Monthly Archives: September 2009

Book: The Romance of Raja Rasalu and Other Tales

By Raza Rumi
Story telling has been a primordial urge, never quite expressed in its fullest measure, but always lingering and floating like life. There was a sub-continent before the colonial interaction that brought in its wake an aesthetic hardened by the industrial revolution and its uniformity of life and space. This was a world rich with myriad identities, of whispers and tales all interlaced in a peculiarly complex kaleidoscope. Since the 19th century that particular aspect of folk story telling and transfer of generational accounts gave way to what is now known as education and knowledge – instruments and reflections of power and a linear world view set elsewhere but adapted awkwardly to the local context.
This is why Simorgh Women’s Resource and Publication Centre in Lahore, under the leadership of Neelum Hussain, have undertaken the challenging task of reclaiming the rich heritage that lies in our folklore especially that of the Punjab. “The Romance of Raja Rasalu and Other Tales” is a stunning compilation of the romance of Punjab’s legendary hero, Raja Rasalu and, while it draws heavily on the colonial storytellers, the book twists the narrative in a manner that brings us closer to the origins of our cultural sensibilities. The tales are sheer magic. The romance, the intrigue, the bravery and the integrated nature of human existence where it finds communication even with birds and trees comes to a full life throughout the narrative.
It is one thing to produce an admirable compendium but it is another matter to ensure that the purpose and spirit of the tales are adequately reflected in the illustrations. This particular touch of originality is provided by the eminent artist Laila Rehman whose breathtakingly attractive illustrations add a new layer of meaning and sensibility to the folk stories. It is, therefore, as has been rightly stated in the introduction, a book for pleasure: a pleasure that moves beyond the immediate and the momentary and merges into the real or imagined pleasure of living. Laila’s paintings and sketches are evocative enough to generate a parallel story within the larger narrative. It is as if the reader is traversing into several worlds. One minute Continue reading
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Filed under Art, Books, culture, translations

Media must not be used to pressurise Pakistan

by Bilal Qureshi

It has been obvious for a while now that the war in Afghanistan is not going well. After years of presence there, the Americans and NATO forces still face danger and attacks on daily basis. Some experts even suggest that the Taliban are becoming stronger, more brazen and are engaging allied forces more aggressively. So, what is the solution to this complex problem? “Pakistan is not doing enough” is the tried and tested response that Washington has mastered whenever questions are raised about the war in Afghanistan.

This is exactly what has happened again. A report in the Washington Post suggests that Pakistanis are not doing enough to defeat, control, curb, eliminate (use whatever term you see fit) the threat of the Taliban? Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, baluchistan, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Taliban, Terrorism, violence, war

The way we are treated at US airports

Word of advice for Washington – in your efforts to win the battle against the terrorists, don’t humiliate your friends, says Bilal Qureshi

After spending about a year in Pakistan, I arrived back home, that is back in the States last night. Well, as I was at the last stop before exiting the immigration area at Dulles Airport, I was asked to come to a separate area without giving me any reason for it.

I went to the separate area and there were dozens and dozens of people from Pakistan, India , Bangladesh , and couple of families from Africa.

First, I was confused as I had been traveling for about 24 hours (without any sleep) and because I was tired and fatigued, it took me a while to grasp that all of us in that room were dark colored Asian, and most probably all of us were Muslims (perhaps with one or two exceptions) and this made me very upset. Continue reading

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Filed under Pakistan, USA

AND THEN THEY CAME FOR ME: AN ENCOUNTER WITH EVA SCHLOSS AND NIC CAREEM

Frank  Huzur has sent this interesting piece from London where he is busy writing a biography of a famous Pakistani

“… in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.” – Anne Frank

In a grey dapper suit slinking down his robust fifty years old shoulder, denim jeans and a black ray ban slunk over his slender nose, Nic Careem comes across as a blithe spirit, wide in strides and smiles, which occasionally drift into roaring guffaws. His deep, timber voice in London cockney accent is a throwback to ginger streets of Beatles. In his teens days he crooned Beatles’ rhymes and proudly proclaims Paul MaCartney as his bosom pal. So much so when Paul punched in his face over his quip over Heather Mills in an evening bash in London, Nic treated the Beatle blow as undeserving of reaction, as Mike Patel, British Asian tiger businessman would swear by the intense moment of hilarious tip-off. He is a trapeze artiste in swapping causes, noble and aesthetic, by any standards. Among his illustrious list of friends, he rattles out names of all spectrum on the rainbow bow from Barrack Hussain Obama, Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, David Cameron to legendary holocaust survivor and step-sister of Anne Frank, Eva Schloss. Continue reading

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Filed under Islam, violence, World

Linguistics and Islam

Kim Stanley Robinson’s  alternate history novel,”The Years of Rice and Salt” posits a world in which an overwhelming majority of Europeans are decimated by the Black Death in the 14th century thereby Christinaity and the white race never get the chance to shape the world as we know it. History of the world, thus, is informed by dominant cultures of the day; the Islamic world, India and the Far East. One of the qualities that sets this novel apart from other novels of the what-if genre is the  intelligent observations, commentary and inquiries the writer makes into the nature of Islam. The following extract is taken from a book within this book entitled “Mohammed [pbuh] Meets Confucius”.    Zia Ahmad Continue reading

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Filed under Books, Fiction, History, Islam, Literature, Religion

From Lashes To Strokes

By Nadeem Farooq Paracha

The lingering Islamisation milieu put together by the Ziaul Haq dictatorship got a beating recently. In May this year, in an unprecedented move, the Federal Shariat Court declared that the consumption of alcohol in Islam was a (comparatively) lesser crime. The court duly overturned the punishment of applying 80 lashes to the seller and consumer of alcohol (with a whip) and replaced it with light ’strokes from a stick made from a palm tree leave.’ Continue reading

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Filed under Pakistan

The Cabinet Mission Plan “What if”…

Ashok Mitra writes in The Telegraph Calcutta:

The Cabinet Mission did not concede Mohammad Ali Jinnah his Pakistan. But what he got was enough; he was sure of controlling Group B and reasonably confident about Group C. He accepted the plan; his sole reservation was regarding the composition of the interim government where he demanded parity of representation with the Congress. The Congress leadership, on the other hand, hemmed and hawed. Yes, formally the integrity of India was preserved. Continue reading

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Filed under Pakistan