Monday, January 19, 2009

Ramachandra Guha on his Lahore trip

The historian Ramachandra Guha, author of India after Gandhi, writes about his recent Lahore trip here. A sample:
The day before I was due to depart for Lahore, a publisher friend sent me a story by a writer she referred to as "a sort of Pakistani R.K. Narayan". I read it on the flight, and found that for once a publisher had sold an author short. Through the character of an ordinary electrician, Daniyal Mueenuddin had uncovered the violence and callousness of everyday life in rural west Punjab of Pakistan.

True, the elegance of the prose matched that of the Mysore master. But the world was more brutal, and hence more credible.

However, the world I was about to enter was altogether more civil and genteel. Lahore is Pakistan’s most cultured city. In three intense days, I met a cross-section of Pakistan’s thinking classes—journalists, activists, lawyers and economists. Naturally, our talk was dominated by the tensions then prevailing. I sensed, among these sensitive and hospitable people, a triple fear: the fear of their city being overrun by Taliban-style fundamentalists; the fear of their government being taken over once more by the military; the fear that after the recent terror attacks, their country would be shunned and scorned by India, and the world.


Pallavi said...

Stories from diary got me thinking, that what it must be really like to live in every day fear and in victimized isolation and when rest of the world in talking about reaction from India and US for the recent attacks..fractured system to produce great literature is a very heavy price that the nation pays/will pay.

Hari said...

As you say, Pallavi, living in this fashion must be quite difficult. Pakistanis must be ruing their leadership, the army and interference by the US in 1980s, which has gotten them into this mess.