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July 16, 2018

‘Being Pakistani’ challenges traditional nationhood narrative


July 16, 2018

ISLAMABAD: A new book has challenged the common mantra we often use while describing Pakistan as a country based on “one-religion, one nation and one culture,” and has attempted to prove that “Pakistan is way too diverse,” and “Being Pakistani is composite, layered,”.

This unique attempt has been made by famous journalist Raza Rumi, who survived a lethal terrorist/assassination attempt on March 28, 2014 but instead of surrendering before fear he produced a wonderful 300-page book titled, “Being Pakistani, Society, Culture and The Arts,” published by HarperCollins.

Raza Rumi has also authored ‘Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller’, ‘The Fractious Path: Pakistan’s Democratic Transition’ and Identity’, and ‘Faith and Conflict.’

Raza is not only journalist and author, but also a policy analyst who remained part of the visiting faculty at the Cornel Institute for Public Affairs and has taught at the Ithaca College and New York University.

In his latest book, Rumi has further explained his idea saying, “Pakistani identity and ideology include the Indus River, the cult of the feminine in folklore and the indistinguishable spirituality of Sufi Bulleh Shah and Bhakat Kabir.

Its contemporary culture entails influences from Bollywood and Indian TV soaps. But here is also an emergence of a distinct Pakistani cultural sensibility,” reads the preface.

The book is divided into three portions namely, devotion, literature, arts and at the end the author has included two of his essays. The first is titled “That Easy Intimacy: A Pakistani Rediscovers Bangladesh,” and the second “Loharwana: A Lahori Rambling”.

The author starts the book by taking the readers back to the 15th century India when travelers and Central Asian Sufis brought message of Islam to the sub-continent. He broadly discusses the political realities of that time while comparing them with today’s and admits that “perhaps histories and nation states are also irreversible.”

However, he still seems optimist when he mentions that despite all that went wrong still the “common ground remains”. The author entails the message of love and tolerance with the verses of Kabir (1398-1448).

“Do not go to the garden of flowers! O Friend! Go not there; In your body is the garden of flowers. Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, And there gaze on the Infinite Beauty,”.

Then the author entails the message of another famous Punjabi poet, Baba Bulleh Shah (1680-1757) and tells the readers that the classic Sufi poet’s Murshad Shah Inayat belonged to the Qadiriyya Shattari School which was known for its close affinity with yoga and other meditative practices. He also discusses the Sufi poets of Sindh and other parts of Pakistan.

After discussing Sufi poets and their messages, the author takes his readers to the life of people living aside the Indus. He entails the historical background up to the division of Sub-continent/ India and to date.

The author has dilated on the arrival of Islam and the historical background of Sindh and its people, their religion and culture. He also explores that there is an influence of Hindu goddess Kali in Sindh and Punjab. He gives details of the Hindu temples telling that the people of this area believe in tolerance and they do not accept intolerance.

Discussing about literature, the author gives his detailed view about the work and impact of Qurratulain Hyder, Manto, Intizar Hussain, Fahmida Riaz etc. on Pakistan and India telling that despite all the political challenges literature remained a common ground for the people of this part of the world.

“Silhouetted Silences: Contemporary Pakistani literature in the, ‘Age of Terror’, is another most interesting chapter of the book in which he discusses the Afghan war, clash of civilizations and the so-called war on terror and its impact on society and literature. The authors also briefly mentions the music industry and its modern dimensions in his another interesting chapter titling, “Pioneers of Pakistani Pop-Alamgir and Runa Laila,”.

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