I met Moinuddin Khan, the author of In Search of Readers, in 1962 when I joined the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), Moin Sahib, as we have always called him, was the librarian at PIIA. He is mainly responsible for kindling in me an interest in libraries. Books have been my passion all my life but previously I did not see the library as anything more than a room to stock the books in. The librarian was the person who manned this room, rubberstamped dates on the inside of the back cover, and arranged the books in their places on the shelves when readers scattered them thoughtlessly on the table. He also supposedly kept an eye on visitors to ensure they didn’t pinch any volume! Continue reading “Where are the readers?”
A question very often asked of writers is why do they write. Khushwant Singh, India’s best known author and journalist, said he wrote to inform, amuse and provoke. The author of Pearls from the Ocean , Parvin Shere, quotes the American writer and poet, Maya Angelou to answer this question. “There is no agony greater than bearing an untold story inside you,.” Says Angelou.
For Shere this untold story has to find expression and it does in three forms, prose, poetry and painting. She could not have been more articulate in giving expression to the discovery she made when she submitted to her urge to penetrate the barriers of faiths, languages and cultures: the Earth is home to all humans and their oneness binds them together, but…
The success story of the SIUT (Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation), starting on a modest scale and growing into a state-of-the-art medical and surgical hospital with impressive research and training facilities, gives you the feeling that all is not lost with this country. It is heartening that here is a government institution, run by a qualified and well-trained team of inspired and dedicated personnel, which offers free treatment to thousands of poor patients. What is more, they are all treated with the respect and dignity they deserve and are made to feel that medical treatment is their birth right.
The SIUT and its journey is documented by Zubeida Mustafa in the coffee table book, The SIUT Story: Making the ‘Impossible’ Possible. During the research for the book, Mustafa spoke not just with medical practitioners but also with kidney donors and many patients who have been treated successfully. With donations and help in cash and kind flowing from individuals and corporate bodies who have trust in the integrity and capability of the people running the institution, not many plans had to be dropped owing to lack of finances. Continue reading “In service of humanity”
By Zubeida Mustafa
AS Pakistan’s problems multiply, publications on Pakistan receive a corresponding boost. Never before have so many books on the country hit the shelf. Hence an author has to come up with something really new to justify writing about the country. Not many can do it and that is why many books appear to be a rehashed version of the same old story.
Seen from that perspective, journalist Babar Ayaz’s book, What’s Wrong with Pakistan?, might at first glance appear to be a narrative of Pakistan’s history that one would take up with a yawn. But once you start reading it, you find a freshness of approach to the issues that have nagged historians for many years. More so, Ayaz’s focused style makes this book a compelling read. Continue reading “Telling it as it is”
Sips from a Broken Teacup
By Raihana A Hasan
Ushba Publishing International, Pakistan
The rattling narrow-gauge Surma train that carried a young urban bride to a far away and unknown world of tea plantations stopped at the deserted Shamshernagar Railway Station on a dark wintry night of January 1962. Little did the disembarking passenger know that her prolific and perceptive mind was already capturing the first outlines of what was to appear in the form of a book some fifty years later.
Raihana Hasan could not have chosen a more thoughtful, apt and immaculate title for her captivating book, Sips from a Broken Teacup. Each word depicting delicately woven themes that stretch from reminiscence of life as a tea planter’s wife to the traumatic events that preceded the break-up of Pakistan and finally the drama and the ordeal as the author and her family escape from then East to West Pakistan.
SALEEM Asmi has worn many hats. Beginning his professional life as a sub-editor in The Pakistan Times in 1959, he rose to be the editor of Dawn. Versatility is his virtue, which means his writings always have a freshness about them. Having known him professionally as a newsperson demonstrating his skills in the newsroom, and later as the editor of Dawn, one who was always willing to go an extra mile to test political waters, I was happy when I saw the collection of his writings from the early years, Saleem Asmi: Interviews, Articles, Reviews. The collection sheds as much light on the writer as the numerous personalities he interviews or writes about. We now see Asmi at his best, as an erudite critic of arts, culture and music. Continue reading “NON-FICTION: Keeping a record”
The partition of India in 1947 was an epochal event. It inducted the post-war era of decolonisation that came to form a landmark in world history. It also raised popular expectations: the people would be the beneficiaries of the promised 3D phenomena of decolonisation, democratisation and development. Leaders decided the fates of nations and the people provided the backdrop in the shape of slogan-raising crowds cheering the demagogues. Continue reading “Book Review: This Is Not That Dawn”
PAKISTAN has been described as a dangerous country for journalists. Since January 2010, 15 journalists have lost their lives here. But more than that, it is not a country easy to write about. So riddled is it with contradictions and so strong are the emotions it evokes that a writer must have superhuman capacity to be dispassionate and write without social, political and ethnic biases. Continue reading “Pakistan through a journalist’s lens”
When the Bengali language movement started, leading to the killing of students on February 21, 1952, no one – and certainly not the establishment in West Pakistan – thought that in the second decade of the 21st century, this date would begin to be commemorated by the UN as International Mother’s Language Day. Bengalis have been known to be passionate about their mother tongue. But apart from the passion, perhaps they realised early on that language is an instrument of power and control. Consequently, they rejected vociferously, Governor-General Jinnah’s decision to make ‘only Urdu’ the national language of Pakistan. It’s also worth noting that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, experienced his first arrest at the hands of Pakistani authorities when, as a student, he led a protest following Jinnah’s ill-conceived public speech in Dhaka.
Well-known journalist and a former senior editor of Dawn, Zubeida Mustafa, studies the linkage between economic and political power and language in considerable depth in her recently published book, Tyranny of Language in Education. Urdu in Pakistan was promoted as a unifying force by the early policy makers, at the expense of the rich diversity the country possesses. As the author notes:
“Man’s speech and language ability have not per se proved to be a challenge for the unity and solidarity of a nation. It is the social and political dimensions of language and its implications for the acquisition of political power that have given rise to phenomena such as linguistic nationalism, linguistic imperialism and linguistic chauvinism. Since ethnic groups also tend to be divided along linguistic lines, ethnic conflicts also have linguistic dimensions.”
Those living in Sindh would certainly agree with the author’s assessment. The province has seen many conflicts related to language, which a deeper analysis would show to have had roots in various ethnic groups’ quest for political power.
PAKISTAN is famous internationally for its cuisine. The versatility and richness in their culinary style and contents make Pakistani restaurants popular eating spots abroad for those in search of exciting and unusual flavours to tickle their taste buds. Shamsi Qurashi, the editor of Heirloom Recipes from Pakistan, says she wanted to produce “something beautiful about Pakistan and its ancient cultural heritage” that would be a pleasant change from the doom and gloom we are surrounded with. Continue reading “Food: an area in which Pakistan excels”