Identity / 28.08.2009

By Anjum Altaf I am reading Yehudi Menuhin’s autobiography (Unfinished Journey) and sharing with readers what appeals to me. These thoughts on nationalism I feel are particularly meaningful for South Asians. As a musician, well aware that art must have local roots if it is to convey universal meaning, I view evidences of cultural difference, even the perhaps insignificant ones I have cited, with approval as well as interest. The yearning to preserve a distinctive culture which sets the Basque against Madrid, the Scot against Westminster, the American Indian against Washington (however vastly these examples differ in degree), wins my sympathy. Undeniably the aspiration is legitimate and worthy. But is it possible, given human nature, to separate good from bad, the wish for cultural autonomy from the wish to impose one’s way of life on one’s neighbours?
Identity / 14.07.2009

A Pakistani journalist has recorded his observations from a visit to Sri Lanka. He has asked a lot of questions but not provided too many answers; and some of the answers can be debated. I am extracting parts of the article that are of interest to us and hoping that readers would enrich the arguments and fill in the gaps. On the regional bond: Everything told me this was still South Asia, that Colombo was not very different from Lahore, that somehow our regional bond held. Yet, something was very different, and I was struggling to pinpoint it. Note: Why do we feel this regional bond in Colombo but not in Bangkok or Teheran?
Identity / 17.04.2009

What have we learnt from this extended discourse on similarities and differences? It is time for a recap and a summary. We started with Vir Sanghvi’s angry pronouncement that Pakistanis and Indians were no longer similar; they may have been 60 years ago but by now ‘they’ were fundamentalist and ‘we’ were secular. There were immediate rejoinders to this burst of annoyance with hurt pronouncements of sharing the same music and the same sports. It became immediately obvious that there were two flaws with the framing of this discussion. First, human beings were not one thing or another; rather, they were better characterized as bundles of attributes. And it was quite possible for individuals to share some attributes and differ along others. To take a very simple example, Punjabis could share a language but differ in religion. Second, and because of that perspective, it became clear that one could...