Tag Archives: Pakistanis

From Alex Shams @seyyedreza: 70 years after Partition, still so many walls to be torn down

10 Nov

Beautiful scenes from the historic Sikh pilgrimage to Pakistan currently underway, after Pakistan opened a direct corridor from India’s border to one of Sikhism’s holiest sites

SikhEI_oKiPXkAASien1SikhEI_oKiUXUAE5aCySikhhEI_oKiTWkAEUE7zSikhEI_oKiTWwAAgfYh

Also make sure to check out the work Alex and company are doing at the @AjamMC and great photos and podcasts at Ajam Media Collective.  “Ajam” is the Arab exonym for Iran/Iranians/Persia/Persians.  The “other”– what Iranians were to Arabs — is inherent in the word.  So as a Muslim Indian friend said about @AjamMC : “It’s cool how they’re using ‘Ajam’ to signal a space for alteriority.”

I agree.

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Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Riz Ahmed, Immigration, Suketu Mehta and me, Identity Politics, and Varun and Sidharth’s “shining future”

21 Sep

riz-ahmedRiz Ahmed is the first man of Asian descent to win an acting Emmy Getty Images

Suketu Mehta’ conclusions in “This Land is Their Land” (see: Suketu Mehta in Foreign Policy addendum, whole text) echo some of my points on immigration in Greece, Britain, U.S. and everywhere (see: It’s immigration, “stupid”: the United States’ best-kept secret…streams of thought on a hot Sunday afternoon).

Me:

“It’s when immigrant/migrants/refugees are leaving that you should worry.

“My often-stated opinion that the West has both the resources and the historical obligation to take in every-body that needs and wants to come still holds.  That the European Union’s migration agreement with Turkey marked people fleeing a country in the condition of Afghanistan’s as “economic migrants” was a scandal.  But when you’ve got a problem with Poles — whit-er, better-educated, harder-working, more Christian, cuter, better-mannered and less binge-drinking than you — then you really do have a problem…

polish-scum

“America’s best-kept secret, despite what trailer trash Donald Trump and his crew tell you, is that immigrants are a self-selecting group of already highly motivated people who are connected and aware enough to have heard that things are better where you are.  And they’re not coming to take that from you; they’re coming to improve it.  They’re the A-list crew that crashes your party because they’ve heard your parties are the ones to crash and in the process makes them even more of the hottest ticket in town.  It’s a self-fufilling, auto-re-perpetuating process.

“New York, in other words.”

“Olympian Zeus, king of the gods, will tear your head off if you’re unwelcoming to the stranger — or worse, for a Greek, make you ugly — so you better watch out. He comes in disguise to test you. Like the angels to Abraham.”

“So…wooops…there they are. Here they come! They’ve arrived. And they’ve instantly made Greece a more interesting place. And interesting is strong. And strength is freedom.”

And Mehta:

“Countries that accept immigrants, like Canada, are doing better than countries that don’t, like Japan. But whether Trump or May or Orban likes it or not, immigrants will keep coming, to pursue happiness and a better life for their children. To the people who voted for them: Do not fear the newcomers. Many are young and will pay the pensions for the elderly, who are living longer than ever before. They will bring energy with them, for no one has more enterprise than someone who has left their distant home to make the difficult journey here, whether they’ve come legally or not. And given basic opportunities, they will be better behaved than the youth in the lands they move to, because immigrants in most countries have lower crime rates than the native-born. They will create jobs. They will cook and dance and write in new and exciting ways. They will make their new countries richer, in all senses of the word. The immigrant armada that is coming to your shores is actually a rescue fleet.[My emphases]

Was that one of the subtexts or even the skeletal structure of “The Night of…”, the brilliant mini-series and incredible ethnographic essay on New York from HBO for which Ahmed won his Emmy: good, criminally uninclined, son of hard-working Pakistani immigrant parents from Jackson Heights, with …a shining shining future
Sadda bright si (see full video at bottom), gets led to his doom by decadent white girl? or is he a good Muslim boy led astray by Hindu seductress disguised as lawyer who then screws herself in the process?  (I have to admit that the sexual scratch-marks on the back of Ahmed’s character, Naz, that come to light in one courtroom scene put me in mind of the Gita Govinda.)  Or more misogynist than that even: that women — period. — are trouble?

‘The Lovers Radha and Krishna in a Palm Grove’; miniature painting from the ‘Tehri Garhwal’ <i>Gita ­Govinda</i> (Song of the Cowherds), Punjab Hills, kingdom of Kangra or Guler, circa 1775–1780

Some of the frustrating contradictions of identity politics in the Washington Post‘s Riz Ahmed makes history as the first South Asian man to win an Emmy acting award.  If Riz Ahmed wants to not be type-cast as a Muslim or South Asian man every time he gets a role, but to eventually just play a character called “Dave”, then he’s going to need his fans’ help and have them not get apoplectically happy because he’s the first “Asian” (whatever that means) to win an Emmy, but because he’s a great actor who won an Emmy.

In the meantime, tabrik.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

From the Times: ‘At the Stroke of Midnight My Entire Family Was Displaced’

14 Aug
(Just going to lift this material in its entirety from The New York Times because it’s so beautiful and moving; it’s hard to find something of your own to say  — NB)

August marks the 70th anniversary of the end of British colonial rule in India and the creation of the two independent countries of India and Pakistan, carved along religious and political lines. More than 10 million people were uprooted. We asked readers how they or their families were affected. These are some of their stories.


The author’s mother, Rashida Begum, and father, Malik Fazal Haq, in photos taken around 10 years before partition. CreditCourtesy of Tariq Malik

‘Was he calling out for me?’

In 1947 I was 10. We lived in comfort in Jammu and Kashmir state.

We lost everything at the time of the creation of Pakistan. Things can be replaced, not lives.

My father, an intellectual and educationalist, was murdered. Eight of us crossed into Pakistan dressed in summer clothes and nothing else. Winter came and we had nothing to wear and no roof over our heads. By the following summer my feet had outgrown my shoes and I had to walk barefoot on scorching earth. My feet sometimes still feel that hot surface.

Even today I get nightmares about my father’s murder. As a physician I wonder how the end came. Was he in pain, was he cold, was he thirsty, was he calling out for me?

— Tariq Malik


Suman and Anand Khorana. Credit Dr. A. B. Khorana

‘My father recalled hiding in a Muslim family’s house’

My father, Anand B. Khorana, was about 10 years old at the time of partition. His father was a civil engineer and the whole family (my grandparents, father and his five siblings) had recently moved into a new home they built as a mark of their “middle-class” status. The oldest child, a daughter, had recently become engaged. The family had lived for generations in the state of Punjab and could not conceive of living any place else. As my late father told it, everyone had heard rumblings about the state being divided into a Pakistani half and an Indian half, but few thought it would happen imminently.

At the stroke of midnight my entire family was displaced. Their land and home were deemed to be on the Pakistani side and in a few days it was pretty clear that a Hindu family, regardless of their prior status, was in danger. I don’t know all the details but, unlike most families who decided to emigrate immediately (many losing their lives on the trains in the process), my father’s family went into hiding for a few months. My father recalled hiding in a Muslim family’s house (a former employee of my grandfather’s).

Eventually, things calmed down and the family made the trek to India and resettled, initially in Delhi in refugee quarters. My grandfather was able to find a job similar to his prior one. All of their property, including the house they had recently built, was lost but the family was grateful to have made it out alive — unlike so many others. The only person believed lost was the eldest daughter’s fiancé but, a year later, she spotted him at a train station in Delhi. They married and had several children.

— Alok A. Khorana


The Ghosh family, c. 1972. The author is in her father’s arms. CreditCourtesy of Madhushree Ghosh

‘We carried the heavy utensils, because we thought copper was more valuable than silver’

My parents were young when they walked from what’s now Bangladesh to India. Baba called East Pakistan “home” until he died in 2004. His family, landowners in Dhaka, fled with their belongings; copper utensils, large bowls, plates. He used to say, “We never needed anything, so we didn’t know the value of money. We carried the heavy utensils, because we thought copper was more valuable than silver. We were children, what were we to do?”

When Baba’s bank job moved him to New Delhi, he spent days recreating his childhood vegetable garden. Cabbage, cauliflower, peas, spinach, okra, we had it all. He used to say, “Our pumpkins were bigger than the sun!” and I would believe him. Everything in Bangladesh, the place he left, was better. The roses were more fragrant, the eggplants more purple, the fish were fresher — Delhi could never compete.

Ma was 12 when her family fled Barisal for Kolkata. They sold everything, including Ma’s favorite school books. She mourned those books until she died, in 2008. But she was proud that she hadn’t marked any of them with a pen or pencil. “They were pristine,” she would say, “so Thakur da could sell them at a premium. That money helped us escape.”

— Madhushree Ghosh


The author’s father and mother, c. 1960. CreditCourtesy of Peter Jones Jr.

‘My siblings and I have been effectively stateless’

My father’s family was part of the British colonial administration. During partition my father was in Pakistan attending school while the rest of his family was in Pune, India. As hostilities erupted between Hindus and Muslims, my father was cut off from his family. He couldn’t get British citizenship because most of his papers were lost during the upheaval. So, in the ’50s, he made his way to the United Arab Emirates by ship and started a family there.

My siblings and I have been effectively stateless. Although we are familiar with Indian and Pakistani culture, we belonged to neither culture. We grew up in the Middle East, in Dubai, among other Asians but could not identify with them.

— S. Jones


The author’s father and mother in the late ’40s/early ’50s.Credit

‘He would never forgive himself if anything happened to her’

When partition was announced, my father, who worked for the British Indian Government, was posted in Bombay. He was advised that as a Muslim he would have better career opportunities in Pakistan. He was asked to report to offices in Rawalpindi as soon as possible. He left and my mother, Rosy, who was 20, and their six-month-old daughter stayed behind until he could arrange for their accommodation. Because of the chaos he could not come back to get them, so he asked my mother to take a train to Lahore. On the train a Sikh gentleman noticed my mother alone with an infant and asked her where she was going. When she told him Lahore, he was shocked and told her about the massacres that were taking place on trains going to Pakistan — my mother and father hadn’t known.

He said he was traveling to Amritsar (30 miles from Lahore) but would accompany her to Wagah, a border town between India and Pakistan, because he would never forgive himself if anything happened to her. He told my mother that if anyone asked, she was his daughter. He thought her name, Rosy, was fine since it was secular. But my sister’s name, Shahina, was distinctly Muslim, so if anyone asked her name was Nina.

He stayed with them until Wagah and walked with them to the Pakistani border, kissed them both on their foreheads and told them he wished he could take them all the way to Lahore, but he would not make it back alive.

My sister, who lives in Karachi, is still called Nina by everyone in the family. My mother insisted on that.

— Sohail Murad


The author’s father, left, grandfather and grandmother, a few years after partition. CreditCourtesy of Kanwal Prakash Singh

‘We prayed as we imagined the worst. Almighty God had other plans.’

On Sept. 7, a bespectacled Sikh man, much like my father, was killed in town and a rumor spread that he had come to set fire to the local mosque.

The next day dislocated families from surrounding villages who had taken shelter in schoolyards, grain markets and other vulnerable locations were attacked. I can still hear the cries of people shot or stabbed outside the Gurdwara and the gunfire that began around 4 p.m., as the last train left the Jaranwala Railway Station, in Pakistan, and continued into the evening.

That night women and children were sheltering in a room on the second floor of the Gurdwara with instructions on what to do if the militia broke through the doors and entered the temple. The thought still gives me chills. The temperature outside was in the 90s Fahrenheit, but inside the heat was oppressive. Some men stayed on the main floor or on the rooftop lookout, armed with sticks, swords, a pistol and one double-barreled gun. We were certain our end was imminent. We prayed as we imagined the worst.

Almighty God had other plans. For the next three days we holed-up in the Gurdwara. Our ranks swelled with the addition of the injured who were able to escape. We heard rumors that we would be attacked on Sept. 12, after Friday prayers. But there was a knock at the giant door of the temple around 10 a.m. and four Sikh military officers ordered us to leave in ten minutes and said they would escort us to the caravan of refugees that was passing. Everyone scrambled and ran with the clothes on their backs, relieved and hopeful to live another day or die with others traveling toward the new border and sanctuary of India.

— Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh


‘I was probably the first member of my family to visit the home since 1947’

My father was a refugee and a migrant. As his child I have lived a peripatetic life, but have always been able to maintain connections with my family in Pakistan. I lived in Aligarh while I was researching my dissertation and visited the home where my father and my grandmother were born. I met the son of the family who had migrated from Lahore and received the home as refugee property (though he had been born later, in independent India). I was probably the first member of my family to visit the home since 1947 and met people who remembered my family, who were known for their love of rooftop kite flying. The family who lives there now sent homemade sweets for me to take to my Pakistani family.

— Amber Abbas


My parents with me in Calcutta at my Mundan ceremony, c. 1954. 

‘He spent days carrying two Muslims from the East to the West’

My mother’s younger brother lived in Jammu and must have been a lad of 15 at the time of the partition. He was aware of the mass violence around him, but he did not take up arms and perpetuate the violence. He was a strong swimmer, and he spent days carrying two Muslims from the East to the West and then two Hindus from the West to the East on his shoulders — back and forth. My uncle’s story reminds me that people can stop the cycle of violence.

— Ripudaman Malhotra


The author’s father, left, and grandfather. CreditCourtesy of Ritesh Batra

‘It was not a national tragedy for him, but a very personal one’

My paternal grandfather and grandmother moved to Bombay during partition with their two little sons. I shared a room with my grandfather growing up and heard stories of how things were before and silences about what happened during. In his last year my grandfather would often weep about partition. It was not a national tragedy for him, but a very personal one.

My maternal grandfather moved to Lucknow in India at the height of the violence. They lost many cousins and relations, but the immediate family made it safely. He restarted an optical shop called Lahore Opticals, named after the city of his birth, and became successful. When Hindu-Muslim strife breaks out in India, the shop is invariably targeted. But my grandfather never changed the name. His shop is now run by my uncle and is still named after the city they fled, now in Pakistan.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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The Pakistani cab-drivers and Hanuman

15 Oct

Taxi-cabs-New-York-0986

I had a seriously annoying Pakistani cab-driver a few days before I left New York in September.

He saw my “Jai Bajrang Bali” tattoo to Hanuman (for those who don’t know: Hanuman) and he said:

“What that say on your arm?”

I said: “It says ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’”, which is a praise-phrase for Hanuman that I think roughly means: ‘Hail, strong one’ (He’s the patron deity of wrestlers and strength athletes generally and I got it in prep for going back to judo.)

“You know about Hanuman?  You read about him?”

“Yeah…” seeing where this was going.

“You Hindu?”

“No”

“So why you Hindu on your arm?”

“Because Hanuman is important to me.”

“So why don’t you become Hindu?”

“Well,” I said kind of testily, “you can’t become Hindu.  You can observe Hindu practices or show some reverence for Hindu deities, but you’re born Hindu, with a very specific place in the cosmic order, with a varna and a caste and a gotra and its particular deity/deities that you’re devoted to and very particular and varied rites or ritual obligations that you’re subject too.  You can’t really convert to Hinduism…in my opinion, at least, despite lots of white people who think they can.”

Silence.

A little bit out of his depth at this point.

“You Jewish?”

(Of course, right?)

“No, I’m Christian technically, Greek Orthodox.”

“If you Christian, how come you have Hindu on your arm?”

“Well,” I said, “that’s probably a little hard for a Muslim to understand.”

And that ended the conversation.

But I shit y’all not, two days later I had the same conversation with another one.  This one ended more abruptly.  When we got to the part about how one can’t “become” Hindu, he started telling me that Islam is very simple and that to become a Muslim is very simple.  “You want to become Muslim, it’s very simple.”

But instead of saying…

“Yes, I imagine the appeal of all totalizing and authoritarian ideologies has always been their ‘simplicity.’  ‘Come with us — it’s simple…’”

…I just said: “Oh, well then maybe I’ll think about it.”

I don’t think he knew what to make of that one.

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See also: “For Hanuman-ji and the Pakistani cab-drivers: Aditya Kapoor’s beautiful photo essay of a wrestling akhara in Benares

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Athens = homogeneity? = racist? = just boring…?

19 May

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere she is, the gigantic poured-grey-cement Balkan village of five million people: who all think alike, look alike, act alike, talk alike and can’t agree on anything.  Απολαύστε την.  (Double-click to take in all the rich architectural detail.)

Sorry, I was just thinking to myself about what parts of my Balkan trip I needed to post next; people who kindly gave me interviews or let me photograph them and how I have to get on it…  And, how I’ve been wasting my time engaged in a running war with everyone in Athens to prove basic things like the fact that Albanians are a tall, extremely attractive people.  People in mono-cultural societies say the most deafeningly racist crap — you can’t imagine.  If one more person smirked at me when I said: “You know, Tirane is actually kind of a nice city…” things would’ve ended badly.  If it weren’t so offensive, it’d be fun to hear ignorance trumpetted with such certainty.  But it is.  Good timing to head to Istanbul.  Where I can’t understand the racist crap people are probably saying.

And I thought to myself, what? is it going on twenty-five years now that Athenians have been freaking out about immigration?  And it doesn’t seem to have crossed the brain of even the most intelligent or open-minded Athenian’s to make that an asset for the city and not a “scary” liability.  Where is this immigrant Athens?  In all these years, malaka, not one person has said to me: “Yo, Niko, there’s apparently this great Pakistani place in Patissia; you wanna go check it out?”  Everyone knows I’m into South Asia.  “Wanna go to the laike (market) on Saturday in Kypsele and see the stuff the Afghans sell?”

Or, all these tens of thousands of single, alone and lonely Albanian men…  There must me some woman somewhere they hire to make them börek or baklavadhes for bayramia and namedays and things.  Like the Mexican women who make tamales for parties in New York.  Where is she?  Where are they?  In New York she’d have a full front-page spread on the “Metro” or the “Food and Wine” sections of the Times and she’d be taking orders from Upper East Side ladies by now and have her own thriving business.

All the cement-cave-dwellers have had sushi though — without exception mediocre and psychotically over-priced…

Provincials, vlachadera, isolationists…μικροαστά, petit bourgeois συχαşιάρεδες…

Taco stand on Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, Queens, about five blocks from where I grew up, where for three to five dollars you can have a full meal of some of the freshest, most complex tastes of any of the world’s cuisines.  I know Athenians who have been coming to New York for years and who I haven’t been able to convince to try one of these places even once.taco-cart-99th-and-roosevelt

Actually, what I’d really love to do is bring a Kurdish kid home to New York with me from Istanbul with a big tepsi of stuffed mussels and watch him become a millionaire.  I don’t know where I’d set him up first though: Astoria? Sunnyside? or straight to Manhattan? or Long Beach or somewhere?  Or get him a booth at the Italian summer festival circuit…

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Midye2Smstuffedmussel0001

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Turkey gets a pass?

11 Jul

I was thinking it must be a relief for the Neo-Greek mind (because as for heart and soul, there’s not much to be said these days) to have someone other than Turkey to blame for their Statelet’s social chaos, political ridiculousness, economic void, failed cultural delusions and its people’s spiritual ugliness and childishness.

“They said, ‘You’re the cause of Greece’s problems. You have seven days to close or we’ll burn your shop — and we’ll burn you,’” said Mohammed Irfan, right, a legal Pakistani immigrant who owns a hair salon and two other stores. When Mr. Irfan called the police for help, he said, the officer who answered laughed and said they did not have time to come to the aid of immigrants like him.

(Eirini Vourloumis for the International Herald Tribune)

You can read the whole Times here.  Oh, but no…maybe it’s the Times — that New York Jewish rag, that has always tried to make the Statelet look bad.

“You’re the cause of Greece’s problems…,malaka…  Can they get any more delusional?

 

Some sympathy for NYC cab drivers

10 Jul

The description in this Times article of the exploitative nineteenth-century style racket these guys are subject to makes you think again about how much they can piss you off sometimes: the pressures they work under, why they can be so nasty, why they drive the way they do; the frustration must be unbearable; you almost want to compare their plight to early twentieth-century textile workers.  What a third-world city this remains on so many levels; and I don’t mean immigrants; I mean how it uses and abuses them:

A few families have owned thousands of cabs since the Great Depression, or shortly thereafter. Each taxi must have a medallion affixed to its hood. There are fewer than 14,000 medallions, and the price for each has increased to $1 million from $275,000 in 2002.

A vastly profitable corporation, Medallion Financial, owned by the grandson of one of those original cab owners, provides financing for the medallions. It borrows at less than 1 percent and lends at 6 percent.

If a poor schlemiel falls behind? The city plays repo man and takes back the medallion.

It is a can’t-miss business plan.

Years ago, drivers didn’t have to rent their cabs, and they didn’t pay for gas. They split their daily proceeds with garage owners. Slow nights hurt both.

Now drivers are “independent contractors,” which is a winsome way of saying owners transferred risk onto their backs.

If it is a slow night in August, and a driver limps home after 12 hours with $30, too bad.

Just make that lease payment.

“It’s sharecropping economics, and it only works for the plantation owner,” [my emphasis] said Edward Rogoff, a professor at Baruch College, and himself a former cabby.

 

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