Lapata ka pata


Wednesday, April 20, 5pm

This Is Not That Dawn: A Book Launch Symposium on the English Translation of Yashpal’s Jhutha Sach.

Jhutha Sach (1958-1960) is widely considered to be one of the masterpieces of Hindi literature, the most enduring of all works penned by militant Indian novelist, Yashpal (1903-1976). The pubication of the novel’s much-anticipated English translation, This Is Not That Dawn, at last makes this important work available to a larger audience.

Please join the novel’s translator, Anand, and scholars of South Asian and comparative literature as they discuss the politics of translation, Hindi in the world literary marketplace and the legacies of India’s Partition in 1947.

With participants:

      Anand, Montreal-based journalist and translator of This Is Not That Dawn
  • Toral Gajarawala (NYU)
  • Bilal Hashmi (NYU)
  • Christi Merrill (University of Michigan)
  • Daisy Rockwell (Dartmouth College)

Location: 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor

You can see what Lapata thinks of Yashpal at her review on Bookslut.

Lahore Snaps XV: A City About Food

Fresh Berries in Lahore

Lahore, if you want to believe me, is a city about food. The second most popular gossip in Lahore is about specific sites/corners in the city and the specific foods available there. The first most popular being a vehement disagreement/challenge/let-us-go-RIGHT-NOW-and-SEE about that food-stuff. Or maybe, this is just my Lahore. I mentioned earlier that I have been reading memoirs of Lahore and it is seriously messing with my head. I know Lahore, intimately in some areas, cursorily in others; but I know Lahore. I can usually imagine any intersection, any particular cluster of shops or houses. As I read memoirs of Lahore (most concentrated on the 1940s and 50s), I began to notice some oddities in my recollections. I was somehow sublimating those memories as my own memories of Lahore.

Chai Khan

A. Hameed, noted writer, in his Lahore ki Yadeein (Memories of Lahore) (2000) describes drinking chai at Pak Tea House and a particular gentleman seated on the table over, who delightfully would lean over and openly eavesdrop on everyone’s conversation (everyone being people like Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and Ibn-e Insha). I swear I have that same memory. Except I am sure that I never met Qasmi or Insha. Almost certain, actually. There are other oddities – F. E. Chaudhry, one of the greatest news photographer of Pakistan, describes a meeting with Faiz Ahmed Faiz in the Pakistan Times office in his memoir Ab woh Lahore Kahan? (Now, Where is that Lahore?) (2009). I was there. I think.

Fish Being Cleaned by a Child. Look At Him.

My problems with memory seep into things other than Lahore. I mis-remember people. I forget that someone was funny. Or that I had already read something and that this spark of a misshapen “new” thought was really the blob of a half-memory. These things, the worry about these things, seem to prey on me only when I am not paying attention. Or when my attention is diverted by memoirs or by food.



The thing about food is, I am not actually a foodie or someone who cares a lot about gastronomic pleasures. All my food memories are people memories. All my taste-buds are conversation-buds. I like to be with my friends, my loved ones. I like to see them enjoy the food. Probably why I like cooking so much more.

So, when I say Lahore is a city about food – I am saying Lahore is a city where I like talking about food. That’s a quirk of my memory.

There will be more pictures of foods, but these are street pictures – taken hastily, in passing, walking, talking. Except for two meals which are documented in this series, I ate at home every day. I will post those later.

Pinjiri. I grew up eating this. God I need this. Everyday.

You can see a lot more street food on Flickr.

You can see earlier entries in the Lahore Snaps series here.

Nabi Bux Khan Baloch, 1917-2011

Belatedly, I have learned that the one of the most significant historian of Sindh, and one of the most meticulous historian in Pakistan, Nabi Bux Khan Baloch passed away on April 6, 2011. Almost every thing I have touched, directly related to my dissertation, was created, edited, compiled or reflected upon by Dr. Baloch. I have been arguing with him, through him, for this past decade. To my regret, I never got a chance to meet him. But as someone who is infinitely familiar with his vast Sindhi/early Islam bibliography, I can pay no greater tribute to a scholar than that he was exacting, precise and thorough in his handling of an archive that defies almost everyone. He was, quite possibly, the last of the greats in Pakistan’s historical field. We have already lost K K Aziz and Ahmad Hasan Dani.

Dr. Baloch’s crowning achievements are his works on Sindhi folk and sufi poetics and literature.

You can read a fuller description of his intellectual output here.

Political Animal

My new show, Political Animal, opens in White River Junction, VT, at the Main Street Museum this Friday, April 15th, 5-7 PM. Here is a sneak preview of what will be exhibited, for those of you who, ahem, might not be in the neighborhood.

First, the Inqilab series:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

And second, my series of paintings of Vladimir Putin and his alleged lady friend Alina Kabaeva:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Happy Birthday, CM!

April 8, 2004 is when CM was officially launched to an appreciative audience of well, a few. Here, I found the INITIAL EMAIL ANNOUNCEMENT! *BREAKING NEWS*

From: Manan Ahmed
Date: April 13, 2004 2:37:18 AM GMT+02:00
To: manan ahmed
Subject: Chapati Mystery

Dear all!

Pardon the mass email. It will be the last under the “cool” heading that most of you have been suffering from me in the past.
In that regard, I draw your attention to

this will be my home for a while.
hope to hear from you there.


ps. i am sepoy.

Cute, no?

In the next day or so, I will be posting a HUGE HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT. I would make it now but I don’t have the necessary graphic and you know how it is, without fotos, life is just bland.

I love you all, I love Lapata and Farangi and Patwari and everyone who has ever read and commented and shared and liked and spread a word of CM. It really has been an amazing experience and I will write more gushy stuff on this in the MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT etc.


Flash Fiction Contest: The Winner!

Our hardworking judge, the illustrious Kuzhali Manickavel, has pored long and hard over all the submissions for our flash fiction contest. She has selected one first place winner, and two entries are tied for second place. She found the decision very difficult and hopes that everyone enjoys the results. In first place, we have a story by Amitava Kumar, and in the two second places, we have stories by Sridala Swami and Mircea Raianu. Thanks to all for participating! We may have another contest soon, so watch this space. And here, again, is the prompt for the story, a tweet by @polgrim:

I was deep in conversation with an ambassador’s wife of an ‘x’ country over dinner when I get a text from Paris to tell me Egypt is free.

1. The winning story:

I am deep in conversation with an ambassador’s wife of ‘x’ country over dinner when I get a text from Paris to tell me Egypt is free.

Our conversation has been desultory so far: the stadium lights on the other side of Mathura Road, Lisbeth Salander’s charms, and now the naked woman on the Cycles Gladiator bottle the waiter has brought us.

In her husband’s company, she is serious; she is determined to be funny with me. I am twice divorced, I’m no longer in charge of the Ministry; it is her loneliness, a taste of melancholy in it, that makes her even try. I could cup her sad mouth.

The woman on the label, her fleshy rump and the fiery orange hair flying, is the subject of my companion’s strained disquisition.

I notice that she has deposited a drop of balsamic vinegar on my blackberry. But who can resist that slender wrist as it separates the salad from the baked salmon?

When I discreetly bring the tip of my napkin to my phone, it lights up and I read the text. I say to her “Mubarak is gone!” and in that moment know that I will have her tonight.

-By Amitava Kumar

2. Second Place Entry #1:

Hashtag HomeintheGround

Meet X: He’s just seceded from his family and now lives inside the garden sump. He’s working on a text-and-image creation using the mildew patterns on the walls.

Meet A: She’s here to bring X news of the world and ask why he doesn’t reply to SMSes. A has begun to wish there was a way to include hashtags in irl conversations for performance value.

A meets X as if she were a traveller in an antique land. He beckons her into what he calls his adobe.

— Where have you been? I’ve been texting you! Egypt is free! #Egypt #Jan25

— What did you just do with your hands?

— Never mind. Why are you living in the ground? And where d’you pee?

— Never mind where I pee! I wanted out of social media, ya. I’m making something that’s going to be, like, Bhimbetka. You want to see?

— What – that fungus on the walls? Un-hunh. Didn’t you hear me? Egypt is Free! #Egypt #Jan25

— You’re doing that thing with your hands again.

While A and X free-associate in the sump, meet Ammi: She’s buried in the garden, up to her neck, amongst the flowerpots. This is what she says: ‘Another heavenly day.’

-By Sridala Swami

3. Second Place Entry #2:

One day when I was two and a half years old, my mother took me to the park in a stroller. It was the park we always went to, hidden on a back street just off the main boulevard leading to University Square. As it happened, the park belonged to the University club, a small white building where students would gather, surrounded by dirt paths, empty stone fountains, and a few birch trees.

On our way home, a great mass of people moved quietly along the street, saying nothing. Some were holding white rags to soak up the blood, and some were being carried. I spent the rest of the evening in our apartment, while relatives came in and out to watch television, smoke cigarettes, and spin conspiracy theories. I don’t remember the crowds, or the old man on television who stumbled through the speech, got slightly confused, went behind a curtain and then climbed into a helicopter. Twenty years later, when I saw Hosni Mubarak walk up to the podium on my computer screen, I thought I would finally get to see an old man crumble. But he only left a few hours later, during the night, while I was sleeping.

-By Mircea Raianu

Lahore Snaps XIV: Trees

That Lahore, of late 80s, is no longer there. Neither is the Lahore of the 90s, or early 2000s. The city has changed, most rapidly, between 2002-2009 and further in the last few years. The roads have been widened, new beltways built, farm land confiscated by the Army and parceled out to its million-strong leeches, built to the height of urban horror and resold. Lahore is more a palimpsest than a city, and to scratch away the ugliness of the present, requires incessant trips to the libraries. I will, as this series on Lahore, enfolds, talk a lot more about such things. Perhaps too much and perhaps to no one listening.

I read some memoirs of Lahore recently and I did some walking on my own. It was good to breathe Lahore for longer than two weeks and it was good to visit parts I hadn’t visited in a long while. It was quite early in my trip that I stumbled upon trees as a way to scrap away the encroachments of present Lahore. My bike ride to my high school was marked by trees. As in, I marked my distance/time in relation to specific trees along the way, and sunlight that reflected through its leaves. It was one small ritual but it was effective. As I graduated to a car, and then to a motorbike, things changed. Still, the specific trees in specific streets, on specific times of the year remain inscribed in my mental map of Lahore.

This is one of those trees that I saw every day. In the summer, a chabhari walla sits under it, or used to, and sell jamon, or shatoot. For two rupees, he’d wrap em in a small torn piece of newspaper, and sprinkle atrocious amount of masala on it.
M M Alam Rd, Lahore

I remember this tree with much more dread. It is inside the compound of the Lahore Cantt Thana (police station). I went there a few times to get friends bailed, or to get myself some paperwork processed. None of those memories are pleasant. But look at this tree.

Lahore Cantt Thana

Leaving Lahore, I visited Uch Sharif for some manuscript/field work. There at a site where legend holds, Muhammad b. Qasim prayed, I saw this tree.
At the Tomb

You can see a lot more trees on Flickr.

You can see earlier entries in the Lahore Snaps series here.