This history is hindoo

Just wanted to note here that I taped a show with Worldview last week on Zaid Hamid. Apparently it was posted on the official Syed Zaid Hamid facebook group which generated a lot of comments. Some of the wise ones went over to the CPR site as well, and left comments. I gathered some choice ones. Now you can enjoy too:

Usman // Sunday, July 25, 2010 @ 12:56 PM

Mr. Manan and respected Host, you can’t even begin to perceive that being a patriotic Pakistani directly/indirectly links to the Islamic belief. Zaid Hamid’s followers are the school/college/university students that aren’t ignorant and have their own way of looking at things. You can not analyze current affairs happening in Pakistan while sitting out. Zionist Brahman Idiology is simply targeting the minorities in India which include and isn’t limited to Muslims. Manan Sahab, you better be prepared next time before being a guest on a show as a “historian”. No illusions being drawn by Zaid Hamid.. you are just ignorant and are unable to view events on a larger scale. Our GOAL is the Re-establishment of Khilafah. Ahmadis have been declared non-Muslim by the fiqah and aren’t even allowed to enter Mecca.

u illiterate pathetic so called Pakistani historian. Im sure u wouldnt even know when did the Pakistan movement started

this fake manan ahmed is infact india hindo, only acting as pakistani. chicago radio you should be ashmed of yourself.

Mr. Mannan is a bad bad historian & even a worse “Analyst” of situation on ground in Pakistan.


I will update this with other hospitalities in the war zone as I encounter more data points. Others please contribute.

Date 2007-02-07 00:00:00

Following the formal discussion, they set a table of finger foods and chi [sic]. We continued to talk discussing more personal histories and the two officers were very open and candid. We took a group photo (they had taken several of us already while we were sitting there) and then left the way we came.

Date 2007-02-08 15:21:00

The Pakmil were very hospitable, they were on time at the border and transported the party to Chaman Fort without event. At the fort they provided light refreshment with snacks and curry lunch with music post meeting.

Date 2007-04-16 10:15:00

Atmospherics: (reception of HCA, reactions to ANSF and Coalition forces, etc): All villagers/elders were extremely pleased with the products that we gave to them along. Only the elder didnt want his village taking the products. He personally blamed George Bush for his AK-47 being taken from him. He doesnt want us to give stuff to his village because of fear from the enemy punishing him. He did say he would take money though. Only about 6 kids came out to get stuff. We gave some stuff for the women of the village too.

Make Humans Again

Sonam Kachru, a dear friend and colleague, gave us a beautifully rendered translation of Habba Khatun some days back. He has now finished an essay set to appear in Greater Kashmir containing a set of poems translated by him – along with the line drawings of Malik Sajad– which is part of a broader co-operative project. I will forward a link to you all when the issue goes up, but in the meantime, Sonam posted the essay on his blog and these bits have grabbed my attention, and refuse to let go. I am so very eager to see this project be fulfilled. It will change our worlds as only poetry can.

I can say that I did not translate or choose these poems with the headlines in mind. Neither these poems nor the larger project of which they are a part are intended as aesthetic opportunity in calamity. But the poems, I feel, are not entirely unrelated to our time. They are not unrelated in something like the way a frame is not unrelated to a picture, though it is not what the picture is about. Or, perhaps, they are not unrelated in the way environments are not unrelated to houses and those who build them to live. Some poems are not unlike rooms in houses built for certain climates; others make a climate for our times in which it is possible for us to go on to build. In the matter of fathoming our climate there is a quality of attention to be had in poetry distinct from the opportunities of a headline. We have been, these many generations, on fire, Moti Lal Saqi writes. So many fires, and this, our unholy normalcy, only one among the kinds of burning.

It is not in bad taste, I think, to celebrate words at a time when one is, to borrow a phrase from W. B. Yeats, painfully conscious of “polite, meaningless words.” For I think with Abdul Rahman Rahi that it is in the work of poetry that we are sensitized and offered a chance to go beyond our contentment or despair with degenerate speech and thought, our “empty shuttles threading wind.” I think what Amin Kamil says is true: “In a ruined city, a trembling heart is treasure,” and that often the heart is shown in a word that trembles, a word that is true. There are those who have yet to see, to hear this trembling. Even as we bring out our dead, we can and must show others what yet is alive with us, what else is endangered.

The range of these pieces is important to me. For these eight pieces are offered here as an invitation to a project entitled ‘Make Humans Again: Poems of Kashmir’. This project will contain more contemporary poems by more authors and, I sincerely hope, a parallel text in the form of the prodigiously talented Malik Sajad’s art. The project is an attempt to introduce something of an echo chamber in which to begin fathoming Kashmir’s many, very different voices, an ecology of sense—a fragile ecology, to adopt a biologist’s word—still largely unknown to too many. For a little too long Kashmir has been restricted to what can fill and not disquiet the honeymooner’s itinerary.

I have called the project ‘Make Humans Again,’ and spoken of what is made. I do not follow here only the Greek roots of the word ‘poetry’ in speaking of something to be made, nor only intend the Sanskrit conceit of the genius of poets making the world once again. I follow Dina Nath Nadim who said “I’ve got to make humans of Hindus and Muslims Again.” I do not know what it is to be human. It is fitting to recall what Nadim was later to sing to the tune of a folk melody (Yaa Shaah-i-Hamdaan): “Are even we human? Who says human?”, a piece where the only movement in a bleak landscape is the onset of winter, the persistence of Law, of hunger and those who still outrun it all. The piece ends–“Do you give a damn?I don’t give a damn.” I’d like to think of Nadim letting the matter of being human resound as an indefinite imperative, resisting the smug comforts of knowing or the despair of unknowing. So many times, and in so many ways, being human has been a question. (Kamil writes, “These must then be wraiths, These where Man, you say, we’ve yet to raise.”) We are not alone in being creatures that environ ourselves partly through our own efforts, but we are perhaps unique in taking for our materials such things as words. One thing made, unmade and made again in the curious intimacy of sound and sense that is poetry is our nature: as we are and as we yet might be. This is potentially the work and the redress of poetry.

The Reluctant Feudalist

An essay by Daisy Rockwell.

Har qatl di e jar
zan zamin zar

Three things for which we kill–
Land, women and gold.

Punjabi proverb (quoted at the beginning of Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders)

I. Gold

They have not the foggiest idea that they cannot tame him. Such a man belongs to no one and cannot be enlisted for a cause other than that lives up to the expectation of literature, which breathes in an autonomous realm all its own.
Muhammad Umar Memon on Manto, in an email to Lapata

The first time I read anything in Urdu beyond a child’s primer, I read “Toba Tek Singh” by Saadat Hasan Manto. A friend was helping me read Urdu, a very different experience from learning to read Hindi, when I hadn’t known the language at all. This time I knew the language well and had read the story in English. I’d always found it amusing, but my friend was doubled over, despite the fact that he had read it numerous times. He was barely able to help me. As I slowly sounded out each word, tears came to his eyes and he clutched his stomach. He didn’t care that I was making mistakes– he didn’t even seem to notice them.

“Toba Tek Singh” had always been presented to me as ironic, yes, but still an artifact one was meant to read somberly while pondering the tragedy of Partition. It was, in fact, much funnier in Urdu than in English. Translation can make wit ponderous, and though the English translations I had read were good enough, they somehow lost the antic frivolity of the pagalkhana mise-en-scène. In subsequent years after this side-splitting reading, I assigned the story, and a whole collection of Manto stories, to Partition literature classes again and again (an experience I also discuss here and here).

In those contexts, the story again lost its wit. After reading disturbing oral narratives such as those in Urvashi Butalia’s The Other Side of Silence, watching Earth and contemplating modern day communalism, the students were over-sensitized and worn out from the narratives of violence and trauma. Each time I told a class that the story was funny, was meant to be funny, that I had seen a grown man (whose own mother had migrated to Pakistan during the Partition) guffaw uncontrollably when it was read aloud to him, the students were disturbed, even offended. In reaction papers, I read that “Toba Tek Singh” was the sad story of the plight of the mentally ill after the Partition of India and Pakistan. And of course it was, in a way.
Continue reading “The Reluctant Feudalist”

Riddle Me This

Life is rather hectic, gentle readers, and I cannot promise anything here for another ten days or so. However, I promise that once life is returned to me, I will return to you with reports, opinions, excitement of various sorts. I lead you on, because I know you still have feelings for me.

In the meanwhile, here is a riddle. Below is an image from Punch, 1842. Can you guess the context, the jab, what in the world is going on?

State of Social Sciences

This is too important to ignore so y’all should go read UNESCO’s World Social Science Report 2010. The whole thing.

Still a quote for the peanut gallery, from Venni V. Krishna and Usha Krishna, “Social sciences in South Asia”, pp. 77-81.

There seems to be consensus among social scientists that, with a few exceptions, the quality of both teaching and research in social sciences is declining in South Asia. The accountability factor is virtually absent and peer evaluation systems are weak in publicly funded research institutions and universities. Social scientists and eminent scholars are seriously concerned, and via various forums, they have actively tried to draw policy-makers’ and the academic community’s attention to this neglect.

Compared with science and technology, the funding of social science research is marginal in the region as a whole. Within the region, India has the longest and strongest tradition of public funding for social science research. Nevertheless, even this has not been as high as desired in recent years. In the absence of adequate governmental support for social science research in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and to a lesser extent India, foreign agencies are increasingly playing a crucial role in funding, but also in determining the content and direction of research. The donor-driven shift towards Mode 2 knowledge production is causing social scientists in the region considerable concern. This calls for a serious commitment to increased public funding to encourage independent, objective research that could contribute to a better understanding of socio-economic and political trends in the region.

The declining status of research, poor funding and poor career options have combined to produce brain drain roblems in the region. Economics is the most affected discipline, as some of the most talented Indian and Pakistani economists work in foreign countries. Serious policy attention is needed to arrest the brain drain and attract the best students to social sciences.

Knowledge production is very unevenly distributed in the region. There is a wide knowledge gap between India and the smaller countries. Unlike these countries, India, with its large pool of intellectual capital, its institutional structures and its government support for social sciences, has been able to produce a mass of empirical knowledge, which has contributed to a better understanding of its society and culture. To some extent this knowledge has also been used by policy-makers for developmental purposes and to create a more just and participatory society. In comparison, social science research in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is still trying to establish a professional footprint. The bulk of research relating to these countries’ societal issues is undertaken by foreigners or by local scholars who have settled in the West. Thus, the nodal points from which knowledge is produced are located outside the countries, research is externally sponsored and the research agendas are imposed from abroad. This raises the issue of how far knowledge produced in this way can cater for local needs.