A confrontation with stereotypes
Story of an “emotional mulatto”
A Journey Interrupted: Being Indian in Pakistan
Author: Farzana Versey
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Being a Muslim in India is a tough job. Threatened and terrorised by a growing number of Hindu militant extremists, and constantly looked at with suspicion and treated with a certain degree of caution, the Muslims are believed to harbour a certain desire to separate from the union and create a country of their own a la Pakistan, which a modernist Jinnah created but has since been usurped by the dubious Islamist agenda. The suspicion is so institutionalised that the Muslims are hardly represented in the country’s million-plus armed forces.
This suspicion turns into contempt when an Indian Muslim travels to Pakistan. In the popular Pakistani imagination, India is a country of Hindus and if at all there are any Muslims, they are seen as infidels. Farzana Versey’s encounters in Pakistan are replete with her confrontations with such stereotypes. However, as her expedition of exploration furthers, she finds fascinating contours of a human society with diametric contradictions where ‘personal becomes political’. Reading her account in the book under review it seems that the Indian Muslims face more suspicion in Pakistan, because they are not treated on par with the Indian Hindus in the country that is supposedly Muslim.
In A Journey Interrupted: Being Indian in Pakistan, Farzana Versey weaves a collage of her experiences that she acquired during her four visits to Pakistan in six years — a journey of exploration with continuous negotiations and constant reconciliation with her own identity of an Indian Muslim woman. “When I was on the soil of the land of the pure, my impurity struck me. I was the emotional mulatto,” she writes. She travels through the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar and meets a vast array of people — common tea-sellers, prostitutes, actors, poets and retired army men — to find out strange and contrasting factors of the Pakistani identity, if at all there is one. Continue reading