Know Thy Neighbour
IN INDIA ON A BOOK TOUR WITH HER FIRST NOVEL, THE FIESTY AUTHOR COUNTS DOWN THE NINE ESSENTIAL THINGS WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT OUR NEIGHBOUR ACROSS THE BORDER
On a book tour in India, Fatima Bhutto counts down the nine essential things we should know about Pakistan.
1 WE’RE THE WARMEST PEOPLE
Pakistanis are the warmest people you will ever meet. They will open their homes and their lives to strangers. I’ve travelled around the world but am yet to visit a country whose people are warmer.
2 WE HAVE A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOUR
The images you see about us are usually very sombre or serious but Pakistanis are very funny people. They have a great way of bringing light and humour to a situation. It’s not mean or vicious but a sarcastic and nuanced way of looking at life.
3 OUR WOMEN ARE INCREDIBLY BRAVE
If I can generalise, besides being beautiful and intelligent, Pakistani women are extremely brave. You have to be, if you are a woman living in a difficult environment.
4 WE PRAY TOGETHER
Sind, where I come from, has an incredibly diverse culture. It has a Hindu and Sufi culture. The people here, which include Parsis and Jains share saints and sacred places. When you travel around Sind you see the most beautiful shrines across the province. There are shrines in Dadu where Hindus and Muslims come to pray together.
5 5 POETRY IS BELOVED
We have a rich cannon of poets from Faiz Ahmed Faiz and the revolutionary poet Habib Jalib among many remarkable others. Poetry is beloved in Pakistan. It has always been a way for writers to express dissent or raise political voices and they manage to do it beautifully.
6 OUR MUSIC IS RADICAL
I don’t think anyone is doing the kind of creative, boundarybreaking music like Pakistani musicians are doing today. It’s pretty radical. They are really good at mixing up genres, whether it is classical with the modern and the traditional.
7 OUR DAY-TO-DAY LIVES ARE JUST LIKE YOURS
Pakistan is always depicted in the news like a James Bond film; there’s always something horrible happening. But in reality we live normal, often banal lives, just like you do in India. There is a lot of commonalities between our cities. As countries we are siblings and Mumbai and Karachi are twin cities. As are Delhi and Lahore. They are almost identical in atmosphere and vibe.
8 YOUTH CONNECT
Like India, we also have a huge youth population. The youth in Pakistan is very hopeful. They want harmony and to connect with their neighbours. They should have more opportunities to do so.
9 OUR WRITERS ARE BREAKING SILENCES
The new writing coming out of Pakistan is brave and is breaking silences and giving a new face to literature not just in Pakistan but across Asia.
WRITE STUFF: Bhutto was in New Delhi to promote her first work of fiction, TheShadowOf TheCrescent Moon. (Viking) Price 499, Pages 232