Tag Archive | Pakistan

Our Moon has Blood Clots- Rahul Pandita: 58/52

…and still bleeding. Silently.

To be honest, I’ve never given much thought to the issue of Kashmir Pandits. Mainly because it is one of the Whatabouts that the rabid rightwing on Twitter invoke everytime anything about anything is discussed. That argument when you use the atrocities against one minority to negate the atrocities against another minority. But now, after reading this book, after reading this book in two extended sittings because it was so gripping, I realize that this is a story that needs to be told in louder voices. Louder, saner, sensible voices. Voices like Rahul Pandita’s.

I’m on a voyeuristic journey these days, reading about wars and genocides. Humanity’s greatest mistakes, history that should teach us lessons. But this exodus of the Kashmir Pandits is not yet history, it is just two decades old. It is not a horror that happened in another era to another people. It is something that happened during my lifetime, in my country to people from my generation. It is a wound that is still raw, bleeding. No, the blood has not yet clotted.

All that time when I was living a carefree life in the safe south, complaining about the ‘same old’ Kashmir headlines in the news every day; laughing at the old woman who watched Ulaga Seidhigal for news about Kashmir, where her grandson was posted, thinking that it was not part of India ;romanticizing Azaadi based on Pankaj Kapur and Aravind Swamy, a boy almost my age was uprooted from his home and thrown into refugee camps where he would be handed half a tomato as part of the rations. He would then be shuttled from room to room, hotel to hotel, house to house more than seventeen times over the next two decades, never finding Home again. Just because he was not one of Them.

Rahul Pandita’s Hello, Bastar was good. It was to the point, well researched and well written. But it was someone else’s story. This book on the other hand is his own story. A story of the teenage boy who lived in the house with 22 rooms and the apple tree. A house with the kitchen garden and the soon-to-be-renovated attic full of ‘costly deodar wood’. A house he would return to after years, and seek permission from strangers to enter. A house where he would then search desperately for traces of the life he was forced to leave behind. The story of the teenage boy with a cousin he hero worshipped, the cousin whose death he dreamt of a decade before it happened. The story of a teenage boy who was Kris Srikanth to his best friend Javed Miandad, best friend before he did something to break them. The story of the teenage boy who looked out of his window one night and saw people dividing up the neighborhood among themselves, laying claim to his house while his whole family cowered with fear inside. The story of the teenage boy whose mother grabbed a kitchen knife, ready to kill his sister and then herself if those people outside entered the house. A chilling story of a people caught inside someone else’s fight for freedom. A people killed for no reason other than the fact that they were not one of Them.

No hate is spewed in the book. It is largely neutral, actually, too neutral given that it is a first hand account of the exodus. He is allowed some hate. But there is so much dignity in the writing.There is pain in each word and that pain is more powerful and effective than hate. Facts are laid out, clean and clear. Names of the people killed, how they were killed. Plain facts enough to let the reader decide what is right and what is not, who is right and who is not. And who is to blame. It is such a shame that the people of the country’s first Prime Minister are living in exile for the past two and a half decades, largely ignored by both the media and political parties. I won’t blame the rightwingers now for being vocal about this. They seem to be the only voice for these people.

The Visitor summed up the KP Conundrum perfectly here

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How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia- Mohsin Hamid : 34/52

Written in typical Mohsin Hamid style: Totally different from the other two novels.

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It is a hot, humid weekend and you don’t feel like stepping out of the house. So you plan to stay indoors and read all weekend. You have in front of you, on your Kindle, a book written by an author whom you’ve read before. You’ve loved one of his books and liked the other. So you wonder what emotion this book will evoke. When you finally finish the twelve chapters, you will realise that what you feel for this book is something in between love and like.

You don’t understand the snark behind the way this book was written in the format of a self help book. But then, you have never read any self help books and so find it difficult to compare it with a real one and understand the sarcasm. You also don’t like the way the chapters are titled ‘ Don’t fall in Love’ ‘ Learn from a master’ ‘ Become a patron of the arts’ etc because there is not much relevance to  the actual content except for the first couple of paragraphs in each chapter.

But you are a fan of the author and you therefore expect to be a fan of the book. So you look beyond the small things that bug you and focus on the bigger picture : The Story. You find the story unremarkable, but narrated in a very remarkable way. A few pages into the book, you settle down comfortably into the second person style of narration and follow the rags to riches story of an unnamed boy and his unnamed family and friends in an unnamed city in an unnamed country. But since you know where this story is actually set, and you live in a country close to this unnamed country, in Rising Asia, you are able to relate.

You read about the poor boy from a village who moves to the city, gets an education, works in a shop that pirates DVDs, meets a pretty girl and does not fall in love with her. Then you read about how the boy  becomes a man, learns the tricks of the trade by first selling expired food products with new labels and then becomes his own boss, running a successful bottled water business with nothing but a stove and tap water. You then see him getting richer and richer right before your eyes, thanks to unscrupulous politicians, bureaucrats and the god-created economic and social imbalance in Rising Asia. You also follow the  progress of the pretty girl, the one he didn’t fall in love with, from being a beauty parlour assistant to a model to a TV cookery show host to an imported furniture dealer. You wish his wife, a  woman with a mind of her own, something you don’t expect from women in that unnamed country, could have gotten more black squiggly print in the book.

After the twelfth chapter, you close the book with the satisfaction of having read a satisfactory book. But it does nothing to evoke any strong emotions from you. None of the characters will linger in your mind nor will they fade away soon. You then update your blog and your Goodreads page with your thoughts about the book, try to be creative and attempt to write your blogpost in the same style the book was written in,  tick off one more book in your Reading Challenge for 2014, and move on to the next book.

 

 

 

The Reluctant Fundamentalist- Mohsin Hamid : 17/52

I got the book, but not quite.

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Maybe Moth Smoke made me expect more. Till the end, I kept waiting for the story to actually happen. The narration got a bit irritating at times, and so I interpreted the excessively respectful tone as sarcasm. It made it easier to read and relate.

So what exactly was ‘Fundamental’ about him, I don’t understand. To me, this was just a story about a man’s disillusionment, his homecoming and him finding his calling.  Leaving a high profile job and life in a first world country to go back home and teach. Nothing fundamental about that. What he taught apart from finance, that is left open to the reader’s interpretation. And whether it was right, wrong or whatever, is debatable.  The slow transformation of both his appearance and attitude was very well handled.   The ‘moment’ in Chile did seem a bit contrived, but it was the turning point, his Bodhi tree. (Disclaimer: I do not support terrorism or any of that jazz, but I also do not support the King of the Universe attitude that certain countries adopt. When it happened, my first reaction was ‘OMG! They were guarding their backsides and got punched in the nose’. Does that make me a fundamentalist? )

The less said about Erica the better. Screamed Naoko from the start. I read a reveiw that said that Erica was America in some symbollic sort of way. Maybe. Maybe I was too superficial to get the depth of it, but it was in-your-face Norwegian Wood.

Who exactly is this American stranger, I didn’t understand fully. Was he a journalist or someone out to arrest Changez? Was that a gun in his pocket? Was he there to kill him?
So many loose ends.

This didn’t seem complete to me. It was more of a prologue or a section of a larger book. Maybe Mohsin Hamid will come up with a sequel or a prequel someday.

PS: I haven’t watched the movie, but reading the reviews, it looks like the movie made more sense than the book.

Moth Smoke -Mohsin Hamid : 10/52

This book has attitude.

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First, gasp!  A Pakistani woman who smokes, drinks, does drugs and has a secret identity, all with the acceptance of her husband and right under her father-in-law’s nose!  Where are the Moral Police?  Now that she’s broken the stereotype, let me say, ‘Mumtaz, whatte woman’.

Daru isn’t black and white or grey. He is the colour of colourless mud. Frustrating. You feel no sympathy towards him, except maybe when he loses his mother due to lack of air conditioning; air conditioning being an important character in the book. He sweats it out in the darkness, swatting moths, slapping servants, selling drugs, getting beaten up, robbing boutiques. And yet he doesn’t want to take on a job that pays tenthousand or work in a car dealership. And on top of all that, he  has an affair with his best friend’s wife without an iota of guilt. Frustrating.

I didn’t quite get the connection between the Mughals and the characters that are named after them. But the connection between Daru and Ozi and the nuclear tests that form the subtle background to the story, I did. Or am I reading too much into it? India was not specifically spelled out in the book, but it was there. Right there, mocking Pakistan with its nuclear tests, looking  all arrogant and cool. Pakistan’s insecurity, (what if our bombs don’t work) , the underlying jealousy, the hurried rush to equal India and the smugness when they also do it reflected Daru and Aurangazeb. Again, in Daru’s sense of being given a raw deal, is perceived superiority, his urgency to catch up with the rest of them, and in his unscrupulous and unapologetic foray into crime just to get even with Aurangazeb, I saw the two countries.  And Aurangazeb’s next move? Well, I can’t draw parallels to that. Maybe (hopefully) not just yet.

Once you start reading this, you won’t put it down until you’ve read the last chapter and said your final ‘what the…’