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18712Re: [Arkitect India] Pakistanis, Indians and Thin Skins

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  • Sukla Sen
    Feb 18, 2014
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      Remember Rohinton Mistry? Years after his book Such a Long Journey was published, the Shiv Sena decided to take offence at a character resembling Bal Thackeray, and the Supremo’s grandson succeeded in getting the book taken off the English syllabus at Mumbai University. Evidently, irreverence is not a trait that Indians appreciate.

      Yet, in Pakistan, where we are told there is much greater “intolerance” of all manner of things, where journalists are routinely beaten up and even killed for treading on the toes of one lot or another, writers like Hanif get away. Is it because not many people read English? Or, as the writer suggested, “Government is not a scary thing in Pakistan because the government itself is scared!”

      Unquote

      Is Mohammed Hanif on the syllabus of any Pakistani university, or ever was?
      Anyone any idea?

      Sukla


      On 16 February 2014 04:33, Razi Raziuddin <razi24@...> wrote:
       


      Pakistanis, Indians and Thin Skins

      Vol - XLIX No. 8, February 22, 2014 Kalpana Sharma 
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      Unlike their Pakistani counterparts, Indian writers seem to be cowed down by a general fear of irreverence and open criticism of society and the establishment.

      Kalpana Sharma (kalpanasharma@...), a Consulting Editor at EPW, is currently on a teaching assignment at the University of California in Berkeley, the US.

      Very much in fashion these days are the talented and versatile Pakistani writers who rarely fail to impress as they churn out one bestseller after another. You cannot walk into a literary festival anywhere in India without bumping into one of them.

      But Mohammed Hanif, author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes and Our Lady of Alice Bhatti and, more recently, The Baloch Who Is Not Missing & Others Who Are, is not quite a fashion icon. Indeed, adorned in a mismatched jacket and shoes that were a kind of turquoise blue, during a recent visit to the University of California in Berkeley, the US, he did make a declaration of sorts, but not a fashion statement.

      What Hanif communicated, not through his attire but via his generally self-deprecating response to questions, was that Pakistani journalists and writers ace their Indian counterparts in their irreverence and open criticism of society and the establishment. Not many contemporary Indian writers have managed to do that and still not have their books banned. Remember Rohinton Mistry? Years after his book Such a Long Journey was published, the Shiv Sena decided to take offence at a character resembling Bal Thackeray, and the Supremo’s grandson succeeded in getting the book taken off the English syllabus at Mumbai University. Evidently, irreverence is not a trait that Indians appreciate.

      Yet, in Pakistan, where we are told there is much greater “intolerance” of all manner of things, where journalists are routinely beaten up and even killed for treading on the toes of one lot or another, writers like Hanif get away. Is it because not many people read English? Or, as the writer suggested, “Government is not a scary thing in Pakistan because the government itself is scared!”

      Sitting in an overstuffed chair in the beautiful Morrison Reading Room of U C Berkeley’s Doe Library, Hanif failed completely to be awed by the moment. Here he was surrounded by academics, many seriously considering the hidden messages in his first book that speculated on the cause of Zia ul-Haq’s death in a plane crash. Yet, Hanif laughed off the seriousness, saying that, as a novelist, “you escape into a world where you have no responsibility, escape from the drudgery of day-to-day life”.

      He explained that, basically, he had concocted a theory about Zia’s death because there was no dominant theory, no one had been charged for it and no one had claimed responsibility. At the time of Zia’s death, Hanif was still in the Pakistani Air Force. He recalled how there was stunned silence for the first 15 minutes when the news came through. But within half an hour, people were dancing and celebrating in the streets.

      Several senior bureaucrats and even police and security services officers asked him how he “knew” how Zia had been killed! He even got a message from Zia’s son who had not read the book (although, apparently, his wife had read it). The son told Hanif that it was a filthy book and that if his father had been alive, it would definitely have been banned. To which Hanif responded that if Zia had been alive, the book would never have been written.

      But it is the banning of books, above all, that seems to mark the difference between us in India and them in Pakistan. Is it even conceivable for a book to be written, for instance, about the way Sanjay Gandhi died by crashing his small plane in 1980? Would anyone dare speculate, even in a work of fiction, that it might have been part of a conspiracy to get rid of a member of the “dynasty” being groomed to succeed Indira Gandhi? Even if a brave writer were to produce such a work of fiction, how long would it take for it to be banned? I suspect that at the first whiff of such speculation, a ban order would have been prepared.

      So how do Pakistani writers like Hanif get away with it? Why does no one take offence to the point of banning such books? As far as Hanif’s book on Zia’s death is concerned, one possible reason, he suggests, is that Zia was not a greatly revered character in Pakistan. But in India anyone in “authority” is revered, regardless of character or virtue. Sadly, our skins appear to be definitely much thinner.




      --
      Peace Is Doable
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