Bilal Tanweer

Bilal Tanweer

A writer and translator who teaches creative writing at LUMS.

PTA – a correction

Last week, Pakistanis suffered some three minutes of unmitigated shock and awe. It occurred after the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) announced that it would not allow the mobile operators to carry text messages containing swear words. After registering some initial outrage, however, the nation broke into uncontrollable euphoria. It had to do with the list of swear words that the PTA issued to go with their directive. The list, in case you haven’t seen it yet, is spread over two documents (Urdu, English) and it has been researched, compiled and prepared by the PTA — May God bless them. Going through ...

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A short, myopic and utterly biased guide to bookstores in Lahore

Let me qualify this first: by ‘books’ I almost exclusively mean books of fiction and poetry — and my judgment of bookstores rests entirely on the said collections. So, go read some other column if you’re into politics or that kind of a thing. Just go away. (Also, I don’t discuss Urdu books here either; there will be another piece for that.)  Now let’s begin with the usual suspects, Ferozesons and Sang-e-Meel, which have traditionally provided shadier grounds for fiction lovers. Over the past few years, however, these two have fallen on hard times — and it seems to me, ...

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Our boys of Aalu Anday

Do you know how long it takes for kids to grow up in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? One and a half week. If you don’t believe me, listen to this story. It involves eggs, potatoes and three boys—and it’s scary. The three boys went to school together. They were best friends. One boy was extensively tall, one unsuitably short, and the last one was just fifteen. They were nice, proper boys who kept their hair neatly oiled and parted on the sides and their neckties on even in the sweltering Lahori heat. They were good boys in most ways—respectful ...

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In praise of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2011

In case you didn’t notice, it was the annual literary maelstrom last week. The Nobel Prize in Literature was handed to somebody, Tomas Tranströmer of Sweden. The announcement evoked a global response which entailed synchronised hair pulling, angry tweeting, cynical literary opining in the millions. On the whole, it turned out to be an entirely predictable show of hostility from a world of outraged readers. The ruling sentiments went something like this: “Oh right! So Roth/Murakami/Pynchon/Nadas/Adonis is going to lose out AGAIN to somebody I’ve not even heard of?” “Wait, are you saying, like, this guy Transformer-whatever, haha, his work is ...

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Dimple and Alexander

The movie Mere Brother ki Dulhan is full of twists and turns. In fact, it is so twisty that I am tempted to use the old chestnut that appears in about ninety-eight percent movie reviews in our papers: ‘a rollercoaster ride’ — except, this movie is really a donkey cart where the donkey routinely mistakes his own backside for his face. In the movie Katrina Kaif plays Dimple. But she’s not just any Dimple, she’s Dimple urf D, which means she’s free-spirited and spontaneous too. Someone who was born in London and bred there for 18 years before showing up ...

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September 15, 2011
TOPICS

The city of prose

Madiha Sattar, a writer based in Karachi, in her recent comment on the Karachi violence complained about ‘the mythology of the city’s not-so-distant golden past’ that is evoked whenever the times are dark and roads bloody:  Those of us not old enough to have worn hipster saris to nightclubs here in the 60s and 70s, are frequently subjected to misty-eyed reminiscing about a city that was once apparently safe, cosmopolitan and liberal, a magical place where one could drive around late without racing home to avoid a hold-up and people were far too polite and open-minded to be too fussed ...

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The amazing messages of Ali Azmat

I once saw a sign in an ice cream parlor: NO SUGAR FREE, NO FAT FREE—ONLY REAL ICE CREAM. IF YOU WANT NUTRITION, EAT CARROTS. This pretty much sums up how I feel about music videos/movies/poetry/novels/et cetera meant to convey messages. They are useless in terms of providing pleasure, which is what they are meant to do, and utterly rubbish for nutrition, which is what they are purporting to do. When I first heard that Ali Azmat has released a video called Bum Phatta, and knowing what we all know about him, I laughed for about a week. Then I took the risk ...

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Postcard from Dubai

You know, I really wouldn’t say another nasty thing about Dubai if I didn’t know a secret. Yes, it’s true. Dubai and other Gulf states which sear their bottoms on the desert sands have a dirty secret that doesn’t get publicised. And I am going to tell you what it is. To be fair, however, let me just say that there are really no points for you as a critic for singling out Dubai for criticism. Namely, because a. it is an easy target; and b. it doesn’t make a difference. And I agree. In fact, I think it is unfair to diss ...

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Poetry for monkeys

Do you know Mr Javed Chaudhry? You should if you don’t. He’s amazing. Recently, he was invited to speak to some students on ‘Relationships’(?). He kicked off the discussion with the claim that he is smarter than Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, et al. simply because they lived 5,000 or 3,000 years ago (both dates are wrong, actually). He said: “If we are not wearing 5,000 year old pants or using nail-cutters from so long ago, then why are we bothering with what those people thought or wrote?” After this hatchet job on Aristotle & Co’s longstanding reputation, Mr Chaudhry laid it into Darwin ...

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Uninspired grandmas, dusty fairytales

I don’t mean this to be a newsletter. In fact, I really mean to discuss a poem by Agha Shahid Ali, but a plug here and there does a reader only good. Besides, how else would you know there is a charming new fairytale out there waiting for you — or that there is a writer in this country who writes fairytales for a living? And to be fair, I am big on fairytales for another reason as well. You see, I am quite aware, given the evidence of evolutionary psychology, that irrespective of the stories we hear when young, ...

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