Miscellaneous / 01.03.2012

By Hasan Altaf

One of the main differences between fiction and nonfiction might be, to use the phrase of writing workshops, between showing and telling: Fiction shows us other lives, what those other lives are like, how it might feel to be living those lives; the other tells us, laying out the context, the backstory, the rules of the game. Both forms are important, but fiction seems to me the more powerful, as stories speak to us at a more visceral level than do facts - to our emotions, rather than our intellect. There is overlap between the two genres, however, and while fiction can succeed without giving us the information of nonfiction, the strongest journalism is usually that which adopts the techniques of fiction to give us both story and background - some of Arundhati Roy's essays, for example, or Joan Didion's - that journalism which gives us both narrative and analysis, the question and some semblance of an answer.

Cities/Urban / 16.07.2011

By Anjum Altaf There are incidents in the lives of big cities that call for sorrow, but once the dust clears, no lamentation and no expression of sorrow can really do a city justice. A place that is home to millions deserves better. I aim to explore the meaning of Mumbai and then return to the salience of this latest incidence of violence in the frame of that larger context. The meaning of a city like Mumbai is mirrored in a million stories. Take one, that of the renowned music director Naushad. Born in Lucknow and obsessed with music, he was given the choice between his home and his passion by his father. Naushad ran away to Bombay; the rest is history.
Cities / 15.11.2010

By Anjum Altaf City size is back in fashion as a variable of interest and this time bigness is being viewed as an advantage. This is quite a change from the perspective that prevailed for years when countries, specially developing ones, were decidedly anti-urban and wished to retard migration to prevent cities from increasing in size. Size was seen as a handicap and served as an excuse to explain away the problems of big cities. How should we see Karachi in this new perspective? Of course, well-managed big cities have been around for a long time – Tokyo, New York and London are obvious examples. But somehow it was felt that such success could not be replicated in developing countries.
Cities/Urban / 15.11.2010

By Anjum Altaf City size is back in fashion as a variable of interest and this time bigness is being viewed as an advantage. This is quite a change from the perspective that prevailed for years when countries, specially developing ones, were decidedly anti-urban and wished to retard migration to prevent cities from increasing in size. Size was seen as a handicap and served as an excuse to explain away the problems of big cities. How should we see Karachi in this new perspective? Of course, well-managed big cities have been around for a long time – Tokyo, New York and London are obvious examples. But somehow it was felt that such success could not be replicated in developing countries.
Politics / 07.12.2008

Here we are at the beginning of life beyond Mumbai. We have expressed our feelings, described the situation, analyzed the problem, prescribed a response, and articulated a vision for the future. We have come out of this gut-wrenching process changed. A fundamental truth has dawned upon us. Today, in this twenty-first century, in this global village, it makes little sense to be Hindu or Muslim, Sikh or Buddhist, Catholic or Protestant, Black or White. What matters only is whether you are for terrorism or against terrorism. If we make a false choice here, Hindus and Muslims along with all the others would go up in a ball of smoke. There are attributes of individuals that unite them in a common humanity and those that divide them into quarreling tribes. Terrorists can strike because we are divided; terrorists will thrive if we are divided yet again. There is a personal...

Politics / 06.12.2008

We have stood up and we have been counted. And despite all the caveats and all the filters, there are still many more non-terrorists than there are terrorists. So, how do we translate these numbers into the strength we need to STOP TERRORISM NOW? Isn’t it obvious? We have to recognize each other. Then we have to reach out and hold each other by the hand. We have to project a resolve so impregnable that a terrorist would think many times before he or she would hurl himself or herself against it. And we have to work together to drain the swamps that feed the fevered causes of terrorism in our homes. All this cannot be done in a day and yet we do not have too many days to lose. We need to begin small and have a plan to get big fast. Here is the contribution of...

Politics / 05.12.2008

There is a huge wave of anger, frustration, and fear welling up in South Asia. Will this wave peter out only to arise again after the next incident of terrorism? Will it spiral out of control, plunging our region into further chaos and doing even more damage than terrorism alone could have achieved? Or will it be channeled into a force that would move us to a better and more secure future? To some extent the outcome will depend on what we, the citizens of South Asia, do or do not do today. Let me propose a two-step agenda: turning in and reaching out. In this post I will elaborate the first of the two steps. We have to begin by asking ourselves a simple question: Are we against terrorism or not? If we are, we have to be against terrorism wherever it exists, not just across the borders...

India / 28.11.2008

Mumbai is big but not as big as New York. 11/26 is huge but not as huge as 9/11. India is powerful but not as powerful as America.  What does this set of propositions tell us about how we should respond to 11/26 in Mumbai? Think it over. There are two choices. We can root out terrorists or we can root out terrorism. They are not the same. Powerful America responded to 9/11 in New York by vowing to root out terrorists. Pledging to get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, it launched the War on Terror. Seven years later, there are more terrorists than ever before, more Americans have died than in 9/11, the number of innocent victims has been lost count of, the entire world is in turmoil, and the economic and financial...