Come Back, Ibn-e Eusuf

This is going to be a long explanation for why we will be posting something that is more than eighteen months out of date.

Some of you who have been with us for a while might remember A Modern Fable by Ibn-e Eusuf. We posted that in June 2008. We discovered Ibn-e, thought he was a good satirist, in the tradition of Manto and Ibn-e Insha, and gave him his first break in print (digital or otherwise) with A Modern Fable.

We had hoped Ibn-e would continue writing for us but we were right that he was good, with a razor sharp pen. He was immediately picked up by the Herald with an offer to reproduce A Modern Fable in their forthcoming issue (which they did). When Ibn-e asked our permission we were torn – Herald paid and we didn’t and Ibn-e needed the money. But we did warn Ibn-e that Herald was dicey despite having a very wise torch as an editor.

Our view was that although Herald bills itself as a magazine it is really an advertising supplement in which articles are used as padding to create space for the ads – seemingly serious articles appear sandwiched between ads for feminine hygiene aids and macho underarm deodorants. We asked Ibn-e if he really wanted to subject his very nice pieces to such indignity.

Well money is money and Ibn-e decided to lump the smells and it was really his choice. But what miffed us was that he gave the follow-up to A Modern Fable (Further Adventures of the Low and Flighty), which had been commissioned by us and to which we had the moral rights, to the Herald as well. As it turned out, although the wise torch glowed with appreciation, the management got cold feet and chickened out at the thought of their advertisers throwing a tantrum. And so, although they paid Ibn-e for the piece, they declined to print it.

To cut a long story short, Ibn-e came back to us but, for one, we were miffed (we too are human, after all) and, for another, the piece was now (we thought) out of date. And so there the matter rested – we had a very fine piece we had commissioned from a satirist we really liked but we wouldn’t run it and he wouldn’t write another till the old one saw the light of day.

We tried our best to convince Ibn-e to move on. We told him about Emily Dickinson (how much she wrote and how little she published), about JD Salinger (how he never worried about how little he wrote), and about Ghalib (how he tore up so much of what he wrote). But Ibn-e is young and hotheaded and immature. He will not write another until the old piece is published. And no one is going to publish it because it is too hot to handle – we don’t really blame the Herald management. But we really wanted (a now chastened) Ibn-e back (he realizes money isn’t everything). So what was to be done?

Well we took the old piece out of the (digital) drawer and gave it another once-over. And we still like it despite all the time that has elapsed. It really is a new era – the lion-turkey has fled and is squawking all over, shortcut deer has decamped with his treasures, a few Niis have morphed into Nos, Bushland has been cleared of evil darkness and, strange to say, a new darkness has brought some light into the laundry room. But still and all, it’s a whacking good read. And so we have decided to pay the price of running something old in order to get Ibn-e back. Like that odd poem by Faiz (Africa, Come Back), we say Ibn-e, Come Back:

I have caught the madness of your drum,
My wild blood beats and throbs with it – come,
Africa, come!
(Translation by Victor Kiernan)

We must forewarn readers that Ibn-e’s stuff is only for those who wallow deep in Pakistaniat – you have to rake over a lot of foul smelling stuff to discover the pearls. Pakistan (some say, Naoozobillah) is a lot like the MKK (that’s Michael Mohammed Knight, author of The Taqwacores, in case you don’t know) description of Islamic history: “a tradition that looks like fourteen centuries’ worth of turds heaped on a diamond.”

If you like that kind of stuff, please continue to remain patient while we dot the Noons with Ibn-e – we have to be sure he doesn’t serve up any more Noon Ghunnas.




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