Last week I caught up with Shubhum Mishra, a cartographer/geographer/urban planner, in Sundar Nursery – a Mughal garden turned colonial green house spanning 70 acres in the heart of Delhi – that shall should be open to the public sometime next year.
Shubhum has just transliterated Intizar Husain’s famous book – Dilli Tha Jiska Naam – from the original Urdu/farsi script to devnagari, in the hope of making this incredible resource more accessible to north Indian readers. In this conversation he reads excerpts from the book and I asked him why modern Indian cities are so spectacularly ugly.
Listen in for a fascinating description of Chandini Chowk and “Old Delhi” – back from when “Old Delhi” was the only Delhi around. Shubhum will respond to comments on the site. His book is now available in most book stores around the city and you can buy it here
Once it is granted that in India we practise a different kind of secularism, a secularism which is unique to us, it becomes very difficult not to grant the same status to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. This may seem bizarre given the fact that religion seems to pervade life in all these places, and a struggle over the definition of the state continues everywhere. However, defining oneself is different from the way one may be read. Many an avowed Muslim appears highly heretic to others. In fact the contemporary state, given the kinds of tasks of enumeration, surveillance, discipline and welfare that it is asked to command can only ever be secular, a fact that the Emory based legal scholar Abdullah Bin Naimi has been trying to hammer home to different kinds of Muslims over the last decade. For more of his works one can go to here and here.
The reason I bring this up in particular relates to the case of Pakistan. An avowed Islamic state, it has found it difficult to satisfy the urgings of different kinds of Islamists. And indeed it never can do so simply because protecting its citizens and assuring them equality is also one of its declared goals. The clash between the principle of treating each citizen as an individual, equal before the state, and the demands of different kinds of communities which may be ethnic, linguistic, regional or religious is precisely the playground of struggle that all South Asian, and now some European, states grapple with in their pursuit of secular goals. Continue reading On Thinking Pakistan—Rambles and Recollections of an… upon Intezar Husain’s ‘Chiraghon ka Dhuvan’