Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Daal mein Kuch Kaala Hain

Somebody needs to rechristen the 27th of December, "Let's lick Patrilineal Dynasty's balls" day. And no, the ballsiness of this message is not just gratuitous frustrating against our present political climate. It's literal. Think balls. Feudal egos. PPP prados. And surnames that are an easy ticket to an Oxbridge education. Think VIP. Think Bakhtwar saying: "Our party is like a family." Think entitlement. Enthronement. Ennoblement. Think over-wrought memorializing, an Olympic season since the day. 

And then, don't think at all. Because that's the easiest way to get through the suffocating observances of 27th December.

Whatever happened to honest, measured appraisals of office bearing political persons' careers? What of all the vehement liberal shout outs for human rights records and violations? Why the amnesiac refusal to be critical in our remembrances and exhume easily forgotten grievances? Should an undoubtedly tragic, unwarranted assassination automatically entitle one to canonization and conveniently absolve one of all error and fault? 

Posthumous revisionings of leaders need to admit alternative readings/interpretations. 

I appreciate cult of personality, I understand hero/ine worship and deification, I respect sentiments, I admire the sacrifices and struggles of partisan workers and the PPP's experience and expedience in party politics.  I am further schooled in popular culture and pop icons, but I will not understand the refusal to speak freely and openly of former leaders in public office.

If you're such a popular figure, then, with the flowers, you should also be ready to receive the thorns. It really is that simple. Call it tough love. 

The state and the PPP establishment have no right to coopt public office and render it a throne. The state must not be partisan. It's an OFFICE, not a Mahal, nor a Jamaat. The office stays. People/leaders come and go. Get over it, get on top of it and stay ahead of it. That's the spirit of service. The servicemen and women are never bigger than service, are never beyond service. 

If BB belonged to the Peoples Party (whatever that means), then surely, her so-called legacy and spoils of leadership are OURS to plunder, pillage and scrutinize. You gotta grant me my 10-110 % here!!! 

She belongs to the citizens she claims to serve, not only in their patronage, but also in their protest. If she belongs to me, and claims to represent me (a problematic idea in and of itself), then surely I should be able to (re)vision her as I will. 

Which is why the idea of a "People's" party is troublesome in the first place. When you're part of the feudal elite, everyone and anyone else can be lumped into the homogenizing category of "People" with condescending ease and remove. This is a convenient exercise too, for the people become the lowest common denominator as seen from the highest of vantage points. It's really never been about the people- it's been about peopledom. There's a cleavage here, one which Pakistan seems to be falling deeper and deeper into. So that ideas of empowering the people/the MANY are only refractions of ruling-class ideology/the FEW. The masses are made. Massification is a project, not unlike the nation-state. I think this Youtube user's comment serves to illustrate how precarious and fragile the term "people" really is: "i will never vote for you people, tum kia jano masoor ki daal kitnay ki milti hai." It is, perhaps unwittingly, disruptive of the People in the people's party. It is poised to question: Whose people yaara? Yours? Mine? Ours? WTF? Masoor ki daal.

In context of the PPP and trinitarian Baap-Beti-Beta Bhuttoisms at large, nothing is more elitist/exclusivist than claiming to speak for and galvanize the people ("masses") when you've been born into landed privilege. Nothing spells elitist reappropriation of apparently populist ideals, more. 

BB, you really were a remarkable woman. I just wish a greater spectrum of remarks would be engaged. 

So on this auspicious 4th Anniversary, also arbitrarily designated a National Holiday - like we don't get enough of those already- I will not contribute to preferred + privileged + dominant canonizing discourses and narratives. 

I will not keep my peace, nor dignified, politically correct silence. I shouldn't have to. 
That's what gravestones are for. And by the likes of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh's entombed legacies, some stones speak for themselves. And some are so boastful, so set, so erect, they silence dissident whisperings all together, and seem to make a second killing and heartier stuffing of fallen martyr.

If only those paying their respects would read more than just their Fatiah. 

Postscript; To the Lost

May you rest in peace. And May I, my mortal self, never find it in this life. 

No ease for me, in Sovereign peace. 
Make that an order of unrest, 
on the rocks please. 


This poster recasts the cover to Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" Penguin Books, 1980.
I thought the Mobius triangle would be a fitting way to convey the never-ending spiral of dynastic, in-house politics and symbolise the trinitarian extent of Bhuttoism, today. The PPP arrow might just as well be a bloodline, and a bloody one at that too. The Khaki shades reflect yet another presence in Pakistan's political history: that of the uniform, against whom democracy is sworn as "the best revenge", a vicious cycle all its own.


  1. While I agree broadly with the sentiment, I must ask - do you know what the price for Masoor ki daal is? And more importantly, does the change in it's price at all affect your life?

    I don't mean to attack you, and the points you make are not only pertinent, but breathlessly eloquent. But they say nothing about your place in this dynamic. The PPP supporter is unmoored from you and I and BB, but unlike us BB offers a spiritual release to him. And that sounds absurd (and it is) but it's an insight into how politics run beyond our rational discourses, and more pertinently, that we have a much smaller positive impact on his life and a much greater detrimental one.

  2. Thanks very much for your thought-provoking comment + the compliments. :)

    You're very right. I don't know the price of masoor ki daal. It's not of much consequence to me. That's a pointed observation.

    However, perhaps I am vindicated in that I am not an office bearer nor am I ruling on a public mandate. I don't claim to be representing the people or facilitating provision for their 'roti, kapra aur makaan.'

    Now that that's quite a cold & morally convenient argument. By that token, I can't be held accountable for my knowledge of masoor ki daal prices (or lack thereof).

    Interestingly enough, my attitude is one of elitist remove itself: I can afford to say these things. I can afford a certain aesthetic distance by virtue of the economic immunity I enjoy. Your comment was instructive in that it reminded me how these affordances are value-laden themselves, and riven with disparity.

    I would ask you, though, to reconsider the Post-Script to my piece. I feel it engages some aspect of your comment when it ends on a note of luxuriant (even passive) dissent. "An order of unrest" voices some of the contradictions you rightly point out, here. It's a conceit, and I mustn't think I'm above it. My counterparts and I are implicated in the politics of remove Pakistan has been subjugated to. I place my order, sit back, and drink to revolution. I demand revolution, but don't command it. I stir its promises in ice cubes and somewhere between the clink clank of dinner engagements and waxing lyrical on the merits of Faiz, I lose my potency.

    As for my place in the dynamic, sometimes I feel like I have none, Karachi Khatmal. Just take the medium of this piece, for instance. Does English have a place in the wider dynamic of Pakistan at all? So often I have felt, the limits of my world are the limits of my language. And this couldn't hold more true for the English speaking of Pakistan. If you had read this in Punjabi or Urdu, would that perhaps have given it some place in the dynamic? What do you think?

    Shaid meri daal mein bhee kuch kala hain. Kiya hum dekhain gay? Ya dekhtain hi rahay jain gay.

    Thank you for engaging with this. :)

  3. "As for my place in the dynamic, sometimes I feel like I have none..."

    I think the last four years of blogging that I've been doing have been spent trying to figure this out. On one hand, our power and wealth make it obvious that we have an overwhelming role in the situation. On the other hand, we feel that our language, our beliefs, our mannerisms make it difficult for us to weigh in on the mainstream. Politics offers the easiest recourse, as everyone in Pakistan has an opinion on it.

    I have been trying to give up on political discussion completely, unless it is thoughtful analysis (by the likes of umairjav, or fiverupees, or mosharrafzaidi and cyril almeida) because everything else reads like personal anguish and issues being delivered in political garb.

    As i said about your last post, and this one, you are a stunning writer. For that alone, your place in any dynamic is assured. But even if you weren't, you are a human living in Pakistan, ergo no matter what your class, creed, language, whatever, you are part of it.

    Politics need not be the only place for us to engage. I mean, if we must do so, by virtue of our education and power, we should do it honestly assessing our own role. Since that can get a bit tedious, I prefer to engage elsewhere - cricket, music, literature, pop culture, internet memes. There is a lot more to this country, and if people like you and me - the cool, affluent crowd - start appreciating things like Shaiby or Vital Signs or AwaisLovely or whatever, it helps create a sense of identity and belonging that all of us crave.