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Articles tagged "Pakistan"

Peshawar

I liked Peshawar. I preferred it to hot, racing Rawalpindi, or grand, haughty Islamabad. I think I preferred it to any other city in the world. Indolent in the autumn sun, it was the perfect place for waiting. Although formally it was part of the state of Pakistan, Peshawar belonged to Afghanistan by now. It lived according to Afghan laws and rules, it thought and felt the Afghan way, it spoke Afghan and it looked Afghan. And Afghanistan meant eternal waiting—always,...

Hate

—That makes exactly four kilos. When she heard these words a smile spread across her lips and she looked at her little son… The shopkeeper kept talking: —Sister, take this money…it’s eight rupees. Once again she reached out her hand from her chador and took the money handed over by the shopkeeper. In the afternoon sun, she set off in a hurry toward her home. She walked in haste and held her little son’s hand tightly.  Her grip was so firm...

Modern Poetry of Pakistan

In the foreword to Modern Poetry of Pakistan, Chairman of the Pakistan Academy of Letters Fakhar Zaman assures American readers that they “will be both surprised and delighted by the kaleidoscopic colors of [Pakistan’s] poetry.” While his promise reveals the asymmetry of the global literary order, it also challenges it. For a country often drawn in newspapers as the backdrop of mosque and market bombings, troubled politics, and underdevelopment, the possibilities for...

Noor Jehan

I think I first saw Noor Jehan in the film Khandan. They called her Baby in those days, but believe me when I say that she didn't look like a baby. On the contrary, her body had every feature that a young girl could possibly need. In those days Noor Jehan used to create mischief and unrest in the film-going public. It wasn't about her face or her body. It was simply her voice that caused such a commotion. After Sehgal, Noor Jehan was the singer who really impressed me. She had...

Urdu Fiction from India: An Introduction

Notwithstanding President Barack Obama’s delightful disclosure that he likes Urdu poetry, few in the West know anything about this language and even less about its otherwise vibrant literature. The partition of British India in 1947 took its tragic toll not only in human lives and displacement, but also in culture. Like everything else, the Urdu language, an unmistakable product of India, in which all Indians participated without regard to religion or creed (of the three most...

Rajasthani

Urdu

The First Morning

I have no definite answer to questions about why I migrated from India to Pakistan after the partition in 1947. I look back and see a crowded train rushing past lively and desolate towns and villages, under a bright sun, and in the dark of night. The train is running through the most frightening night and the passengers are quiet like statues. I strain to hear them breathe. Where will the train stop? And will it move again, if it stops? Half a century later, it seems to have been the...

Pink Pigeons—Was It They Who Won?

An early August wind whispers through the lush green trees of Alma Ata. The tiny leaves break into applause. "What are these trees called?" I ask the interpreter. "Tuzhi," the ravishing, delicate Tatar beauty responds gently, in a distinctly American accent. Her name is Gulnaz. So beautiful, fragile-looking, adorable! Like a refreshing vision of paradise itself. And the words flow from her mouth in a cascade of flowers. A persistent breeze keeps blowing her short blonde hair across her...

Toba Tek Singh

Two or three years after Partition, the governments of Pakistan and India decided to exchange lunatics in the same way that they had exchanged civilian prisoners. In other words, Muslim lunatics in Indian madhouses would be sent to Pakistan, while Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistani madhouses would be handed over to India. I can't say whether this decision made sense or not. In any event, a date for the lunatic exchange was fixed after high level conferences on both sides of the...

Playing Manto

I first encountered Saadat Hasan Manto by playing one of his characters. In 1994, I was doing fieldwork for an ethnographic thesis on social life in the Pakistani city of Lahore, where Manto lived, worked, and socialized from 1948 until his death in 1955. A local theatre company was mounting an adaptation of Manto's story "New Law" ("Nea Qanun"), and they needed somebody to play the British soldier. First published in 1937, "New Law" tells the story of Ustad Mangu, a Lahori tonga...

Third Letter to Uncle Sam

31 Laxmi Mansions Hall Road, Lahore 15 March 1954 Dear Uncle, Greetings, I write this after a long break. The fact is that I was ill. According to our poetic tradition, the treatment for illness lies in what is called the elixir of joy served by a slender temptress straight out of the quatrains of Omar Khayyam from a long-necked crystal jug. However, I think that is all poetry. Not to speak of comely cupbearers, one can't even find an ugly servant boy with a mustache to play...
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