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.


Postcards from the Archive: Goodbye 2010

This 6th year of CM will go down in the annals of Chapatism, first and foremost, as a year of the renaissance sprung by Lapata’s posts – for which readers have the bureaucratic morass of academy, “the insane rants of an inflamed tea-partier”, and Sepoy’s badgering to thank – illuminating the particularities of partition or the reluctant feudalism of mango farmers, introducing CM readers to Naiyer Masud and Amitava Kumar, or providing a peep into Memon Sahib’s literary striptease, and culminating in The War and Peace of Hindi Literature!

Sepoy moved to Berlin but continued to bring readers reviews of the quality that they have come to expect from him; reviews such as that of William Dalrymple’s Nine Lives, Amitava Kumar’s A Foreigner, Fatima Bhutto’s Songs of Blood and Sword, and last but not the least, a takedown of a globe-trotter’s cartographic musings.

Some conversations that started in 2009 continued in 2010: amidst growing alienation, Faisal Shehzad became the face of a “Pakistan native;” Pakistan’s originary myth remained tied to spectacular events; Zaid Hamid was given thorough examination by a “so called Pakistani historian,” who also reflected upon the history of erasures and repressions that culminated in the horrific attack on an Ahmadi mosque in Lahore in “We Are All Ahmadi” series. In the year of catastrophic floods, the fires of hatred continued to burn (in) homistan, while the discussion amongst politicians remained focused on how to save the children.

Towards the end of the year, the major event at CM was Granta: Peccavistan (also reviewed by Lapata) and an exploration of the Cocoonistan from whence developmentalist discourse springs.

PS. Simon Digby and Tony Judt will be sorely missed.

PPS. Also see Syed Ahmed Khan and Urdu, and Basanti’s stellar review of Ishqiya.


I shall be traveling, talking, giving papers for the next three weeks. Friends and lovers in Chicago, Boston, New York and Madison are urged to get in touch. Others are wished well. Kindly look forward to posts – like a bunch of ’em! I promise.


Most years this date floats by, but thanks to the CM FAN PAGE ON FACEBOOK (!) I was reminded of that April afternoon six long years ago when I started to ruminate (ahem) on here.

On an escalator at AAS, one wag stated out loud, oh dude, I was reading CM when in high school. This would not have disturbed me, had said wag not just informed me that he was now writing his dissertation chapters. I let the moment pass since a full-blown histrionic fit on abhi to main jawan hoon would have just been unseemly. Then.

You, gentle readers, need to understand my profound gratitude – you have enabled me to host a singular space for dialogue, for mockery, for exposition. So much of “community” aspects of blogging have moved to social networks (and all of the linking has moved to twitter) that this space is almost a throwback. My own commitments have kept the postings sparse, in the last year or two. Blog is dead, they say – ok, I say.

But I like being contrarian. So, hereby I pledge to further the amazing renaissance Lapata has generated on CM recently; to introduce you to more refined sophistry; to be quaint in all the right ways; to keep the internet cafe meme going for all eternity.

I thank you.

The Sunday Paradigm

Creepy Sundays in Berlin are quiet affairs. The usual shops are all closed – groceries, pharmacies, booksellers, fruit vendors, bike shops, bakeries, discount stores. You get the picture. In some U-bahn stations, in some busy corners, there would be a lone bakery, a hold-out grocer. New Berliners, such as myself, collect these informational nugget, knowing that we will never have purchased enough milk or shampoo or toilet paper or sandwich bags on Saturday.

At first, I was bemused by this state. Sundays are a day of rest, my native informants told me. Yes, they are. I like to read my week’s worth of NewYorkers, RSS feeds, and watch the Bears/Flash Gordon on cable. That used to be my usual Sunday as well. Not necessarily “rest” but mindful inactivity. But, this closed businesses rankled me, a bit. I wasn’t living in some religious state, right? This was the heart of secular, capitalist EU where I oughta be able to buy some snacks and/or wine on Sunday. Then I learned that during the Advent calendar (four Sundays before Xmas), Berlin shops are all open. Yes! See, I told my native informants – here is consumerist world I recognize and love (and avoid): sidewalks crawling with overstuffed shopping bags and attached arms and legs, the best medley Mandy Moore ever sang with Paul Anka and five times the amount of perfume than is ever necessary wafting on every breath.

The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany decided on Dec 1st, 2009 that the Berlin ordinance allowing for the shops to be opened during the Advent calendar was unconstitutional. The suit was brought by the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg and the Archdioceses of Berlin and the Court accepted their argument that the abrogation of Sunday’s “restfulness” meant that the members of these churches could no longer have freedom of religious expression (ie. closed shops). Presumably, no other religion is laying a claim to a Sunday full of commercial activity. I really don’t understand the prezel logic.

The up-shot is that in another secular state, we the non-Christians, live under the tyranny (I know, too strong, but you catch my drift) of the theists.

Funnily enough, this is the same prezel logic that will have to define the implementation of the Swiss ban on minarets. After all, the might of the majority defining what constitutes proper architecture and what constitutes proper Sunday behavior are going to have to find similarly “secular” footholds in the Constitutions.

In a recent piece, Ian Buruma argues that the Swiss ban is less a sign of concern about Muslim religiosity and more a reflection on Europe’s own drift to socialist, atheist utopia:

Much has changed, thanks to global capitalism, European integration, the stigmatisation of national feeling by two catastrophic world wars, and, perhaps most importantly, the widespread loss of religious faith. Most of us live in a secular, liberal, disenchanted world. The lives of most Europeans are freer now than ever before. We are no longer told what to do or think by priests or our social superiors. When they try, we tend not to take any notice.

Hard to see where he gets that idea, isn’t it? Sure, the perception holds – and maybe those northies are indeed so free and disenchanted – but not here in Berlin, and certainly not in Switzerland.