Monday, March 03, 2008
Special – William Dalrymple’s Cool ‘n’ Sexy Pakistan
The best-selling author has finally fallen for the country.
[Compiled by Mayank Austen Soofi; picture of Karachi's Sea View beach by Green Effect]
Mr. William Dalrymple, a fellow Delhiwalla, traveled to Pakistan in February, 2008. I first went there in 2006. At that time I had very ‘Indian’ views about Pakistan (fundamentalists, terrorists, enemies…) and had to quickly revamp them as I continued traveling in the country. The result was this blogsite Pakistan Paindabad.
Like me, Mr. Dalrymple too traveled on the road from Lahore to Karachi. Instead of launching a dedicated blog, Mr. Dalrymple ended up writing this piece – Long Road to Freedom, Finally. Here are a few quotes lifted from Mr. Dalrymple’s story which proves the points made by this blogsite since its creation in 2006.
Failed State? Ha Ha Ha
The country I saw last week on a long road trip from Lahore down through rural Sindh to Karachi was very far from a failed State. Nor was it anything even approaching “the most dangerous country in the world… almost beyond repair” as the Spectator (among many others) recently suggested. Instead, as you travel around Pakistan today you can see the effects of the recent economic boom everywhere…
Young Lives, Cool Lives
Young people are speaking and dressing differently. The Vagina Monologues was recently performed on stage in Pakistan to standing ovations.
Around Town Chic
The cities of Pakistan, in particular, are fast changing beyond recognition. As in India, there is a burgeoning Pakistani fashion scene full of ambitious gay designers and some amazingly beautiful models.
Vibrant Literary Scene
There are also remarkable things happening in the world of books: as well as a fine crop of major non-fiction writers — Ahmed Rashid, Zahid Hussain and Ayesha Siddiqa at the front of the pack — there has been an amazing renaissance in English-language fiction, with fine writers like Kamila Shamsie, Nadeem Aslam, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Moni Mohsin, Ali Sethi and especially this year’s Booker short-listee, Mohsin Hamid, all for the first time giving their Indian counterparts a run for their money.
Ecstatic Economy, Almost
The Pakistani economy may currently be in difficulties, with fast rising inflation and shortages of gas, electricity and flour; but between 2002 and 2006, it had been growing almost as strongly as that of India. For five years, until the beginning of 2007, Pakistan enjoyed a construction and consumer boom, with growth approaching 8 percent and what was briefly the fastest-rising stock market in Asia.
By and large, the countryside I passed through was calm and beautiful, and not obviously less prosperous-looking than rural India. Indeed, the transport infrastructure of the country is in many ways better than India’s: Pakistan still has the best airports, motorway and road network in the region. Driving last week along the dual carriageways of Sindh, a week after bumping through rural Rajasthan, there was no comparison between the roads on either side of the border.
Rural Pak too is Hopeful
The Punjab is the most developed part of rural Pakistan; but even in backward Sindh there are signs of change.
That's why I say - Pakistan Paindabad!