Monday, 27 July 2009






Nadeem Aslam became famous after the publication of ‘Maps for Lost Lovers’ in 2004. He had published ‘The Season of the Rainbirds’ in 19993. Born in Pakistan, Aslam now lives in England.

The story is about an honor killing that takes place in an unnamed English town. Jugnu and his lover Chanda have disappeared. Rumors abound in the close knit Pakistani community, and then on a snow covered morning Chanda’s brothers are arrested for their murder. The book tells the story that unfolds in the next twelve months.

‘Maps for Lost lovers’ opens the heart of a family at the crossroads of culture, community, nationality and religion, while expressing their personal pain in a language that is almost always poetic.

Honor killing is nothing new to sub continental readers, it keeps happening most of the time.
‘In this book, filled with stories of cruelty, injustice, bigotry and ignorance, love never steps out of the picture. It gleams on the edges of even the deepest wounds…A remarkable achievement.’ Kamila Shamsie, Guardian.

It needs great courage to turn one’s back on one’s culture and religion, as some of us would certainly understand. Some of us have gone through all this and perhaps more. As against people who show the courage to seek and find truth, there are those who dare not step out of the circle of religious and cultural bias, but live with their convictions, however tormenting life might be. It is this irony that is captured well in the ‘tender and vivid portrait of the strict Islamic mother, isolated by her unassailable belief.’ Alan Hollinghurst, Guardian.

‘It depicts an extraordinary panorama of life within a Muslim community…Thoughtful, revealing, lushly written and painful, this timely book deserves the widest audience.’ David Mitchell, Mail on Sunday.

Critics go breathless revealing the intricacies of this book. The telling commentary of expatriates in the UK is as disturbing as it is revealing. It is not coincidental that the story also depicts the clash of religion.

The story is exotic and is written in a nuanced language full of lyrical images. In fact, so thick are the interwoven imagery that the violence seems out of place and context. But as I completed reading the Map, I realized that if not for the lilting imagery, the brutalities pictured here might have been too much to digest. Though Aslam’s poetic language jars at times, I come to the conclusion that it was necessary, not because neither is violence restricted to the subcontinent nor to any community or religion throughout the history of humanity. As I look at it. History is the retelling of unimaginable cruelty practiced in the name of religion and ethnicity. As is evidenced from another book I am reading at present: FROM THE HOLY MOUNTAIN by WILLIAM DARYMPLE.

No religion is exempt from violence and bigotry.


P. S : As I completed reading Aslam’s ‘Maps for Lost Lovers’, there were reports that an honor killing had shook a village in Haryana, which is fast developing district in the northern region of India. Haryana was formerly a part of the Punjab Province, but later broke away as most people belonging to that area spoke Hindi rather than Punjabi. Punjab is the prosperous district on the Indo – Pakistan border, which had achieved self reliance in food decades ago. Their agricultural poweress are well documented. Their love for the good life, their good looks, their millions, and their zest for life also are well known. In matters regarding health too Punjab has come up brilliantly. Punjab is richest state in The Republic of India.

But this does not naturally mean that the state of Punjab is the best state of the Union. You might wonder why. Let me explain. Kerala has the highest literacy in the whole of India. Population growth stands at zero. Health indices are of world standards. Cleanliness is a way of life. But all this is wiped out when you realize that superstition and religious intolerance have slowly crept into the fabric of our society. Joblessness is rampant, as most of the IT related educated youths come from this rather small state, thus the ensuing high density of population. Kerala is a major tourist attraction, as its beaches and greenery are both exotic as well as industrious. Yet, the locals always stare at foreign tourists, worse, they harass them too. We may be tolerant towards other religions, but not to ethnic minorities. We are willing to practice only white collar jobs, but the moment the working class arrive from our neighboring states of Tamil Nadu, or Karnataka, we raise a hue and cry. It is very funny, as what the proletariat demands is the reverse of what you may imagine. They say why the Tamils should work for the less wages instead of the grossly upward swinging labor wages that we practice over here. Sikhs are hooted for their turbans, without understanding that they are practicing what their religion demands of them. The whole of South India is as different from the North as chalk and cheese. The country is so diverse that one cannot keep up with the several languages and cultures. There are twenty six official languages at the last count.

Being a secular and thriving democracy has its benefits. In fact, I firmly believe that it is this democratic and secular set up that has foisted India on to the world stage.


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