Everything popular is wrong,’ in our land these words by Oscar Wilde haunt few ‘renegades’ who’ve been ‘led astray’ by forgotten, condemned, relegated to fringes authors and historians. In this beloved, mad land of ours average lad and lass finds solace and much-needed distraction in singing to the tones of Milli Naghmas, celebrating Independence on top of their voices, and be merry in a patriotism-drenched atmosphere. For those who’ve read, and thus lived in their heads, the forgotten realities of partitions in the pithy observations of Manto’s short sketches, felt silent agony of individuals amidst collective chaos in long dream-like paragraphs of Quratulain Haider’s novels, lost all their illusions when confronted by gut-wrenching facts and figures of post- and pre-partition in history books written by K.K Aziz can never become the green and white wearing, slogan-chanting patriots who zealously celebrate Independence Day. Never.
Enter Pakistan, a land divided between those who ‘know’ that sacrifices of a generation gave them their beloved country they so passionately love and those who are ‘haunted’ by all the screams, rotten corpses, bloodshed caused by man against man to acquire a piece of land that turned out ot be anything but the one that was Promised.
The journey, to the latter, looked like one from inferno to pandemonium. They are the ones who’ve abandoned a cozy life under a constant pall of comforting illusions, peppered with hopes of a better future just ‘around the corner’.
They, the renegades, hear Partition of Subcontinent every time they listen to Independence Day. Their memories refuse to give in to newer, lush realities flooded by green and white. Their doubts, once sowed in the dark of night where they once read the partition literature and unlearned all they’ve been told in Pakistan Studies syllabus and by elders, can’t be snatched away from them. They, for better or worse, are scarred for life by the tales lived in vain, by stories that ended in blood and gore, by lives that were cut short because human savagery was allowed to rule and reign without check.
Three score years and a decade after Independence of Pakistan/Partition of Subcontinent-choose your pick- I decided to go down the memory lane and fished out Bitter Fruit, an anthology of Saadat Hassan Manto’s writings ranging from short stories, sketches, letters, and jottings along with Akhir-e-shab kaey humsafr by Quratulain Haider, a novel depicting the turbulent Bengal during pre-partition era and during the era preceding turmoil in East Pakistan that ended in emergence of Bangladesh.
And our Sisyphean cycle continues to this day. Every decade since independence a Naya Pakistan pops up. In 50’s it was Ayub Khan’s Revolution, In late 60’s early 70’s it was Bhutto’s Inquilaab, In early 80’s Zia Ul Haq promised us a Pure, Islamic Land, a decade later Dear Mush’s ‘Enlightened Moderation’ found its allies in MMA and died a slow, painful death.
Enter latest Messiah in a land that is graveyard of dashed hopes.
If Manto and Quratulain Haider along with other ‘weavers of worlds’ through words are to be believed. Our fate won’t be any different. As per them we are Naeem, the main protagonist of Udaas Naslain (The Weary Generations) by Abdullah Hussain who came to Pakistan and was never heard of and seen again. We are Deepali Sarkar, Yasmeen, Rehan, Rozi Banner Ji and Charles Barlow of Akhir-e-Shab kaey Humsafar (Fellow wayfarers of the last night) by Qurat-Ul-Ain Haider who have been tamed by the time and circumstance, who were made to shed their revolutionary ideas in favor of a decent living and a steady career. We are Ustaad Mangoo of Manto’s Naya Ayain (New Constitution) who keep on paying dearly for his silliness to mistake ‘new’ (read Naya) for ‘better’. We are Teetawal kaey Kuttay who are fair game and good sport to boredom-struck, heartless powers-that-be whose only concern is to perpetuate the greater good of Fatherland.
We will live our forgotten realities, for the simple reason that we’ve forgotten them in the first place. And there is simply ‘No Exit’.