By Kabir Altaf
Pankaj Mishra's new book From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia (FSG 2012) describes the Asian response to the colonial encounter. The book covers the decades from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of World War II. Mishra argues that the West "has seen Asia through the narrow perspective of its own strategic and economic interests, leaving unexamined--and unimagined--the collective experiences and subjectivities of Asian peoples." His book does not attempt to replace this Eurocentric perspective with an Asia-centric one, but "seeks to open up multiple perspectives on the past and the present, convinced that the assumptions of Western power--increasingly untenable--are no longer a reliable vantage point and may even be dangerously misleading" (8).
By Bettina Robotka
First, a word about that unspeakable article of Hitchens. He obviously has never lived in Pakistan and doesn’t know anything about its people in reality. Part of his argument is emotional – an emotion that is negative, an emotion of ridiculing and contempt. Whosoever has lived in Pakistan knows that the people on the ground in their majority are neither humorless nor eager to take offense, but warm, hardworking, hospitable and very much tolerant. Actually I always thought that they are too tolerant, they should take offense much earlier. I think they are not very brave in the sense that they go and risk in order to fight injustice, but that is also related to the fact that they are not individuals who think and care only about themselves and that their right and welfare was most important but they are family people who feel responsible for those depending on them and would not want to endanger the welfare of the family for some abstract or concrete injustice. They have accepted me without much asking; have taken me into their custody though I was nobody to them. One should never analyze a society without knowing the sounds and smells of it.
By Anjum Altaf
The thought of any connection between Osama bin Laden and Gandhi would not have occurred to me were it not for a remark in the much talked about biography of the latter by Joseph Lelyveld. At one point in the book, I am told, Lelyveld writes that “it would be simply wrong, not to say grotesque, to set up Gandhi as any kind of precursor to bin Laden.” The remark piqued my curiosity especially given the fact that it was written before the recent discovery and elimination of Osama. Clearly, Lelyveld was not cashing in on a coincidence. So what was it that provoked the comparison even if it were to be dismissed?
Let me state my conclusion at the outset: the personalities bear no comparison but the contextual similarities highlight major political issues that bear exploration and attention.
By Kabir Altaf
Flora: You are an Indian artist, aren’t you? Stick up for yourself. Why do you like everything English?
Das: I do not like everything English.
Flora: Yes, you do. You’re enthralled. Chelsea, Bloomsbury, Oliver Twist, Goldflake cigarettes, Winsor and Newton… even painting in oils, that’s not Indian. You’re trying to paint me from my point of view instead of yours—what you think is my point of view. You deserve the bloody Empire!
(Tom Stoppard, Indian Ink, pg. 43)