27.8.08

Listen to me read...

Two podcast extracts. Click download to listen:

icon for podpress  A Journey interrupted and Sec Walking Download

Podcast of Farzana Versey’s book, A Journey Interrupted, and Sec Walking by My Morning Jacket.

(From  http://www.ideajugglers.com/)

Readers' expressions

As I said elsewhere, even before the formal launch, readers’ letters had started trickling in. Readers I did not know, have never met. A couple have visited my blog; the rest had to ‘search’ me. This makes it all the more touching.

The book has got fairly interesting reviews. But this – from people buying a copy, going through it, specifying page numbers and even a typo…I only know that if you touch people and reach out to them, then you have lodged yourself in their memories, their emotions, their conflicts. It could be ordinary things or deeper ones.

Here are a few excerpts from the notes, and one from a blog (Locations of the writers are Jaipur, Hyderabad, UP, UAE, Canada, USA in no particular order):

* * *

Dear Ms Versey,

I have recently gone through 'A Journey Interrupted', here in Jaipur. I do hope you will not mind my making a couple of critical observations regarding the work.

Reading it was all about trying to decipher your reflections, in parts at least. They came across as opaque to the average reader. Your style reminds one of the style of Naipaul--the actions and utterances of unconnected individuals are employed to generalise or illustrate the ambience. I think that is not an adequate basis to analyse a people or a country's mood in its generality. You do not introduce us to the Baluchi angst. I wonder whether a Baluch at all considers himself as having a 'Pakistani' identity!

* * *

I loved the book, Its nice. Starts of soft... vanilla types, engrossing.... but gets serious and captivating towards the latter part. The transformation is invisible, the sublime move from soft to serious is artistically superior. simply put... well placed, well edited.

Every word is worth being read. This book is basically meant for anybody wanting to know of Pak, Its culture, heritage, lifestyle, politics et al.

To be frank; My expectations from the book were much more, I expected hard realities, more space devoted to politics and terrorism with an intense FV touch.

I got the FV touch in a few places like, tears streaming down your cheeks... liftman etc (xii). Then again, We embraced like long-lost sisters (128), I uncovered my head and threw my arms... (277)…

My expectations from this book were, that you propel yourself from an anti-establishment columnist to an Indo-Pak expert, joining the likes of Linda Heard, Patrick Seale who are Middle-Eastern experts.

This is your first book, I am sure when we talk about it after another book of yours by then you will be an Indo-Pak expert and that will be the time when the entire world will be looking at India.

* * *

Sound like Indian psychops propaganda. Pakistan an amputation? Sounds like Mohandas Gandhi. United India was an imperial project. There were close to 500 principalities and states, all brutally annexed under the gun by Patel and his gang. His heritage continues in Gujarat where Muslims are burnt alive So glad about that 'amputation.'.India was never one country. Now India is a political entity ruled from Delhi. It is as if Germany were to declare itself Europe. Let us stay with Bharat.

Please don't give us concocted Congressite Islam. Pleasee...

* * *

At the beginning, I was not liking it much, though I found it extremely readable. I then felt you were deliberately trying to paint a dark picture of a country to which you went with a prior text. But as I crossed the half way barrier - until then I was rather uncomfortable - I began feeling dragged into it forcefully. And it was sheer delight all the way to the end and the end was so very apt and thoughtful.

The picture of the author that emerged from the pages is indeed fascinating, or must I say intriguing. And the identity pangs that you revealed are quite familiar turf for me. These are stray thoughts I am penning down soon after finishing the book. It is a fine narrative, very readable, and it touches upon some of the interesting aspects of a society on the brink of fragmentation.

I remain intrigued by the persona of the author now more than before, because she defies to be pigeon-holed into categories.

* * *

Hi Farzana,

I am sure you have a lot of people giving you warranted and unwarranted critiques of your work. And so here goes another unsolicited one. I started out reading three books at the same time. I finished yours first, because the more I read it, the more I felt absorbed and intrigued by your reasoning and mind flow.

When I read your book, I get the impression that the two solitudes (Hindu and Muslim) cannot and should not meet in an idealized and cooked up manner or fashion. It would be forced. That any "peacenik" notions are a fantasy and a deeper understanding of the cultural ethos of the two "nations" (I am not yet talking about Pakistan, just the two nations within India) is necessary before the external trappings of peace and harmony are implemented or attempted.

When I left India, I left with the understanding that Muslims and Hindus and other religions must develop class bonds and it is class affiliation that would determine the peaceful understanding between the two communities. When I went abroad, I started meeting Pakistanis for the first time. Every Pakistani I met suggested that they were like "us". Hinduism gives you a feeling of idolatry and Muslims seemed so much more dignified. I met and got friendly with different hues of Pakistanis. Exiled left wingers and working class.

The Manto segment was brilliant. He is like Lenny Bruce. I love him. Toba Tek Singh is awesome. I have never met a Saqlain…but I know of them. I have been going over your book a few times. I am distressed somewhere, which makes me pick it up again. I don't believe in text book peace. I still feel the raison d├ętre for Pakistan has become

India-hating and insular and having been manipulated by both the Wahabi Saudis and the Old US imperial shenanigans, Pakistan has very little unifying force, other than enmity towards India. Pakistan is torn apart by tribal sensibilities, foreign Islamic influences, backward feudal macho cultural traits and a generally non-industrial

folklore. Not helpful.

I found your style refreshingly different, very streaming and great to read—and disturbingly switching in and out…but I realized that it was written with a hundred emotions flowing all together and so I understand it. It is sometimes like a net-discourse. Besides I am very big on creating a new language for ourselves" if we can.

* * *

Her journeys are reflective of the changing geopolitical landscape with the 9/11, NATO in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Gujarat, Karachi, Lal Masjid and many other incidents impacting the period of her reportage. Against this fast-changing backdrop, she grapples with the conflicts between societies, politics, nationalities, religions and genders; these conflicts play out in her interactions across a wide section of society on a “foreign” land. She meets their cultural icons and ventures out into other unexplored nooks and corners of that “land of the pure”– gays, junkies and other minorities and even artists, as they jostle for space on the periphery of the society.

…The author is brutally honest and disarmingly frank in dealing with her often conflicting anxieties tugging her in different directions. It is disconcerting, many a times surprising, and at times even shocking as she bares her inner emotions and relates them to her experiences. All this while, there is an implicit attempt to clean the cobwebs of confusion in her minds. Despite chartering such a wide territory during a tumultuous period, most of the questions she raises and others ask of her remain unanswered at the end of the book. Probably, it is unwise to seek destinations when only the journey and the exploration en route matters.

In any case, the author is a rebel, a non-conformist, a maverick, essentially a recusant, an intellectual beatnik, an iconoclast– all rolled into one. She is equally scathing on the right-wing Hindu fundamentalists, as she is on the Mullahs, or on the US imperialism and even tougher on the Wagah candle-lighting peaceniks. Her clash of identities- of religion, culture, gender and nationality- makes for a potent concoction when blended with her independent take on all issues.


26.8.08

M.V.Kamath on A Journey Interrupted

Just as writers do, reviewers too come with their own baggages.

Here we are not talking about just any reviewer; it is M.V. Kamath, stalwart, who covered World War II, the Partition, the Emergency, the Bangladesh War and has met the topmost leaders, written several books.

Interesting...this appeared in the August 24 issue of The Free Press Journal...