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Casteism: alive and well in Pakistan

Published in The Friday Times, Pakistan (current issue)

It is a cliché now to say that Pakistan is a country in transition – on a highway to somewhere. The direction remains unclear but the speed of transformation is visibly defying its traditionally overbearing, and now cracking postcolonial state. Globalisation, the communications revolution and a growing middle class have altered the contours of a society beset by the baggage and layers of confusing history.
What has however emerged despite the affinity with jeans, FM radios and McDonalds is the visible trumpeting of caste-based identities. In Lahore, one finds hundreds of cars with the owner’s caste or tribe displayed as a marker of pride and distinctiveness. As an urbanite, I always found it difficult to comprehend the relevance of zaat-paat (casteism) until I experienced living in the peri-urban and sometimes rural areas of the Punjab as a public servant.
I recall the days when in a central Punjab district, I was mistaken for a Kakayzai (a Punjabi caste that claims to have originated from the Caucasus) so I started getting correspondence from the Anjuman-i-Kakayzai professionals who were supposed to hold each other’s hands in the manner of the Free Masons. I enjoyed the game and pretended that I was one of them for a while, until it became unbearable for its sheer silliness and mercenary objectives. […]

February 16th, 2009|Published in HT, Published in The Friday Times|14 Comments

We shall overcome the trap of violence

As clouds of war hover in the skies of Lahore, I am missing Delhi and lamenting the relatively difficult venture to visit the city The December of . 2008 was a month of promise. I was meant to visit the Jawaharlal Nehru University, read a paper, participate in a conference and enjoy the environs of the campus that would have glowed in December sunshine. Not to forget that I was meant to pick up two books on Gulzar, the great modern poet and lyricist of India whose links with Urdu and Pakistan’s Punjab are as intractable as the nine centuries of our South Asian past. How keen I was to walk around the bookstores of Delhi and try out the unfrequented eateries hidden behind the mayhem of the urban life. Above all, I wanted to finish the book that I have been writing on Delhi. For that I have to do a little more exploring of its myriad moods. Alas! Certain things are not meant to be. My trip was scheduled right after the tragic Mum bai events which were equally mourned in Pakistan. But that terrorist event has now become a bone of contention, almost a drumbeat for war, between India and my country . […]

Delhi and Lahore – globalised fads and trends

This piece of mine appeared in the Hindustan Times yesterday. An accidental piece it was, written on the request of a friend during my recent stopover in Delhi.

Delhi-Lahore hip factor

Be it Khan Market or MM Alam Road,  life for young guns in both Delhi and Lahore is a blend of cafe culture, cool music and retail […]

June 3rd, 2008|India, Journalism, Published in HT, Travel|7 Comments