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Revisiting a Revolution


Baran Rehman

THE PARWAN WIND: DUST MOTES
By B.K. Zahrah Nasir
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2007, pp. xvii 238, Rs. 350.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

The Parwan Wind is a book about the revisiting of a revolution. The book records the second visit of the Scottish author, B.K.Zahrah Nasir, to the country of Afghanistan which has been in the grips of turmoil for a long time now. Having first been there in 1983 to cover the Mujahideen revolution, she enters the country again in 2004 after 21 years with great trepidation. By now she has remarried and settled in Bhurban, Pakistan. Zahrah Nasir’s home there is located in the hills of Bhurban, pristine as they are. She has apparently found peace at last and also her true identity—an identity which is very much constituted by her Afghan experience. It is as if her encounter with the Mujahideen has been an initiation into a world where a part of her belonged all along. Zahrah Nasir’s connection with Afghanistan is somehow bound with the fact that Afghanistan is a mountainous country with strong winds blowing across it. Her imagination refuses to surrender the image of Afghanistan as a rugged land, the Parwan wind in some sense generating a sense of fascination and might into it. The reader gets a feel of the nature of her connection with Afghanistan when she says, Mountains have a lot to do with my life. I cannot settle without them. I am a mountain person at heart. Mountains and my own home and land … this is the total sum of my security.   When she uses the term ‘my own homeland’ she seems to conflate in her mind both Scotland, where she was born, and Bhurban, where she now lives. The book begins on a note of intense expectation, almost as if with bated breath. Reasonably so, for the act of returning to Afghanistan and re-establishing contact with Commander Gul Ruz, the commander of the base camp where she had spent her days last time, the only woman among a camp of 1500 men, carried within itself the possibility of both affirmation or, on the other hand, complete annihilation.   Zahrah Nasir’s first book The Gun Tree talks ostensibly about the Mujahideen experience but on another plane records the beginning of the process of negotiation of the 27 year old Pam Morris, (now B.K. Zahrah Nasir) with her own sense of identity. Fondly named ‘Banafsha-Khomar’ by the Mujahideen, Pam finds true acceptance of herself, regardless of gender or creed for the first ...


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