Stories about culture

Memories of Shikarpur, the Paris of Sindh

The news of a bomb-blast at an imambargah in Shikarpur rocked the nation on Friday. But the attack was particularly shocking for my family. They remember a different Shikarpur – a land of peace, tolerance and Sufism, a land once called the ‘Paris of Sindh’. Many a wars have been fought by people coveting dominion over the emerald city. In the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1841, Lieut. Postans describes Shikarpur as, “The most important town in the country of Sindh in point of trade, population and influence”. My father was born in Shikarpur, my grandfather was born in Shikarpur, as was his father ...

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Interfaith gestures: Moral placebos or progress?

On November 14, 2014, Muslims prayed at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. South Africa’s US Ambassador, Ebrahim Rasool, gave a sermon and declared that, “never again must there be intolerance towards Christians or any other faith,” and media observers heralded this breakthrough in interfaith relations, though not all cheered. The prayers were interrupted by a heckler screaming that America was “founded on Christian principles”. Reverend Franklin Graham described the event as “sad”. Dr Sebastian Gorka at Breitbart.com accused the Muslim Brotherhood of taking over the cathedral, inexplicably bringing in the Armenian genocide during the Ottoman Empire; all this in the ...

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Za Pakhtoon Yum: A mind-altering foray into Pukhtun life and culture

So far, our dramas have revolved around the vicious circle of poverty, a miserable daughter-in-law suffering at the hands of her evil in-laws, societal customs, dowry issues, giving birth to a male child or the perfect ‘rishta’ (proposal). Indeed these are issues which need to be addressed in dramas or movies, but there are other issues that require our attention as well. With the passage of time, we, Pakistanis, have come across many complex issues segregating our society into small groups, each intolerable for the other. We have issues ranging from the Shia-Sunni to the Punjabi-Pukhtun, anti-women empowerment to pro-women empowerment, even from the pro-Malala ...

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When a rape victim is ‘Outlawed in Pakistan’

Outlawed in Pakistan won an Emmy this year for Pakistan and this is a triumph that must be celebrated on many levels. Pulitzer Centre grantees Habiba Nosheen and Hilke Schellmann spent five years in making this 45-minute-long short film, exposing the inherently flawed justice system of Pakistan. It’s another addition to the success spree of alternate filmmaking in Pakistan, two years after Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won an Academy award for her documentary. It’s also an endeavour to bring forth the severe violation of women rights and how women, from extremely opposite social and economic backgrounds, work together to empower women all ...

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Mary Kom: A punch in the right direction

When you think of movies under the Sanjay Leela Bhansali banner, you think of epic romances, of the colours blue, grey, and black, of love and passion, and women dancing in the most extravagant of lehngas. But the last thing you would expect from a Bhansali movie is a story about a young girl trying her luck in the patriarchal field of sports. This is why the movie Mary Kom was pleasantly surprising. But Mary Kom coming from a big production house is not why I liked it. I liked it because of the following reasons: 1) It is a biopic. This kind of cinema is really inspirational and it ...

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‘The Wandering Falcon’: Understanding Balochistan, the literary way

Jamil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon cruised into my bucket list when it was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and Commonwealth Book Prize, but that was not the sole reason for it clicking with me. It was the debut work of the author at the age of 78 and was written long before we mired our stream of consciousness by replacing people with numbers and empathy with stock language for the tribal people of Pakistan. Penned down some 34 years ago, the work of fiction has become extremely relevant to the current global situation rampant with discourse of convenience. The short stories shot to ...

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‘You listen to music? Oh boy, you’re definitely going to hell!’

“You listen to songs, oh boy! You’re definitely going to hell.” No, this pronouncement was not received by me from an adult, neither from any religious preacher or maulvi, but from my eight-year-old nephew, who looked at me with disgust because he had seen a guitar, a piano and headphones in my room. His words froze me for a moment, not because they seemed harsh but because they came from an eight-year-old, who was taught intolerance towards those who do not seem to be on the right track by the source of his learning. In that moment I stood in shock, having been ...

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Remembering Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: The man who gave life to qawwali

There are some voices which are dependent on words in order to get heard and appreciated, and then there are those, self-sufficing ones, upon which words cease to exist – the unsurpassed ones. Words perish and what remains is the triad of voice, revelation and a standstill universe. Such is the case with Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. His voice has transcended the realm of words. “I am a peddler, wandering and roaming from one village to another, in the lanes of cities, in the countries of the world, offering the message of peace, wishing to continue to do so all ...

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An Indian in Pakistan

A simple white shalwar kameez, a pair of traditional Peshawari shoes and a black jacket. The packed hall of about 900 people exploded into thunderous cheers and a standing ovation. Young boys and girls jumped up with excitement, thumped their tables and filled the air with whistles. The welcome befitted a rock star. The man in white moved to the stage and commenced speaking. He spoke clearly, simply and in elegant Urdu; every member of the audience could understand him. His thoughts were crystal clear; he stood for a multi- cultural and secular framework, believed in a corruption free society, ...

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Pakistan ko ‘Dekh magar pyaar se’

As unusual as it may sound, for a while now, I haven’t been able to understand why we, in Pakistan, don’t flaunt the wonderful truck art we have. I, for one, absolutely love the art-on-the-wheel concept. As much as a common Pakistani takes pride in Faisal Mosque, Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque, I take pride in truck art. For me, it is not the architecture – built by foreigners before the idea of Pakistan was even conceived – that defines us, it is truck art that boasts of our vibrant personality which defines us perfectly. If the various personalities in Pakistan ...

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