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Imagined homeland

It irks me when I hear simplistic platitudes on Pakistani society, state or people. The heterogeneity of Pakistan is by itself an anthropologist’s dream, a planners’ headache and a sociologist’s challenge. Despite the sixty-one years of drumming the uniform nationalism mantra, Pakistan’s regions and their peoples refuse to toe the line sponsored by the official textbook masters. This is why one minute there is a delightful speech on being a Pakistani and the other minute caste, tribe or ethnicity raise their discrete heads and the linear formulae dissolve into thin air.

Recently I was in Karachi and discovered that the drawing room chattering there was vastly different from that of Lahore’s. The immediate urban crises of the Sindhi capital overshadow discussions that the Punjabi heartland loves to indulge in. The war mongering that has been a recent pastime on TV channels and in influential quarters of Lahore, is looked at with suspicion and, dare I say, contempt by many Karachi wallahs. It was refreshing to be reminded that, much in line with South Asian history, Pakistan is a diverse, multifarious place. That this country cannot be boxed easily and therefore appointed labels dissipate easily. […]

February 5th, 2009|Arts & Culture, Published in The Friday Times, Sindh, Sufism|2 Comments

Bombay – Nostalgic shop owners refuse to change name

Read the captioned story in the Times of India today- politics of war mongering can be such a disruptive influence on ordinary lives. In Pakistan, we have shops and businesses named as Bombay restaurant, Bombay cloth house and even a Bombay sweet house. And of course Hyderabad’s premier bakery – the Bombay bakery as reminded by Kazim. I am posting an image of the Hyderabad outlet during my recent, fleeting  visit to the city.

Deep down, the links continue despite 61 years of turbulence…

MUMBAI: Karachi Sweets in Mulund is not the only business establishment that bears the name of a Pakistani city. TOI came across at least seven shops, offices, halls and restaurants named after Karachi, Peshawar, Multan, Sindh and Lahore-most of the owners probably could never forget their hometowns that they had to leave during Partition.

“How can the MNS ban shop names like Karachi, Lahore or Sindh as most of the owners are refugees from Pakistan?” said a shop owner in Bandra. “Even my shop is named after a Pakistani city and we have been running this business for the past 100 years. A lot of sentiment is attached to the name.” He added that it was unfair to target innocent shop owners who have settled down in India and are patriotic. “We just carry a Pakistani city’s name on our signboard. We are true Indians and not Pakistanis.” […]

January 23rd, 2009|Personal|22 Comments

Hyderabad – Past And Present

The Untold Charminar –Reviewed By Asif Noorani

Way back in 1954 when I greeted a grand old lady, who had migrated to Karachi from what used to be Hyderabad Deccan, with the customary Assalam Alaikum, I was admonished for my ‘bad manners’. She reminded me that I was not her age, which was why I was supposed to say Aadab and bend my neck slightly.

That was the Hyderabadi tehzeeb (a combination of good manners and courtesies). A recently published collection of writings Hyderabad: An Untold Charminar, imaginatively compiled and intelligently edited by Syeda Imam, has much more to say on the subject. The old-worldly charm in Hyderabad co-exists with the great strides that the city has taken in becoming a high profile IT city, which is why it has been nicknamed Cyberabad. […]

September 20th, 2008|books, India, India-Pakistan History|3 Comments

Makhdoom a people’s poet – a poem

Found this poem and its translation by Makhdoom Mohiuddin  here

Our city is strange –
it whispers in the
nights when you
walk on roads
calls you to show
its wounds as if
the secrets of
its heart

its windows shut
alleys quiet
walls tired
doors locked
only the corpses stayed
in rented houses for years.

-tr. Ravi Kopra


apnaa shah’r

ye shah’r apnaa, ajab shah’r hai
ke raatoN ko
saRak pe chaliye tau sargoshiyaaN sii kartaa hai
bulaa ke zakhm dikhaataa hai
raaz-e-dil kii tarah

dariiche band
galii chup
niDhaal diivaareN
kivaaR muh’r-balab
gharoN meN mayyateN thahrii hu’ii haiN barsoN se
kiraaye par —— ! […]

September 7th, 2008|Poetry, South Asian Literature, Urdu, Urdu Literature|11 Comments

Visit to Sindh, Udero Lal (the story of the Dalits in Pakistan)

Yoginder Sikand writing at DNA

South-central Sindh isn’t quite a favourite holiday destination, but I spent a fortnight there while on a vacation in Pakistan. My host was the amiable, 70 year-old Khurshid Khan Kaimkhani, a noted leftist activist, author of the only book on Pakistan’s almost 3 million Dalits. Along with a friend, he edits the only Dalit magazine in the entire country.

Khurshid met me at the railway station in Hyderabad, Sindh’s largest city after Karachi. We drove to his small farm, on the outskirts of his hometown of Tando Allah Yar, a two hour bus-ride ahead. Several Bhil families live on the farm. “They are like my own family,” Khurshid says as Baluji, a tall, handsome Bhil man, manager of the farm, welcomes us in with a tight embrace. […]

August 18th, 2008|Guest Writer, India-Pakistan History, Personal|2 Comments

Impressions – White Mughals by William Dalrymple

My bright, young friend Imaduddin (left) has written this excellent, terse review of the engaging book White Mughals.

Yesterday when he emailed me this text, I was intrigued by his views as well as envious of his ability to say a lot in so few words. […]

July 8th, 2008|books, History|5 Comments