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A Seasoned Offering

Rakhshanda Jalil

By Razia Fasih Ahmad
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2006, pp. 331, Rs. 450.00


Curled in the end lies a beginning and in every beginning lies the end of something old. Never is this truer than in the case of countries that are born after prolonged periods of parturition or when they are hived out of old nation states after much blood has been shed. Bangladesh has had not one but three partums: the first in 1905 when Bengal was spliced into East and West Bengal, then in 1947 when fresh borders were drawn on the Indian subcontinent and the new wing of a new nation state called East Pakistan came into being, and the third in 1971 as Bangladesh was to be its final coming, an assertion of a proud new identity by breaking all links with the past. Razia Fasih Ahmad’s Breaking Links is a valuable addition to the small, almost minuscule, body of work by Pakistani writers on the disintegration of Pakistan. Except for a handful of authors such as Intizar Husain, Masood Ashar and in recent times Sorayya Khan in her debut novel Noor, there has been a tacit silence on the subject of what went wrong with the two-nation theory. The poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz was another exception to the rule that said since people from West Pakistan heard no evil, saw no evil, they could not, therefore, claim to bear witness to the evil that had been festering in the hearts of men who were once brothers. Written in 1974 Dhaka se Waapsi Par (‘On Return From Dhaka’) is an acknowledgment of guilt:   Ham keh thehre ajnabi itni mudaraton ke baad Phir banenge aashna kitni mulaqaton ke baad Kab nazar mein ayegi bedagh sabze ki bahar Khoon ke dhabbe dhuleinge kitni barsaaton ke baad   (We who became strangers despite such expressions of affection After how many meetings shall we become friends again ? When shall we see the beauty of blotless verdure? After how many monsoons will the blood be washed away?)   While laudable, attempts such as these have merely alluded to that bloodstained legacy of shame; there has been no attempt to flesh out the bare bones of that long-buried nightmare. Razia Fasih Ahmad makes a brave attempt to do so but in the guise of a love story. The blurb at the back describes Breaking Links as ‘a tale of love gone awry through a grievous sense of honour reaching out across generations’. I found its romantic content slender to ...

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