Pegged on journalist Sameer Arshad Khatlani's visit to Pakistan, this book provides insights into the country beyond what we already know about it. These include details on the impact of India's soft power, thanks to Bollywood, and the remnants of Pakistan's multireligious past, and how it frittered away advantages of impressive growth in the first three decades of its existence by embracing religious conservatism.
The book profiles extraordinary people-lawyers, poets, musicians and even a former military chief-who stood up to an oppressive state. It has historical anecdotes, like the story of an ordinary woman who became the 'muse and mistress', and often the 'brains behind the regime of a swinging general' who led Pakistan to ignominy in the 1971 war, that of a Sikh family which dared to swim against the tide to stay back in Pakistan after Partition, and a prostitute's son who uses his art to humanize commercial sex workers in defiance of a conservative society.
The book attempts to present a contemporary portrait of Pakistan-where prohibition remains only on paper and one of the biggest taxpayers is a Parsee-owned brewery-as a complicated and conflicted country suspended between tradition and modernity.
...the book... is sure to be talked about for many years to come. Khatlani's book is modelled around his discovery of Lahore and its people. Each discovery follows the hub and spokes theory. Every discovery is the hub. And the stories that emanate from these hubs are the spokes. In this he touches all the right chords. There is the Bollywood connection, the history of the army and its ubiquity in Pakistani life, the cricket connection, the stories of shared miseries and standout acts of personal friendship, there is the story of alcohol and conservatism, the liberals of Pakistan and their sentimental pro-India politics, and the special story of minorities, especially the Sikhs.
...Khatlani shapes his narrative with great background stories, provides rich historical accounts, and at times manages searching insights into the intricate sentiments that guide the existing reality between the two nations. The Other Side of the Divide is an important intervention at a difficult time. ...Khatlani's book is an invaluable source of solace and possibilities.
The Other Side of the Divide: A Journey into the Heart of Pakistan manages to be a charming travelogue as well as a fine example of old school journalism that delves deeply into the troubled history between Indian and Pakistan, while providing balanced insights into the situation as it was and is. The Partition, which remains a suppurating wound, is a prickly subject and Khatlani treads lightly but does not shy away from the harsh truths either, making the reader wince at the painful memory of that dark time when so many were killed so senselessly. The book is also a fascinating history lesson on the circumstances that led to the Partition itself, its aftermath, the birth of Bangladesh, political intrigues and assassinations that shaped the violent history of Pakistan.
Leavened with humorous and sentimental tales about colourful characters such as Aqleem Akhtar aka General Rani, Pakistan's abiding love for Bollywood in general and Madhuri Dixit in particular, a shared passion for cricket that birthed an epic rivalry... the pages practically turn themselves.
By sharing heartening anecdotes about those individuals who distinguished themselves as shining examples of kindness, friendship and bravery on both sides of the contested boundary, the author does provide a salve of sorts for past hurts and offers a modicum of hope that India and Pakistan will someday set aside their differences and head towards a future brightened by friendship and shared ideals.
|Title:||TheOther Side of the Divide|