Friday, January 18, 2013

Manto - a victim of LOC

The NAPA Repertory Company was in India this week to perform their play, MANTORAMA, at the Bharat Rang Mahotsav Festival, an annual event at the National School of Drama, New Delhi. 

Four hours before the performance, which was sold out (all 500 seats), the NAPA troupe was informed that their play will not go on as scheduled. 

So much has been going on in Pakistan at the moment that the incident at the LOC (line of control)and India's reaction to it has not made waves here. In India though, the case is different. Their media has blown this issue to such gigantic proportions that all bilateral relations between the two countries have come to a halt. We already know about the hockey players and the women's cricket team. But the arts and cultural activities, too, have come under attack. And it was this very reason that the NAPA Repertory was refused permission to stage their play.

It seems that the Indian media and Government conveniently used the LOC incident to sweep their own problems, especially the inefficiency of the Government to handle the grotesque rape case, under the carpet.

This whole episode seems like a chapter from Manto's stories or his life itself. During his lifetime he was persecuted for his stories. And even after his death, he remains the center of conflicts between the two countries. 

Poster: NAPA Repertory Theatre Official Page (Facebook)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Literary treasures of the past

From the pages of the Urdu literary magazine Seep (oyster shell), an illustration by Jamil Naqsh. This is from Issue no. 39,  April & May 1979. 

On the final eve of December last year...

...I jotted down notes to myself on a piece of ordinary lined paper.
The tone of each note varied. Some were admonishing, others forgiving. It was very difficult to write a few because they spelt guilt no matter what the words.
I didn’t stop writing till I had poured out all my unfulfilled dreams, my regrets, my sorrow and my helplessness.
Then I took this piece of ordinary lined paper and tore it, once, twice, thrice and then over and over again till there was nothing left.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

End the Silence

I am a Muslim.

But are you Shia or Sunni?

Does it matter?

Whenever I was asked this question in school, I tried to give a neutral answer. But some curious classmates won’t take a neutral answer. And then they asked the most bizarre questions. Do you sacrifice children during the month of Muharram? Or the red sherbet you sell outside Imambargahs, is it the blood of little boys and girls? I would laugh at these questions and tell them that the sherbet was certainly good old Rooh Afza and the only creatures we sacrificed in the name of religion were goats/cows/lambs etc., just like Sunni people on Bari Eid.

It doesn’t seem so any longer. Our sacrifice, in the name of religion, is not just limited to Eid-ul-Azha.

While thousands are protesting on Alamdar Road in Quetta beside their dead, the rest of us are going on with our lives. Imagine, for one horrific second, yourself standing in the cold beside the body of a loved one. It is something you will refuse to imagine. The old men in Quetta, fathers standing against the bodies of their young sons, never imagined it too.

They are Muslims.

They are Shia.

They are also Pakistanis.

And it seems that they are paying a price for all the above.

If we don’t raise our voice for them today, it shall be us tomorrow, regardless of our religion or beliefs.

Raise your voice against this injustice today, now. That is what matters most!