Stranger to Wishmakers.

I’ve been meaning to blog. I really, really have.

Then I read Ali Sethi’s The Wishmaker. Not only did I waver between wanting to shoot myself or fall asleep at intervals while reading the book, but at the end of it, I fell into a pit of depression – godawfulbooks always do that to me; the recovery process from reading the first chapter of Aatish Taseer’s Stranger to History was an experience I’d like to forget. The book has no plot to speak of, and is just a collection of random incidents and impressions thrown together. I could go on and on about what I thought of the book, but I will take a shortcut and point you to a great review of Ali Sethi’s book that more or less echoes what I thought of the book, at Ultrabrown.

On the other hand, Baitullah Mehsud can finally be pronounced a dead man. Now we can continue arguing about whether the heir Hakimullah is dead as well, the increasing number of US drone strikes and their effectiveness, Rehman Malik’s mind boggling statements and Marvi Memon’s conspiracy theories [the latest one, via her Twitter feed: “Break in attempts in my office last nite! If govt is so desparate why don’t they chek website. It has all documents!”].

Or we can just start placing bets on the Champions Trophy semi-final and start the endless round of questions, to be followed by the usual round of recriminations if Pakistan loses. So will Pakistan win? Will KESC cooperate and not cut off our electricity just as Shahid Afridi’s bowling spell begins? Will there be a kiss, and who will be the lucky recipient? Will we spy Veena Malik [allegedly in South Africa according to a report cited by Cafe Pyala] in the stadium? And lastly, will Wasim Akram calm the fck down in the commentary box!?

  1. Dude, i know what you mean. Aatish Taseer has the ability to ramble on and on and on about the most inane things. Unfortunately, it was after I’d read more than half the book that I realized what a waste of time it was.

  2. Ambreen said:

    i think it runs in their family. moni mohsin’s book the age of innocence was torture too.

    it just runs in the family.

  3. Agastya Ikshvaku said:

    you’re just a bunch of oversensitive Pakistanis. And the reason you don’t like Taseer’s book is not that it’s boring; it’s not; it’s that it hurts…

  4. Annie said:

    actually Pakis really critical of selves. aatish’s book hurt because there’s so much to dislike here and he got it wrong on every front.

  5. Agastya Ikshvaku said:

    how can you say that? What could be truer than this scene? ready? From the Mango King section…

    The lieutenant, who had been sitting quietly on the edge of the veranda, now whispered slyly to me that he was a Rajput. This was another reference to the Hindu caste system, in this case a high caste. But the lieutenant didn’t know he spoke of caste. When I said to him that Islam, with its strong ideas of equality, forbade notions of caste, he became defensive and said that this was a matter of good and bad families.

    “If you can have Rajputs, then you can have choodas,” I said, using the derogatory word for “low caste.”

    “Of course you can have choodas,” the lieutenant replied.

    “Would you let your daughter marry one?”


    On the one hand, there was the rejection of India that made Pakistan possible, and on the other, India was overwhelmingly at play in the deepest affiliations of Pakistanis, sometimes without their knowing it. It made Pakistan a place in which everything just existed because it did, eroded haphazardly by inevitable change. The country’s roots, like some fearsome plumbing network, could never be examined to explain why something was the way it was, why the lieutenant, perhaps centuries after conversion, still thought of himself as a Rajput. And though I, with deep connections on both sides, could see the commonalities, they were not to be celebrated: we spoke instead of difference.

  6. Annie said:

    Thank you for reminding me that it’s not just skewed but also horribly drably written. There’s some very acerbic, trenchant criticism of Pakistan out there, I can recommend you some if you care?

    As a Pakistani with deep-rooted connections to India and Hindus (since the extract separates the two), I was unconvinced by the ill-researched, foot-stomping tantrum of a child wishing to attract his father’s attention.

  7. Agastya Ikshvaku said:

    Go on, Annie, a penny for your thoughts. I’d love to know what a hysterical mind like yours, clearly full of Pakistani insecurities, considers good writing or ‘acerbic, trenchant’ criticism of Pakistan.

    Besides, your explanation that the book is the tantrum of child trying to get his father’s attention is plainly ridiculous. Because Salman Taseer might be a big deal in the little world of Pakistan, but he certainly isn’t elsewhere. And in the dozen or so countries where Stranger to History is published, it is read not for the personal, but for how Taseer uses the personal to explain people like you, Annie.

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