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I know how men in exile feed on dreams

To the accompaniment of songs, poetry and history, Raza Rumi spent a bittersweet evening with fellow exiles exploring the state of his banishment

Raza rumi and neelam Neelam Bashir and Raza Rumi

“Our native soil draws all of us, by I know not what sweetness, and never allows us to forget.” ? Ovid

I sat there, on a wooden deck with a motley crew under the summer sky. Deep into the suburbia of Maryland this was a spontaneous get together with a diverse group of Pakistani-Americans. The sorted, integrated types not at odds with the ‘evil West’ as we know it back home. Yet, they were exiles, dislocated in their own way. This was a strangely intimate evening with so many stories that merged into a moment of connection, a nameless bond.

Noreen and Amjad Babar – old residents here – are great hosts. Their home, an open house in all senses, hosts all the progressives across the length and breadth of the United States. That evening when we all congregated perchance, it was a melee of writers, poets, doctors and journalists of Pakistani origin. This was also the weekend when the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) was holding its annual convention.

Far from home

Pakistani American doctors hold a huge festival every year where they congregate, network, vent and even make matches for their hybridized children.

This year’s event was dedicated to hundreds of doctors who have been killed for their ‘wrong’ faith in Pakistan

I was invited to speak at a panel organized by Karachi’s Dow Medical College Alumni (formally known as the ‘Dow Graduates Association of North America’) that attempts to raise the unpopular issues of extremism and progressive change in Pakistan. This year’s event was dedicated to hundreds of doctors who have been killed for their ‘wrong’ faith in Pakistan. Most notably, Dr Mehdi whose assassination did not even invite a simple statement of condemnation from Pakistan’s so-called ruling ‘democrats’. The panel was great: Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, poet-writer-journalist Hasan Mujtaba and the bold columnist Dr Taqi. Haqqani amused the audience with his wit and exceptional command over Pakistan’s history. Only a few bilingual speakers can match his erudition. […]

September 26th, 2014|Arts & Culture, Extremism, human rights, Journalism, Pakistan, Personal, Published in The Friday Times, SouthAsia, terrorism, Urdu Literature, women|Comments Off on I know how men in exile feed on dreams

The native returns

Unaffected by the prophets of doom, a Lahori decides the city is the place to be

Twenty years ago, I left Lahore. Excited by prospects of quality higher education and the adolescent yearning for freedom, this was a moment that only with age I have understood. A flash that alters the life-path even when one is not aware of it. As I grew up and visited Lahore from a multitude of cities and continents, Lahore’s provincialism and inward-looking ethos irked me. However, the splendour of its lived history and multi-layered present fascinated me endlessly. A false sense of fatalism whispered that my exile was going to cover a life-span.

The last few years were spent abroad: so dejected I was that not living in Lahore would mean living just anywhere. When I decided this summer to return to Pakistan, I was astounded by the reactions from all and sundry. I was told that I am ‘mad’ to have chosen to return to a burning, imploding and crashing Pakistan. Such is the power of global corporate media that even the discerning and schooled Pakistanis have started to believe in the failed state mantra scripted outside Pakistan.

My own parents, temporary residents of Islamabad, scared by the blasts advised me against it. Others from the more indulgent school of thought were aghast with my decision to return to a country where power outages, crumbling urban infrastructure and pollution define urban living. Of all the nightmares cited was that who knows if the country would survive? Such cynicism and unmasked pessimism about Pakistan is always disturbing, yet familiar. My question is when was the country not about to unravel since 1947?

Such has been the level of insecurity propagated by the state and of late its international partners or the ubiquitously infamous band of its ‘friends’? After all, if this was such a grave situation then I might as well be with the loved and the familiar instead of living a life of an unrequited exile? […]

November 21st, 2008|Arts & Culture, Lahore, Personal, Published in the NEWS|19 Comments