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Across Two Worlds

Sukrita Paul Kumar

Edited by Muneeza Shamsie
Women Unlimited (an associate of Kali for Women), New Delhi, 2005, pp. 278, Rs. 350.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 12 December 2005

As in the case of Indian writing in English, on picking up this volume too, the primary question that springs up immediately is the issue of the Pakistani writer’s choice of English as the language for creative expression. But on closer scrutiny, the rationale for this choice unravels itself: a significant majority of these women writers (19 out of the 24 present in this volume) live either in the United Kingdom or the United States.  And the World Changed then is a volume of short stories largely by Pakistani diasporic women writers. This immediately explains not just their choice of language for expression, but also in many cases the thematic content of the stories and the specific experiential context of the writers. This is indeed a rich body of creative work calling out for recognition for its own aesthetics distinct from the Pakistani fiction written in Urdu/Punjabi/Pushto.       In fact, in her insightful introduction to the volume, the editor, Muneeza Shamsie points out, “All the writers included here do live, or have lived and been educated, in Pakistan as well as a country in the West; their choice of English as a creative medium highlights this duality.” As she says, there is a charting of territory across two worlds in their fiction. Interestingly, this “charting” is not merely of two countries or cultures but also of a fresh linguistic terrain in which English is owned and even moulded creatively to be able to contain that duality. Rukhsana Ahmed’s story, ‘Meeting the Sphinx’, employs an interrogative posture and presents the possibility of demolishing some typical notions of the “western” husband, Sam Green, through his wife, Happy Dossa, a feminist of Asian origin. In Soniah Kamal’s story ‘Runaway Truck Ramp’, as also in such stories as Qasra Shahraz’s story ‘A Pair of Jeans’, the Pakistani writer abroad is clearly demonstrative of the discomfiture of being suspended between two cultures or two generations and the different social orientations. Going abroad after all does not mean leaving your culture or norms of behaviour behind in favour of a total transformation of identity, even though the contact with a new society may compel one to adapt to new conditions of living and therefore lead to a total review of the old self. There are many stories in this volume that deal with cultural negotiations of characters who have migrated from Pakistan to ...

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