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Reflections / 31.08.2019

By Anjum Altaf It is undeniable that the entire conversation about Kashmir has been marked, from the very beginning, by calculation instead of reflection. Between ‘Kashmir will become Pakistan’ and ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’ there has been a shameful scramble for real estate without any care for the inhabitants of the land. No one has even bothered to ask what they might have wanted for themselves. Salman Rushdie’s brilliant new novel, Quichotte, is set primarily in America but is also a telling reflection on the tenor of our times. Consider these three dialogues (the first in the form of question and answer) and apply them to Kashmir to get a sense of their scope and relevance. -- “I’ve only been around for a short time...

Reflections / 10.05.2019

This collection of poems was published in hardback by Aakar Books, Delhi in 2019 with strong endorsement from Professor Harbans Mukhia, Professor Emeritus of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. December 23, 2018 · Some superb poetry of protest by Anjum Altaf who identifies himself as a South Asian living in Lahore. Poems inspired by Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Anjum Altaf was Professor of Sociology in Lahore and Karachi. First published in India by LG Publishers, a subsidiary of Aakar Books, Delhi. January 15, 2019 ·      A great poem inspired by Faiz Ahmad Faiz and triggered by "attacks on JNU students and faculty in 2016 and dedicated to them" by Anjum Altaf, Professor of Sociology and "A South Asian residing in Lahore." From his collection Transgressions, published by Aakar Books, Delhi, 2019. The collection is now available online from North America, India, and Pakistan. North America: https://www.amazon.com/Transgression-Poems-Ins…/…/938372336X India: https://www.ibpbooks.com/transgressions-poems-inspired-by-faiz-ahmed-faiz/p/37995 https://www.amazon.in/TRANSGRESSIONS-Poems-Ins…/…/938372336X Pakistan: https://www.libertybooks.com/TRANSGRESSIONS-Poems-Inspired-by-Faiz-Ahmed-Faiz Feedback and comments would be very welcome. Back...

Reflections / 20.12.2017

By Anjum Altaf [This is the text of the 16th Hamza Alavi Distinguished Lecture delivered in Karachi on December 16, 2017, under the auspices of the Irtiqa Institute for Social Sciences and the Hamza Alavi Foundation. The lecture was delivered in Urdu and does not follow the order of the formal written version. A video of the lecture is accessible at the Irtiqa Facebook page.] An important strand of Hamza Alavi’s work was about change and the agency for change as attested by the two well-known hypotheses associated with his name – those of the middle peasantry (1965) and of the salariat (1987). I intend to use these as the point of departure to offer some tentative reflections on the nature of change and on the scenarios facing us today in Pakistan and more generally across the world. Economics, the Importance of Rules, and Collective Agency My own academic...

Reflections / 02.09.2017

By Harbans Mukhia I was born in 1937 or 38, in a tiny village in the Gujrat district of what is now Pakistan. No one, even in Pakistan, seems to have heard of the village Allaha, though it is on my passport to this day. Our home was a nondescript one – a one-and-a-half room structure on one side of a dusty street; on the other side was a tall, white mansion-like habitat with a weather cock on top, which fascinated us kids for hours. We moved to Delhi before the Partition – perhaps sometime around 1941. My father responded to the Quit India call and was put in a Multan prison for six months. My mother passed away perhaps in 1943 or 44, leaving behind five young children. My eldest sister, then 12 or 13, was withdrawn from school to look after her siblings. She never...

Reflections / 07.08.2017

By Kabir Altaf In March 2017, a public prosecutor in Lahore, Pakistan, offered to acquit 42 Christian prisoners accused of murder if they converted to Islam. This prodded a re-reading of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, which also features a forced conversion—that of the Jewish moneylender, Shylock, to Christianity.  Written between 1596 and 1599, The Merchant of Venice centers around Antonio (the titular character) and his financial dealings with Shylock. Antonio’s friend Bassanio needs money in order to woo Portia, a wealthy noblewoman. In order to raise this amount, Antonio asks Shylock for a loan of 3000 ducats. The moneylender agrees on the condition that if Antonio defaults on the loan, Shylock will be entitled to a pound of his flesh. Antonio accepts these terms, since he has several ships coming in to port soon. However, Antonio’s ships are wrecked and he is forced to default. Shylock...

Reflections / 03.06.2017

By Kabir Altaf Ever since The God of Small Things was published to great acclaim in 1997, Arundhati Roy’s fans have been eagerly awaiting her next novel. It was a long wait—two decades—as Roy transitioned from being a novelist to being an activist and a non-fiction writer. Now, the wait has finally ended with the publication of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. The novel focuses on several characters, most of whom are outcasts from the new rising India. They include a hijra named Anjum, a Kashmiri separatist (or freedom fighter) named Musa and Tilottama, the Malayali woman who loves him. Over the course of the novel, these disparate characters encounter one another and their stories intersect, sometimes in surprising ways. Much of the novel is set in the Kashmir Valley during the 1990s—at the height of the insurgency against the Indian state—viewed by many Kashmiris...

Reflections / 04.05.2017

By Anjum Altaf I am intrigued by the thought that for an ambitious youngster, passionate about the arts and with a compelling belief in himself or herself, there may be no place in Pakistan to run away to. The thought occurred to me on reading the biography of Naushad, one of our great music directors. Born in Lucknow, he became fascinated with music early in life. Told by his father to choose between home and music Naushad ran away to Bombay at the age of 18. The rest, as they say, is history. The Bombay of those times was the place to run away to for the passionate young. Naushad was not the only one. There were literally hundreds of others from cities as far away as Peshawar and Madras and towns and villages scattered across the subcontinent. It was a magnet not only for those interested in...

Reflections / 24.02.2017

By Anjum Altaf   For Sheema Kermani - because she went   Go(After Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Aaj Bazaar meiN Pa ba JaullaN Chalo) Unwept tears, inner tormentsEnoughHidden desires, silent accusationsEnough GoFlaunt your fetters in the streetArms aloft, enraptured, intoxicatedDisheveled, blood stainedGoLovers are yearning for your loveGo Tyrant and crowdAwaitSlings and stonesAwaitSorrows and failuresAwait Who else is left to loveBut youWho else is left to fightBut youWho else is left to dieBut you Arise and goFor love’s honorGo   Note Sehwan is home to the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a major sufi saint in Sindh, where a suicide bombing killed 88 devotees on February 16, 2017. Sheema Kermani is a symbol of defiance in Pakistan as a dancer who has continued to perform in public all through the rise of fundamentalism and suppression. She went to the shrine to join the devotees on February 20. The news story is here. This poem appeared first on 3 Quarks Daily  on February 23,...

Reflections / 05.01.2016

Last week I attended a memorial service and was impressed by the event. It was in stark contrast to our ceremonial mourning which, in a footnote in the Arabian Nights, Sir Richard Burton characterizes as “the visits of condolence and so forth which are long and terribly wearisome in the Moslem east.” Instead, the event was intended as a celebration of the full life of the deceased. Everyone in the audience who wished to offer a reflection was allowed time to do so and while none of them were truly inspiring, the purpose of sharing remembrances was fully served. There was, however, one recurring mention that finally began to strike me as incongruous – that the deceased had lived all his life in rented quarters, did not own a house, and had not accumulated any riches. I too had known the individual and was a member of...

Reflections / 04.07.2015

By Zulfikar Ghose The Sikh from Ambala in East Punjab, India, formerly in the British Empire, the Muslim from Sialkot in West Punjab, Pakistan, formerly British India, the Sikh boy and the Muslim boy are two of twenty such Sikhs and Muslims from East Punjab and West Punjab, which formerly were the Punjab, standing together in assembly, fearfully miming the words of a Christian hymn. Later, their firework voices explode in Punjabi until Mr Iqbal – which can be a Sikh name or a Muslim name, Mohammed Iqbal or Iqbal Singh – who comes from Jullundur in East Punjab but near enough to the border to be almost West Punjab, who is an expert in the archaic intonations of the Raj, until the three-piece suited Mr Iqbal gives a stiff-collared voice to his Punjabi command to shut their thick wet lips on the scattering sparks of their white Secondary Modern teeth. Mr Iqbal has come to London to teach English to Punjabi Sikhs and Muslims and has pinned up in his...