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Two great personalities, Abdus Salam’s death anniversary and Dilip Kumars’ birthday were commemorated recently in Pakistan. This was followed by the remembrance of the fall of Dhaka for us and Independence Day for Bangladesh. Abdus Salam’s anniversary went by unceremoniously, while Dilip Kumar’s birthday was enthusiastically celebrated. Dilip Kumar’s 90th birthday was seen as a noteworthy event and the date was monumental enough to take up formidable space in the newspapers. The total number of likes for these two columns was a colossal 4 likes and 3 tweets. Of the two different personalities, one chose self-exile and the other opted to remain in India. We take pride in producing artists, only when they have made a name for their artistic expression or scientific achievements outside the country.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.
-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.

Muslim actors, painters, poets, scientists, musicians, writers are successful in India. The examples of Dilip Kumar, Bollywood Khan actors, M.F. Hussain, Raza, Ghulam Rasool, Kaifi Azmi, Sahir Ludhianvi, A.R. Rehman, Rafi, Mehdi Hassan, Shakir Hussain, Mehboob Khan and ex-president Abdul Kalam are testimony to the prominence of Muslims across the border. Muslims excel in cultural, artistic and scientific fields in a country where they are in a minority. Talented Muslims tend to flourish outside the countries where they are a majority.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.
-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.

Before Partition, Lahore was the cultural capital of India. The successful artists, directors, poets, actors and musicians flocked to Lahore. Artists like Pran, Manto, Noorjehan started their careers from Lahore. Lahore was a hub of these activities because it was not a Muslim majority city. It was a city that had Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, besides Anglo Indians, Ahmadis and many more. This myriad of different faiths and races produced an environment of tolerance, and reciprocal learning. We might criticise Lord Macaulay’s education system and the Indian penal code but the British education system was secular and was not prepared to produced ideological minds and impose a singular identity.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.
-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.

The mystique of Lahore in India is still present because of pre partition image of Lahore. It was here where the first modern Indian artist, Amrita Sher Gill and Abdur Rehman Chughtai lived and were family friends. As Safdir Mir noted, Amrita Sher Gill looked for her artistic inspiration in modern Indian rural peasants, while Chughtai traced his artistic roots to the central Asian tradition of miniatures. Two modern Urdu poets, Iqbal and Faiz were products of the British era and were under attack from the Muslim clergy. One died before partition and the other was either incarcerated in Pakistan or lived in exile. Even a religious scholar like Abul Ala Maudoodi was a product of the British Raj. If he had written, ‘Khilafat aur Malokiat’ today, he would have lived in exile like his follower Javed Ahmad Ghamdi.

In Pakistan, sharia and not culture defines the identity of the country. Culture is looked at suspiciously as a vehicle of separate identity against the common identity of Muslims. By eliminating different cultural identities, sharia is considered as binding us into a single Muslim identity. The sharia enforced black veil is preferred over the culturally diverse head gears like shawls, chadders, dupattas and scarves.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.
-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.

After partition we deliberately tried to forge a singular identity based on religion and suppressed the different identities of Bengalis, Pashtuns, Balochis, Sindhis and Punjabis. We tried to impose a single identity on the culturally rich Bengal, the land of Tagore and artists of the caliber of Zainulabidin. This only resulted in losing the eastern wing of Pakistan. Here, we tried to kill culture by banning films, music and dance during Zia’s era. Later basant, classical dance, singing and dhol performances at sufi shrines (Shah Jamal) were obliterated, instead we had attacks on the Christian population, bomb blasts at Data Sahib’s and Baba Farid shrines to further decimate Pakistani culture. In India, BJP came to power for their appeal to a single identity of Hindutwa, we saw attacks on Indian Picasso, M.F. Husain, who later died in self-exile.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.
-Illustration by Sabir Nazar.

Similarly, the first Pakistani Nobel Prize Laureate Abdus Salam had to live in self-exile. Even religious scholars like Fazl-ur-Rehman and Daood Rahbar were forced to flee the country. Recently, Javed Ahmad Ghamdi fled the country and is now living in self-exile in Indonesia. The two greatest novelists of modern Urdu literature, Abdullah Hussain (udas naslain) are living in England, Quratulain Hyder (Aag ka darya) Ustad Bare Ghulamali Khan, Sahir Ludhianvi decided to move back to India. Writer and political activist Sajjad Zaheer was extradited to India and film Director Zia Sarhadi settled permanently in England. Saadat Hassan Manto and Saghar Siddique opted to stay in Pakistan and thus, face court trials and die in their early 40s. Zia Moyauddin and NaheedSiddiqui stayed outside Pakistan for most of their creative life. Recently, Adnan Sami decided to settle permanently in India. The first Pakistani pop singer, Nazia Hassan lived in England and shot to fame when she joined forces with Bollywood. Recently, we see new successful writers who are writing in English for international readers like Mohsin Hamid, Mohammad Hanif and Ali Farooq Qureshi. They are the brave souls who have moved to Pakistan, like Saghir and Manto. Lets see how Pakistan treats them.



The author left architecture for painting but ended up as a cartoonist and now writes Hijjo. He is the jack of all trades.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (52)

December 20, 2012 7:08 am
Solutions are written large provided you can read them.
December 20, 2012 4:18 am
Embrace the ideology of Abdul Kalam Azam , one of the foremost Islamic thinkers our sub continent has produced .
December 19, 2012 3:10 pm
Mr writer get your facts straight please...Mehdi hasan is indian from bollywood?
December 20, 2012 1:14 pm
Please do some homework & correct your facts. India always had very rich cultural heritage, but yes Muslims have contributed a great deal to this.
Imran Qasim
December 19, 2012 4:43 pm
Give some solution for this. We know all these things Thanks Imran Qasim
December 19, 2012 4:55 pm
Wah...Very well written. Loved the critic. Sadly its all true too. If we take the lens of religion off, we will not be able to dispute even a single fact. What a shame... Also sadly, I am a patriot who found the life in Pakistan too constricting and left for places that provided more room for self expression, and by God I have never looked back. I am happier than I ever was when I lived in the land of the not so pure....
December 20, 2012 4:53 am
Had Jinnah lived for a few years longer, Pakistan would have been a different country. If Jawaharlal Nehru didn't have a long tenure of 16 years, even India would have been worse off.
December 19, 2012 3:54 pm
Well written article. As a minority, Muslims wish to excel, but in a majority community a collective identity seems to shift focus. No question, the partition of India was a disaster
December 20, 2012 12:32 am
I guess you mean for Pakistan!
Farhat Khan
December 19, 2012 6:10 pm
More power to you and your pen !
Avik Ray
December 19, 2012 5:27 pm
Bottom line, its better to lift the border and be a powerful minority in a much larger country. It has been like that for thousands of years.
majid mukhtar
December 21, 2012 3:26 pm
i hope muhammad haneef and mohsin hamid stay in pakistan and produce more creative writing as they are doing, they are undoubtedly gifted, :)
December 19, 2012 6:22 pm
I agree
Sudhirendar Sharma
December 19, 2012 5:52 pm
Dear Sabir bhai,, Bhai Wah! You have stated stark reality. Cultural expression by definition is secular and need free environment to flourish. Well said! Sudhirendar Sharma New Delhi, India
December 19, 2012 5:55 pm
Dear Sabir bhai, Bhai Wah! You stated the start truth. Cultural expression by definition is secular which needs a free environment to flourish. Thanks for this wonderful write-up. Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Jamal Syed
December 19, 2012 6:04 pm
Excellent article! I will add Iftikhar Arif to the list as well.
December 19, 2012 6:03 pm
Indian Muslims are in a minority but barring the few usual Khans, they can hardly be called prosperous.
December 19, 2012 6:04 pm
As a Majority, why don't you take the time to learn the Successes of Muslims in Pakistan? A nation that formed with nothing to it's name. Everything from Military to Science, to Infrastructure had to be built on it's own. Moving forward from Arts, to Sports, to Sciences Pakistanis still in Pakistan have made incredible strides. The only difference is most of you couldn't be bothered to celebrate them or even be bothered enough to learn about them. You're too busy moaning while the reality passes you by.
December 20, 2012 12:50 pm
How heartbroken must have been those people. Some of them, like Prof. Abdus Salam, repeatedly came back to Pakistan and tried to live there. I wouldn't like even my worst enemy to suffer such enforced exile life.
December 20, 2012 4:34 am
I see the only difference between India and Pakistan is tolerance..
December 19, 2012 6:18 pm
In Kerala there is a forest temple shrine named Sabarimala. And the most often heard voice in this shrine is a a bhajan by a christian singer named K.J.Jesudas,
December 20, 2012 4:16 am
We in India need to appreciate the dangers of uniformity and singular cultural identity that communal parties preach . In India's diversity is our unity and strength .
December 19, 2012 10:06 pm
Urdu,sufi tradition are excellent example of secularism in prepartition india. The exclusivist tendencies creeped into socio political space in pakistan society has killed innovation tempararily. There is always a light at the end of tunnel, Hope this would be true for intellectuals in pakistan too.
December 19, 2012 6:34 pm
A society where State enforces an exclusive brand of religion on it's people is a society FRAGMENTED & DOOMED. Show me otherwise if you can?
December 20, 2012 8:23 am
Had there been no partition.. No kashmir issue, no Taliban, no terrorist attack, no Kargil war, no Taj attack, no blame on hiding OBL, no military supremacy........ ... bigger market for Bollywood... and greater opportunity for all and so on. But let us not live in dream. Both countries are separate . Let our Pakistani brothers live there happily.
December 20, 2012 8:23 am
agreed with the cartoons
adam memon
December 19, 2012 3:18 pm
Good article.Let us learn a lesson from it.
December 19, 2012 9:42 pm
Your ID cards are awesome. You Rock!
December 19, 2012 3:17 pm
very good Sabir, the illustrations are also super!
December 20, 2012 2:36 pm
When you talk about Dilip Kumar , why do you also include AR Rahman in the same vein? These both are opposite cases but reading the article gives a wrong impression. I hope you correct that.
Gulbagh Singh
December 20, 2012 1:12 am
I thank you very much for your truth and guts. Please stay safe.
Fida Sayani
December 20, 2012 1:52 am
it was created for Muslims, thanks to Gandhi, Nehru and Patel.
Great Thinker
December 20, 2012 2:52 am
Sabir: Probably this is the fundamental problem with Pakistani's. Everything is Muslim or "non-Muslim". Whatever the heck it means. Indians do not look at artists, scientists or itellectualls with a religion brush. The skill and talent matters foremost. The very fact that Dilip Kumar's birthday was celebrated with such pomp, but not Manmohan Singh or other "non-Musim" birthday's who have been born in what is now Pakistan is hilarious. If the title of your article were "Bollywood, *Pakistanis*, culture and exile", it would have had a different angle.
December 19, 2012 3:13 pm
No wonder in a nation created for Muslims, the people are getting killed in their mosques & dargahs.
December 19, 2012 4:00 pm
Facsism is our national policy although may not be the sate policy.
True Muslim
December 19, 2012 4:05 pm
Bollywood sells dreams .Producers, directors, actors, actresses make millions by producing song & dance movies, away from realities of life - while in India ,dreamers among slum dwellers, are easily trapped by the allure of silver screen, in Pakistan we are busy trying to decide what form of Islam makes a true Muslim. Someone asked a fish to describe heaven/paradise. Fish replied,"muddy river full of worms". to each his own.
Sikander Abbas
December 19, 2012 8:32 pm
you summed it real well. You should have finsihed your sentence by stating further that talented musllims (which are very few as compare to the jews and christians) are moving and settling in non-muslim countries.
December 19, 2012 8:49 pm
MF Hussain was very popular among Indians till late in his life. Only when he crossed the line of decency, he became controversial and thus a target of Hindu militants. There was no need for MF Husssain to draw paintings of Hindu Goddesses in nude which resulted in controversies, resulting him to flee out of India. If he had not crossed the line of decency, he would have lived a life full of respect and popularity in India.
December 20, 2012 9:06 am
Tell them not to over populate when there is nothing to eat. This is the reason why many poor muslims are a way behind. Thanks
December 20, 2012 9:08 am
wah..kya bata kahi hai..awesum
December 20, 2012 9:10 am
You have. No idea. Check Kerala State. They are more prosperous than Hindus and Christiians
December 20, 2012 9:24 am
Absolutely right. So many educated indian muslims are doing very well all over the country.
Suren Singh Sahni
December 20, 2012 10:47 am
Muslims have enriched and energised Indian culture art science and education beyond calculation. Without their contribution India would be very poor and barren. But above all they are Indians and human beings.
December 20, 2012 4:56 pm
Flawed article. The author lists almost all the Pakistanis who left the country and excelled elsewhere but does not mention the thousands who stayed behind and contributed in their respective fields. Are the handful of people he actually mentions the only ones who have done anything substantial?
December 21, 2012 8:11 am
"The author left architecture for painting but ended up as a cartoonist and now writes Hijjo" he is a .....
December 21, 2012 1:33 pm
Please allow me to explain the painting which i have seen. Its a LINE Skech of a nude women with veena. Although it says it doesnt mean anything. Than MF Hussain realises that his painting is not self explanatory so he writes "SARASWATI" under it. He crossed his artistic line here. I am sure no one would have been offended had he not been so EXPLICIT and require the help of words to explain his art !!
Cyrus Howell
December 21, 2012 5:27 am
As always.
Komal S
December 21, 2012 5:49 pm
Not sure i agree, while Nehru did give some stability, India has lots of leaders who were part of the Congress Party fighting for independence. Lots of people in India feel Sardar Patel would have done a equally good job if not better.
December 22, 2012 5:33 am
So he only picked Pakistanis who left Pakistan and only those Indian Muslims who excelled.
December 23, 2012 4:26 pm
Sikhs are the second richest community in UK after the Jews.
December 23, 2012 4:21 pm
you always bring muslim and Islam into everything. For your information, every western jails including India,muslims also have a far higher share of prisoners. Muslims are more crime prone than any other immigrant communities in the west.Google it.
Feroze Khan
December 22, 2012 6:10 pm
And don't forget, Muslims gave you inimitable,Mirza Asad Ullah Khan Ghalib.
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