Translate:


Categories




literature

Home » literature

‘About suffering they were never wrong’

Miniaturist Saira Waseem is the latest exponent in a long list of Pakistani artists resisting the country’s political, cultural and social erosion.

Saira waseem4Passion Cycle, 2005

Pakistani art going global is a remarkable story, for it typifies the ineffable contradictions of the country. In part it is a testament to the country’s creative expression, an explosion of sorts; and partly a mode of resistance to the anti-art ideology that is permeating the social fabric. It’s not just painting or the booming art galleries, there is a revival underway of the moribund television drama, the resuscitation of cinema and continuous experimentation with music.

Salima Hashmi, a leading arts academician and practitioner noted in a recent essay that the “proverbial worst of times are certainly the best of times for contemporary Pakistani art.” Our foremost historian, Ayesha Jalal in her latest book “The Struggle for Pakistan” views the creative expression as a resistance to Pakistan’s forced Islamisation. Jalal writes:

saira waseem5 Ethereal I, 2014

“The globalization of Pakistani music has been accompanied by a remarkable leap in the transnational reach of the creative arts…a younger generation of painters are making creative uses of new ideas and technologies to both access and influence a diverse and dynamic transnational artistic scene. The dazzling array of new directions in the contemporary art, literature, and music of Pakistan displays an ongoing tussle between an officially constructed ideology of nationalism and relatively autonomous social and cultural processes in the construction of a “national culture.”

Jalal as a contemporary historian reminds us that the domestic battle of ideas and ideologies is not over and is assuming newer shapes. At the same time, the issue of a crumbling Pakistani state haunts the future trajectory. Is the arts and literature renaissance of sorts an antidote to a state unable to fulfill its basic functions such as securing the lives of its citizens? There are some immediate examples from the subcontinent that come to mind: The reigns of Wajid Ali Shah and Bahadur Shah Zafar in nineteenth century India were also remarkable for their artistic endeavours before the final takeover of the British. Not entirely relevant, these are important phases of our recent history to be remembered.

[…]

The verse of freedom

In a powerful exploration of resistance poetry in indigenous languages, I discovered marginalized poets challenging mainstream Pakistani identity in moving verse.

 PoetsFaiz Ahmad Faiz

Much has been said about the literary and artistic revolution of Pakistan. Undoubtedly Pakistani writers, artists and musicians are now recognised globally for their work which engages with the world and brings forth perspectives which alter the unidimensional image of the country. At home, the new wave of literary and creative output is celebrated each year at the Karachi and Lahore literature festivals which have emerged as major venues for conversation and showcasing of what is being produced in the mainstream.

Away from the spotlight of international media and TV channels, Pakistan’s regional poets and writers are waging a far more perilous battle by engaging with their subaltern, marginalised audiences in the local idiom, thereby putting themselves at risk. The days of Faiz and Jalib are not over as we often moan. Instead they have deepened and regionalised. Our region has had a rich, ongoing folk tradition and it continues in myriad forms and expressions now. In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan poets and artists continue to challenge power and injustice. More so in Pakistan where instability, extremism and uncertainty have impacted people in a profound manner for the past few decades.

[…]

Civil-military relations in Pakistan- History repeats itself?

It is time for Nawaz Sharif to revisit his earlier stints in power for obvious reasons

History repeats itself? A supporter of Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) stands with a pro-military sign near a graffiti during a rally in support of the Pakistan Army in Karachi

TS Eliot had termed April as the “cruellest month” in his famous poem ‘The Waste Land’.   The incumbent government experienced the travails of April, as it appeared to be rudderless and defensive. Not surprisingly, a key challenge for Sharif administration has been the management of relations with the powerful military. Media reports, at times, have overplayed the tensions between the two power-centres. On other occasions, there has been a sense of déjà vu: Even the third chance to exercise and enjoy power for Nawaz Sharif and his party loyalists has been far from smooth.

The Musharraf case seems to have become a liability for PM Sharif and his government. It takes no rocket science to conclude that the military and its ranks are not too delighted with their former chief facing charges of ‘treason’. The PMLN government remains committed to upholding constitutional governance but its selective view of accountability is worrisome. Gen Musharraf’s trial as a sole offender gives the impression of a person-specific application of law. Unless the abettors of extra constitutional acts are not questioned, fair application of law cannot be achieved. This becomes even more problematic when some of the Musharraf associates are found sitting in the cabinet or government benches in the National Assembly.

A few weeks ago, some of the over-zealous ministers opined on the role of the military and passed a few unsavoury remarks about the Musharraf, which led to the furore in the media. Not unexpectedly, the media remained divided and there was a robust debate on civil-military relations. However, it did not make much sense to relay old speeches of the present Defence Minister to prove how ‘unpatroitic’ PMLN’s cabinet was. This led to the need for the federal government to manage the brewing crisis. Statements of allegiance to the military were immediately issued by all concerned; and an impression was given that relations had returned to ‘normal. […]

Conversation with Mushir ul Hasan on my book

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 […]

Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed on my book

A lovely review of my book in the Daily Times by Ishtiaq Ahmed

When Indians and Pakistanis visit each other, questions of identity, patriotism, and self-esteem almost invariably crop up in even the most enlightened circles. That for more than a thousand years Indian-Muslims were a hyphenated community among many others such as caste Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Dalits, and all of them together were described generically even as Hindus by foreigners, is often forgotten.

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. He puts his experiences in perspective by drawing attention to indoctrination at school and in higher educational institutions in Pakistan, which aims at inculcating the belief that India and Indians are mortal enemies. He makes this admission without mincing words: “I grew up and lived in a milieu that conditioned me to resent India, especially its role in dismembering the Pakistani state in 1971. I also lived in the semi-schizophrenic state of being part of the ‘enemy’ landscape.”

However, cultural references, historical threads and many other bonds from a shared heritage were far too strong. As happens ever so often in this globalised word, people are on the move more and more. Rumi met Indians when he was studying abroad and later interacted with them at the Asian Development Bank and then as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. Such experiences helped him discard the crass prejudices he had imbibed during socialisation at school and college.

[…]

September 10th, 2013|Arts & Culture, books, India|3 Comments

Book review: Delhi of the past and the present

Here is a lovely review of my book, written by the esteemed Intizar Husain

 

Raza Rumi tells us that he aspired to be an author. His visits to Delhi offered him this opportunity and he availed it. 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. When published under the title Delhi by Heart, we had a precious book authored by Rumi.

Delhi by Heart is a scholarly work but written in an unscholarly manner. Instead of posing as a scholar or researcher, Rumi likes to be seen as a stranger in a city hitherto unknown to him, a city enjoying the reputation of being the city of cities. Wonderstruck, Rumi wanders in the city, from posh areas of New Delhi to the narrow and dingy lanes of old Delhi. Walking about aimlessly, he enters a lane with shops on both sides selling roses and soon finds himself entering the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. To his amazement, Rumi is suddenly in a different city, traditionally known as Bais Khawaja ki Chaukhat, the threshold of 22 Sufis. Rumi feels that he is moving in a vast world which carries a touch of the divine, where the past and the present merge into each other and the Hindu-Muslim divide loses its edge.

How easy to jump from here and land in the city of the Salateen-i-Delhi, to touch the threshold of Hazrat Nizamuddin’s khanqah where he preached to his disciples, Muslims and Hindus, about the peaceful coexistence of different faiths. At this point, Rumi’s wanderings seem to be transformed into a journey of discovery. Roaming through the world of mysticism and bowing at the dargahs of Chishti mystics, he knows much about this tradition and about the city of Delhi which has been the cradle of this tradition. But at the same time, Rumi wants to keep abreast with the present and learn about the contemporary Delhi. So he is also seen in the company of the modern intellectuals of the city — Khushwant Singh, Professor Mushirul Hasan, Sadia Dehlvi, Rakhshanda Jalil. His narrative easily shifts from the present to the past and from past to the present. […]

August 1st, 2013|books, India, Travel|0 Comments

A wonderful review of my book by Rana Safvi

Here’s a lovely review written by Rana Safvi over at her blog

 

“Dilli jo aik shahar tha aalam mai intikhaab
rahtay thay hee jahaan muntakhib rozgaar ke
us ko falak ne loot ke weeraan kar diya
hum rahne waale hain usii ujray dayaar ke”

This poignantly beautiful poem by Mir Taqi Mir symbolizes Delhi and for me is at the heart of the book by Raza Rumi as he lovingly traces the rise and fall of Delhi in his book “Delhi by Heart”.

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.
I am ashamed to say that as someone born and brought up in UP which is Delhi’s neighbour and on my many subsequent visits I have never seen even half as much of Delhi as this ‘outsider’ has done.

Raza not only lived in Delhi during his visits, he lives Delhi in this book.
He takes his readers through the glory days of Delhi to the later trials and tribulations.
Through his eyes I revisited the Khanqaah of Hazarat Nizamuddin Auliya, paid my obeisance at the dargaah and danced in ecstasy swaying to the qawwalis of his beloved disciple Amir Khusrau.
I ate the biryanis and kebabs at Nizamuddin Basti, learnt of the history of cuisines which were born there and licked my fingers at the end.
For someone interested in the Sufi silsilas this book is a must read as it’s a virtual commentary on the advent of Sufism in India along with being a tour guide to all the dargaahs and khanqaahs housed in Delhi. In fact the Sufi theme is central to the book but then that was to be expected from a Rumi! […]