Indian Muslims are ghettoed in Pakistan
Farzana Versey has brought out history through her travel fable that holds bare the social milieu enshrining the psychological vagaries of two nations torn asunder spewing expletives at each other. Her travelogue pours out emotional metamorphosis raked by sectarian mutagens. Slandering aplomb, serves well to pander the credulous mindset of the populace on either side. Riding roughshod in Pak, Frazana has spilled the beans over hollow societal edicts where the naïve have been mauled for populist measures. The daunting authoress, a non-practising mussalman traipsed perilous trails of Pakistan notwithstanding jeers and jibes hurled at her. About her religious conviction she says, ‘taking drags of existentialism, my gods were as ephemeral as smoke’.
While in Pakistan, Farzana pulsed a prejudiced view of India rammed down the grey cells of Pakistanis. A concocted picture of Indianness and Pakistanism exists in both Pakistan and India. Farzana points out, in India after the Mumbai Riots, Hindu traders had turned a volte-face towards her and Muslim-dominated areas like Bhindi Bazaar was tagged ‘mini-Pakistan’. A big dilemma confronted the Indian Muslims who ‘were disgusted with Pakistan even as they could not reconcile themselves to the idea of a Hindu India’. Indian Muslims are repulsed by the ‘Pakistani arrogance’. Farzana says, ‘the fact is they (such Pakistanis) do not even know the true value of Islam’. The Hindu mind too, is quite skewed like the Muslim contortionists. ‘She has gone to Pakistan ….to find herself’ is what even the erudite and high-class Hindus had to say in India. O tempora! O mores! Farzana made repeated trips to Pak but hushed it up – ‘There was trepidation…I was astride two worlds. ….There were times when I was made to feel like a rat that had left a sinking ship…I was the emotional mulatto….The intellectual eunuch….The fence-sitter’. She later adds, ‘I was getting divorced from my Hindu husband. I had not converted. …..I was battling with the identity question’ and at critical juncture Shujaat proposes to the writer and urges her to adopt Pakistan being a Muslim but at the same time reminds her of her kafir status. The author bangs out this hollowness. The poet meets Ahmed Faraz, ‘the greatest living Urdu poet. She describes his travails and tribulations that included incarceration on sedition charges. And this is what Muslims did to his own brethren!
Sanctimony has percolated deep in Pakistan society and rendered it a hollow society reeling under abject conditions. In a far flung Afghan refugee village she had met an elderly lady who ‘demonstrated how it (burqua) was worn, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. This is what amazed me – she found it funny’ but had to kowtow societal mores. An uptown lady in Islamabad told her, ‘we are becoming more westernized as a reaction. It embarrasses us to be identified with religion and madrassas’. She narrated that how in school they used to draw caricatures of the then prime minister who was pot-bellied and bearded. But yet a question fumbled out her, ‘Shouldn’t Pakistan be your country?’ The flipside of the society shows that entire Pakistan is glutted with Hindi Bollywood culture, scrambling for soap operas. There is an upsurge of maddening craze for it and many craving to become artists and stars in Bollywood.
The author’s sojourn has been hurtling a recording-projectile that traverses the mindscape of a varied menagerie of people to dovetail a jigsaw puzzle. The writer laments and lampoons the present thawed state of speciousness. ‘The geographical partition that took place has been replaced by a psychological partition….Today the divide is uncertain. Issues are created by misunderstandings. ‘ She throws up a pertinent question – ‘If terrorism is a creation of politics, then why do people on both sides react so vehemently? And is a common culture only about language, food, dress, looks? Does culture not include civility and the ability to let each other be? At the end, is it that the Indian Muslims feel stranded on a no-man’s land? Quite so, the book says, they are disdained and ostracized in both India and Pakistan as well. Farzana entwines the dichotomy of two estranged siblings of India and Pakistan. This irony of seeming converging divergence becomes engrossing for the reader and also a matter of shame for the people of the two countries.