19.5.08

A Journey Interrupted: Being Indian in Pakistan

I tore open the yellowish envelope in my hotel room. It carried the advance copies of my book. I just kept staring, as though it was about someone else, about something else. I ran my fingers over the cover…it is in the colours I like. How many times had I already seen it – while it was still being designed, when it was done, when it was modified a bit…yet, it looked new.

The publisher from Harper Collins called and said, “Happy reading.”

“I don’t want to read it,” I said with some nonchalance.

But I did…started looking for typos! But…as night fell and I read through I knew it was me. My ghost of those days haunting…

It should be out at the bookstores within a week. Here are a few glimpses of a bit of a bit…for those who have shared so many moments with me here…

The cover

The back-jacket blurb

'You need to be deported,' said the retired army general. What follows is not deportation but the beginning of an exploration. An exploration that is nuanced by the identity of the narrator: an Indian Muslim woman travelling alone in a space notoriously difficult to negotiate, vis-a-vis its history and politics.

From travelling in the cockpit of the PIA aircraft to having the door shut in her face by a born-again nationalist to attending parties in perfumed salons to examining the minorities; from being treated as a philistine to engaging in enlivening conversations with those who had to pay the price for dissent, the author attempts to understand what it means to live in Pakistan today.

In the course of her journey, at times interrupted, through the cities of Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar, Farzana Versey finds herself struggling with her own identity 'When I was on the soil of the land of the pure, my impurity struck me. I was the emotional mulatto,' she writes.

A Journey Interrupted is not your conventional travelogue. In the vignettes the author weaves together, of living and travelling in a complex society, the personal becomes the political. And the picture that emerges is of a changing nation with a unique mix of religious tradition and barely-in-check liberalism. In these times of political and social unrest in Pakistan, this is a timely book – one that delves into the Pakistani mind and traces the chasms in its recent history.

- - -

Contents

Acknowledgements

Prologue

The Indian Question – A Beginning

Section A: Cities, ruins, resurrection

1. Vestiges of Valhalla

2. Where phantoms walk

3. The haunted, the hunted

4. The First Frontier

Section B: Inside Outside

5. The Kafir Mussalman and the Confused Muslim

6. The Marginals

7. Changing faces, Static Masks

8. Dissent and Defence

9. Birth of a nationalist mullah

10. Soliloquists in a swarm

11. Falcons in the desert

Section C: The Pakistani Question

12. Jinnah to Jihad

13. Requiem

Epilogue

- - -

I think most of the chapter titles are self-explanatory, yet…

Section A: Deals with Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar respectively. Not a tourist brochure guide, okay? I wish I could say more…how about my encounter with a djinn? And why was I in the cockpit of the aircraft on my first trip? And the cops in my room…what happened?

Section B: It talks with the minorities – socio-economic, sexual, intellectual…essentially outsiders. There are also longish interviews with Ahmed Faraz, Ardeshir Cowasjee, Sheema Kermani, Pervez Hoodbhoy and a few others…we discussed the whole question of the Pakistani identity and not being Indian.

Section C: The primarily political chapters, but with some short interviews and quite a bit on Kashmir from both sides.

There are lots of conversations, and where Urdu is used I have retained it (with translations).

This is not an academic treatise although I have woven in several details. It does not read different from anything else I write, perhaps there is just more space, more time to ruminate: 299 pages, but readable font.

It is primarily from an Indian Muslim perspective and I should hope in however subtle a manner I have managed to debunk a few stereotypes that exist about both Pakistanis and the Indian Muslim 'affiliation'. This is about Pakistan, but it is also about India. It is about Them and Us. About Her/Him and Me. The Prologue, Introduction, and Epilogue are intensity personal and, yes, I have cried here too…

What more can I say? If you do pick up a copy, I would like honest feedback.

19 comments:

Mask said...

Look forward to reading it!

Pune S said...

FV:

My compliments. I am sure it is the first one in a long list of literary gems to be penned by you.

It has been a long wait. How do I order it on the internet and get it delivered at my current location?

Just curious, is the book being released internationally, including in Pakistan?

Congrats once again and did observe the new picture in the Closer Look at the blog!

Zeemax said...

Lovely, Farzana. Can't wait for it to arrive in Pakistan.

HP said...

Congratulations. Will certainly order it right away. Would it be available in the US?
Would you allow some comments on the book or a discussion? It sure would be fun to see Pakistan from an Indians perspective....

Anonymous said...

Is it going to be released in Pakistan as well, or do we have to rely on the smugglers...?

The layout and design look good. Hope to enjoy reading it.

...SR

kb said...

The contents are attractive and we don't expect any less from you.

Looking eagerly to read it.

Shadowed Meanings said...

Funny, I was going to ask you about your book yesterday.

MM said...

Hope you stay back in the land of the pure..

FV said...

Thank you...Mask, Zeemax, KB, SM...

PS: There are agencies that do internet transactions...and I am told that the publishers are planning to start some such thing at least for India. Will keep you in the loop.

SR: It will reach Pakistan since they do have a distribution network. Liberty and Paramount, I believe.

HP: Right now its availability in the US would depend on the Net route, although if you do end up ordering make sure it is not the wrong book...Amazon has put up some other book with me as the author months ago. The ISBN # of 'Journey' is 9788172237554...

"Would you allow some comments on the book or a discussion? It sure would be fun to see Pakistan from an Indians perspective...."

Once in the public domain it becomes public...do remember this is IM perspective which is hugely different, lots of baggage here...

manzar said...

Will buy and read it. PROMISE!!!
Bashir Manzar

Beej.Kumar@gmail.com said...

I would like to add my own two cents worth of encouragement and hope that your book is a smashing success and that it is only the first milestone in a series of many more outstanding ones!

FV said...

Manzar:

Thanks!!

BJ:

How can something be a smashing success if you only give two cents worth to it??!! Ok....thank you...I know you mean well

josh said...

We're all more than happy about this, than you'd care to think. Best wishes from heart!

FV said...

Josh:

Thank you...for imagining I can think!

For the rest...yes, of course...

Madiha said...

just checked it on amazon but no luck. too bad can't order it here in the US. please keep us posted once it is available. Eagerly looking forward to it.

Madiha said...

Hmm... I am not sure if I like the cover though. a bit on the cliched side with the bewildered woman in dupatta, also the white blob on the right is disturbing. then again, perhaps it looks that way online - web colors etc.

FV said...

Hi Madiha:

Seeing you after a while. Hope things are fun...

I have posted a sort of clue as to how you can get it!

Re. the cover, the lay reader seems to like it. A photographer friend did comment on the birds...since I have seen the copy, there is a problem with those birds because on the back flap the blurb at a couple of places becomes unreadable.

About the cliche of the woman, she is indeed a bewildered one...as you will discover. The dupatta I guess was to make it exotic and there are references to it a few times, especially in the Epilogue.

The colours are pretty much true to the web one and the white blob is just a mask.

I was asked if that woman is me. Itne bhi flat nahin ho gaye journey kar ke!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

FV said...

Anon:

This feels like a time machine...thanks. However, I like my old articles too because they brought me where I am. Loyal dogs, they call people like us.