Monday, February 4, 2013

On Not Talking About Pakistan

On Facebook today I happened to click on a link from a friend who rarely posts anything about anything and it turned to be an essay by Taymiya R. Zaman with the provocative title "Not Talking About Pakistan". Well that would be a first, I thought, given how often everyone liked to talk about Pakistan. Just this Friday I attended a talk on ʻāshūrā' in the Deccan, after which two audience members from a certain country that experienced an Islamic revolution made a series of condescending remarks between themselves about the state of religiosity in Pakistan, the lack of liberalism and secularism there and the essentializing reasons for it, to which I wonder if they had invented a stone-resistant glass for residential purposes.

So off I went to Prof. Zaman's essay and as I read it I felt that weird feeling you get when you realize somebody is expressing the exact same thoughts you have, except formulated, framed, and put into words in ways you couldn't. Her article pretty much sums up the discomfort one feels as a Pakistani in academia who is called upon in even the most social of setting to affirm people's sanctimonious judgement of your country, least you try to defend it and make yourself sound like an apologetic with blinders on, and actually dealing with the serious and seemingly intractable difficulties of everyday life when there. To say nothing of well-intentioned coverage that leaves you with an impression that Pakistan is one giant slum for refugees or similar (until very recently, India only tended to experience this in more mixed ways, like in the form of an acclaimed movie).

When you are a Pakistani it is hard to not get nostalgic, for Pakistan rarely lives up to how you, or others, remember it (before the media boom it seemed no one really received a barrage of updates on 'recent-developments' so things tended to be understandably rose-tinted) but nostalgia is its own form of exile.
Anyway, for the essay by Taymiya R. Zaman, a historian of Mughal India at University of San Francisco, click here.

Lahore, August 20, 2012