life, achievements and travails. As Mehta mentions at the start of the book, in 1972 he was a struggling ad copywriter “going nowhere. With false bravado which comes easily to a person who has achieved little, I accepted the commission and duly delivered the finished manuscript” in a few months. Mehta was “embarrassed at the effort” because the subject of his biography was not available for interviews, and Dharmendra — “the man who had callously used and discarded her” never gave him the time to hold detailed interviews. Having said that, the biography is fairly well-researched and brings forth lesser known facets of this exceptionally talented woman who remains a bit of an enigma to date. (more…)

Pakistan: Political transition amid regional instability

25 March 2013

Last week I attended a roundtable organised by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Berlin. The theme was “Shaping the Future of Pakistan: Loose, Fail, or Win“. I delivered a presentation (link ->> Berlin presentation Pakistan) and discussed the short to medium prospects for Pakistan. Most importantly, how regional instability was likely to impact Pakistan notwithstanding its impressive democratic trajectory.

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