Book launch sees lively debate on Pakistan’s culture
Dr Asif Farrukhi, who was surprised to know that he was one of the two keynote speakers at the launch, first talked about the title page of the book in which Uxi Mufti is seen looking at his father, the eminent writer, Mumtaz Mufti. He said Mumtaz Mufti was a distinguished person who suffered a great deal after writing the novel Alipur Ka Aili, because he was a forthright man who always spoke the truth.
Dr Farrukhi said there was a time when culture was discussed in the country. Then it so happened that policies on culture were imposed from Islamabad. And these days not even policies were forthcoming, rather there were policies relating to the media, as to what could be shown and could not be shown by the media, he said.
He argued that in the past only forms of art such as dance was deemed part of culture; but then the culture of food streets took over everything else. He said that some people also tried to make us behave like Arabs but failed. The same happened with attempts at emulating the Americans, he said. In the end he gave a reference to Mario Vergas Llosa’s book Notes on the death of culture in which the writer had suggested that advancement of technology and a global economic scenario had rendered the debate on culture redundant.
Artist Talat Husain, who was the second keynote speaker of the evening, talked about media and traditional culture. He said the media only showed whatever was happening in society. Yes, at times it tended to exaggerate things to get better ratings, he said. He commented that the media was not influencing culture, but it was a lack of culture that was adversely affecting the media.
Mr Husain walked down memory lane when he was a young boy working at Radio Pakistan and told the audience, which hadn’t turned up in a big number, that in those days his seniors found it important to educate their juniors, because they were connected with their culture. That was not the case any more, he lamented.
He said that before discussing the subject of culture, one should ask oneself whether we were one nation. He said religion was closely linked to culture because it ingrained moral values in us.
Mehtab Akbar Rashdi praised the contents of the book. Describing culture, she said it was like an iceberg, 90 per cent of which existed under water, but we tended to identify culture with the 10 per cent that we saw above the water by creating (wrong) perceptions about each other. This led her to say that the culture of Sindh hadn’t been understood. “It is a deep culture, you have to explore it,” she remarked. Expanding on the topic’s finer points, she said while the Sindhis learned to speak Urdu, the Urdu-speaking community did not try and learn the Sindhi language.
Artist Mehr Afroz termed the publishing of the book timely. She claimed it had answers to every question about culture. In trying to spot where the problems lay, she was of the view that followers had become leaders in every sphere of life, including religion.
Ahmed Shah exclaimed that diversity was beauty of any culture.
Writer Hasina Moin said culture was like a kaleidoscope.
Sharif Awan, whose Tehzeeb Foundation was one of the organisers of the launch, read out a letter written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz to his wife in 1952. The letter touched upon the issue of culture, which Mr Awan said was relevant to date. He also mentioned the fact that everywhere in the world people were trying to look for their roots; therefore we should also revisit and reclaim our culture, he said.
Addressing the audience at the end of a panel discussion, Mr Mufti said he had raised a few questions on culture in his book and tried to come up with their answers. He said the reason that the entire event was organised was to begin a dialogue on culture so that the country’s reigns could be taken away from politicians and given to those who knew matters pertaining to culture.
Salma Baig hosted the event. After the panel discussion, the floor was opened for a question and answer session.
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2015