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Dr Muhammad Safeer Awan International Islamic University Islamabad
‘I once went to sleep and dreamt that I was a butterfly. And then I woke up. What am I, now? Am I the man who went to sleep and dreamt that he was a butterfly; Or am I the butterfly the man dreamt about?’ (Loa Tse, ‘The Way’)
ABSTRACT Geographical dislocations and cross-pollination of cultures often entail traumatic experiences for the immigrants. The paradox of our times is that, on the one hand, we live in an increasingly borderless world where cultural, economic and political frontiers are constantly eroding due to supersonic aeroplanes, global communication systems, and post-industrial technologies; on the other hand, since September-11, we witness a new wave of xenophobia in public, and megalomania among the politicians, resulting into the closing of borders and an irrational fear of the ‘other’ or the new “barbarians”. Until September-11 happened, American cultural production seemed to achieve what Ralph Waldo Emerson prophesied about in 1845: “In this continent – asylum of all nations – we will construct a new race, a new religion, a new state, a new literature which will be as vigorous as the new Europe which came out of the Dark Ages”. September-11 caused an abortion of history – history moving in a linear, progressive fashion was disrupted with a jolt of epic proportions, bringing hiatus to the Emersonian dream. In order to negotiate this disruption in the experience of the diasporic Muslim communities in the West, and to investigate the issues of identity, exile, Home, and cross-culturality, my study focuses upon the work of Pakistani expatriate writers like Zulfikar Ghose, Mohsin Hamid, and Nadeem Aslam. Ghose, with his rich experience of multiple exiles, is the prototype of exilic perspective in the classical sense. Mohsin Hamid, on the other hand, is a leading voice in the backdrop of September-11 scenario. In his recent novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), Hamid encapsulates the dilemma of American Muslims. By discussing the work of two writers who, despite being contemporaries, represent two different perspectives on ‘home’ and ‘family’ I hope to negotiate such binaries as cultural collision/cultural assimilation, Home/Exile, etc. Thus my paper aims to study the emerging perceptions of and about the Muslim Diasporas in the West before and after September 11, 2001. Key Words: Diaspora, exile, home, cultural clash, identity, Zulfikar Ghose, Mohsin Hamid.
cultural. Never before in human history had so many crossings – geographical. is the most human and touching aspect of this literature”4 that has been emerging since decolonization. as in the case of Pakistani expatriate writer Zulfikar Ghose who left India after the Partition because “everything is so dimmed and distant. In the context of Pakistani Diasporic writings. the identity politics and the clash-of-cultures thesis have acquired special resonance in the public and political spheres of the Western societies vis-à-vis their Diasporic populations. At the same time. resulting into large-scale immigrations from the former colonies to the erstwhile imperial centres. and the debate surrounding cultural purity and cultural assimilation. The Pakistani Diasporic writers in the West have also taken up themes which are universal to most immigrants. afflicting most post-colonial people. the idea of Diaspora refers to a group of people who have left or have been forced out of their original habitat and culture. Mohsin Hamid. In the face of global migrancy and the formation of multi-lingual. Identity politics is mainly a twentieth century syndrome. debates surrounding the problems of deracination. Zulfikar Ghose. either because of some harrowing experience (e. the problem of identity impinged as the biggest issue among all such post-imperial concerns.g.2 For Cohen. some of which they share with other South Asian writers. partition of India in1947 and the problems of nationalism. the great imperial structures started to melt. more mundanely. racial – happened at such scale. On the heels of those crossings. exile. that is. the whole world has become foreign and strange…”3 Alongside such motifs. to what extent can the harmonizing of different cultures be realistically achieved without compromise or surrender on the part of the host or migrant communities? . and assimilation. with its problems of cultural and geographical separation between people. (Euripides’s The Phoenician Women)1 With the onset of the 20th century. Generally speaking. Abdullah Hussain. Closely related are the volatile and fiercely contested concepts of Home. ethnic cleansing) or. Since September 11. a number of writers like Bapsi Sidwa.1. and more recently Nadeem Aslam have been documenting their exilic perspectives on home in and away from Diaspora. 2001. Robin Cohen (1997) provides a list of criteria by which one could identify diasporas. following questions can be formed and addressed: 1. alienation. they differ when they bring in the memories and narratives of colonialism. particularly Muslim Diasporas. Keeping in view the issues which inform such debates. harder to bear than tell. Writing Home in Exile Iocasta: What means exile from one’s country? Is it a great evil? Polyneices: The greatest. “transnationalism. Hanif Kureishi. diasporas are formed when a substantial number of people move to a foreign place from a homeland. multi-racial and multi- cultural societies in the west. in search of economic opportunities.
5 The immigrant fiction writers in the Anglo-American world give overt and subtle references to the differences in life styles and culture they encounter in their host countries. .2. forcing upon us a vision that is as divided as it is disorienting. discarding their original values for those of the host culture’s. diversity. the immigrants in such literature are mostly depicted as facing a series of re-evaluation of their beliefs and values. sexuality. In The Location of Culture. that is. social persecution resulting from one's dehumanization because of color. Myriam Chancy has delineated the specific conditions that force people to leave home and go in search of “home”: The threat of governmental/political persecution or state terrorism. In addition to these concerns are the issues of migration. poverty enmeshed through exploitative labor practices that over-work and underpay. or. Facing entirely new situations. emigration. Homi K. and. As Iqbal Mahmood writes in his Strategies of Negation: The immigrant fiction brings together people of diverse backgrounds. In Searching for Safe Spaces: AfroCaribbean Women Writers in Exile. In what ways is the Pakistani diasporic experience different/similar in different generations of immigrants? 4. Bhabha describes the state of displacement as a disorienting condition thus: … it captures something of the estranging sense of the relocation of the home and the world – the unhomeliness – that is the condition of extra-territorial and cross-cultural initiation … In that displacement. more poverty. gender. the private and the public become part of each other. nationalities and creeds. cultures. the immigrants’ previously whole. religions. nationalities. identifiable selves are shaken and split. at times. finally. which are addressed in a non-Western context…6 In this way.. How the events of September/11 have become almost a cut-off point to distinguish between the old/classical exile and the reformulations in the exilic perspectives of the Muslim migrants? Contemporary critics are redefining exile and migration in terms of how these conditions are experienced by the immigrants in western diasporas. Such indignities lead to suicide. and multiculturalism. uncannily. self-imposed exile. the borders between home and world become confused [emphasis added]. a vicious cycle of hopelessness.7 . whose roots are located in one culture and whose mind is nurtured in another? 3. class standing. violence. Given the above question. displacement. what is the place and role of the creative writer..
Thus. the Ghose persona has a more splintered personality. he has been teaching at the University of Texas. who is a typical liminal figure. Ghose has multiplied his exilic experience to a very complex state. beliefs and even climate of their home vis-à-vis their host culture.The role that memory plays in the formation of immigrants’ history is significant as it evokes nostalgic appeal among a displaced people in an alien setting. He is more like Hanif Kureishi’s young anti-hero. values. in the classical sense of these terms. I don’t take the peasant’s pride in the quality of the soil. I’m not sure what this earth means to me. Married to a Brazilian artist. including Triple Mirror of the Self (1992). a new breed as it were. this time to the United States of America where. Ghose’s Triple Exile Born in Sialkot. appropriately named The Confessions of a Native-Alien (1965). Perhaps it is the odd mixture of . As Ghose writes in one of his poems: My temporary peasant fervor plays out its fantasy on the Texas hillside. and living cultures. and Roshan in India-Pakistan. He made his third migration in 1969. since then. ‘a complex tale of multiple migrations and exiles’9 His personal journey as a rootless man qualifies him almost as a modern day Odysseus. Pakistan. and a number of novels. almost. having emerged from two old histories…. cuisines. But feel poorer because of this loss. living on the threshold of two cultures. (‘It’s Your Land. customs. Ghose has lived like an archetype cosmopolitan figure – mapping continents. Shimmers in London. Boss’)8 The immigrants’ relationship with the culture of their host country is ambivalent as it is a complex mix of simultaneous attraction towards and repulsion from the foreign culture. He has published an autobiography. Austin. Ghose first migrated to Bombay in 1942 and then to England in 1952. I don’t need to. In his third novel. he traces his own steps back to his Subcontinental roots. Among writers of Pakistani origin. Triple Mirror of the Self. I am often considered to be a funny kind of Englishman. Zulfikar Ghose is perhaps the only expatriate whose work is informed by the issues of cultural ambivalence and the dilemma of living multiple identities. who is known as Urim in the Amazon. who proclaims at the outset in The Buddha of Suburbia: My name is Karim Amir and I am an Englishman born and bred. Like his own protagonist. Karim. Bharati Mukharjee’s character. they nostalgically keep on recalling the language(s). absorbing and imbibing influences and getting transformed in the process. this irrelevance. Unlike Jasmine.
Both Erica. and the clash between various cultures in diasporic conditions.10 Of the various selves in his novel.continents and blood. “I was the only non-American in our . of here and there.”12 Later Jim tells him. I was a young New Yorker with the city at my feet. in the wake of September 11 attacks.’13 Prior to the September 11 xenophobia that gripped the US. ‘Believe me. Narrated in Lahore. of belonging and not. more recently. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist is the prototype work of fiction that is based on those new trends in the Diasporas and the attitudes of the “native” populations towards the reformulation of immigrants’ identities. and on the other they have to respond to international political crises such as the Rushdie affair.. September 11. particularly that of the Muslims living in the West. that makes me restless and easily bored. It’s nice. he said. Romantic exilic perspectives gave way to new fears and trepidations. particularly since September/11. his situation bears comparison with such intellectual exiles as Eliot. the conflict between the Diasporic communities and their host countries gave rise to new conflicts and debates. Hamid’s Reluctant Fundamentalist Muslim immigrants from South Asia. or “the scattered one”11. “You give off this strong sense of home. live through a double bind: on the one hand they are bracketed with the Asian/South Asian diasporic identity. This I-am-from-a-big-family vibe. you know that. therefore.” The American corporate system exerts a powerful influence on Chengez as long as he does not resist and is ready to become a cog in the machine. the Gulf War or. the protagonist Changez explains the causes of his transformation from a normal assimilated immigrant to a reluctant fundamentalist. Said and others of this clan. assimilated into the host culture. He is a archetype intellectual exile and economic migrant in the classical sense of these terms and. ‘It comes from feeling out of place’. I know. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is the narrative of that conflict epitomized in the personal dilemma of its protagonist to come to terms with the post-September 11 America and the new identity imposed upon him. Throughout the novel. it is a novel that resists closure and suggests a strategy of continual transformation as a narrative of survival.. it is in fact critical in understanding the conflicting pressures to which young Pakistanis are subjected in America. Hamid's portrayal of America in the first part of the novel does not rely on the trope of the Manichean allegory and the demonization of the American system. As he informs the readers: “I felt bathed in a warm sense of accomplishment. Nothing troubled me. Erica remarks. Joyce. and his boss Jim. and the confrontation between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. particularly Pakistan. notice a “foreigness” in his mannerism and his bearing that gives him advantage over others. 2. Changez has. at least apparently. “You are a watchful guy. the name of the first ‘self’ is Urimba. However. Therefore. the novel is set in New York. the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While a Pakistani transnational identity is mostly submerged beneath these other identities. The oscillation between his past and present continues throughout Ghose’s Confessions. However. Changez’s girlfriend. It makes you feel solid. You know where that comes from?’ I shook my head.
”14 The corporate success gives him such confidence that he takes advantage of the “ethnic exception clause” while visiting his girl friend’s family. writing much earlier.. The transformation begins. Earth-kissing Zionists aside (and each country is an Israel for someone). It was a testament to the open mindedness and – that overused word – cosmopolitan nature of New York in those days that I felt completely comfortable on the subway in this attire. soon he is stripped of his illusions and enforced identity. and the land merely a real estate speculation. the earth more a problem for conservation than a banner across a jingoist breast. people don’t really care nowadays for sentimental gestures. Zulfikar Ghose. Muslim men were disappearing.15 That is the moment in American history when the syncretic America fails to become the first ‘Universal Nation’ the world has ever seen. but I suspected my Pakistaniness was invisible. Until September/11 happens. As Changez informs: America was gripped by a growing and self-righteous rage in those weeks of September and October as I cavorted… Pakistani cabdrivers were being beaten to within an inch of their lives. and even people’s houses. the FBI was raiding mosques. However. and so on. there is no visible threat to the identity that Changez has adopted. He “wore a starched white kurta of delicately worked cotton over a pair of jeans. This is the moment when regression starts and any hidden/subconscious desire to see America harmed becomes entrenched in the conscious self. for sacredness is suspect. cloaked by my suit. perhaps into shadowy detention centers for questioning or worse. and – most of all – by my companions. by my expense account. in the wake of attacks.. his Pakistaniness becomes visible as a source of alienation and is taken as a threat to his host society. breeds a counter-rhetoric’s pretentious slogans: America – Love It or Leave It.”20 However. shops.group. is strangely prophetic about the loss of such utopian America for the immigrant who now faces a revolutionary rhetoric and an official discourse which: . .
There is a strong. The new discourse of terror and war pushes him to the margin. yet unattractive. countries! Brandnames. that of a terrorist or at least a terrorist-look-alike is imposed on the successful Princeton graduate and a brilliant business analyst for Underwood Samson’s. (‘It’s Your Land.countries. possibility that the new transnational and transcultural changes will bring about an unpleasant twist to the already charged debate about the problems and possibilities of immigrants’ cultural assimilation and/or cultural clash.. Suddenly a new identity. and homeland. faded and disfigured.. Diaspora. . Boss’)16 Changez reinvents himself by adopting a counter-rhetoric. Setptember/11 has already set new forces into motion which are redefining the immigrants’ relation to nation. .
From eBooks@Adelaide. Homi K. Cohen. Selected Poems. New Immigrant Literatures in the United States. (New York: Greenwood Press. 2007). Mohsin Hamid. p 14. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Ibid. Myriam Chancy. 12 13. 32. Coleridge (1891). 2006). Translated by E.(London: Faber and Faber. 1965). 1 6. Muneeza Shamsie. 1990). 1991). Zulfikar Ghose. 3. Zulfikar Ghose. The Location of Culture (London: Routledge. Bhabha. R. p. The Phoenician Women. Zulfikar Ghose 1991. p. 1996). Strategies of Negation: Postcolonial Themes and Conflicts in the English Language Literature of the East Indian Diaspora. 4. 10. Ibid. Hanif Kureishi. 2. (OUP. Ibid. 1992). 150 5. Textual references from Ghose’s autobiography are taken from. 37.Endnotes 1. Searching for Safe Spaces: Afro-Caribbean Women Writers in Exile. Alpana Sharma Knippling. 2001). Triple Mirror of the Self (London: Bloomsbury. Euripides. Karachi. Confessions of a Native-Alien. Textual references are from Zulfikar Ghose. 1997). 9. 2004.P. 24. p. 38 . 1997). (Indiana: Author House. 342 12. 29 16. (Karachi: Oxford University Press. 3. 2003). p. (London:Routledge & Kegan Paul. Global Diasporas: An Introduction (London: UCL Press. (Philadelphia: Temple UP. Leaving Home: A Collection of English Prose by Pakistani Writers (Karachi: Oxford University Press. Iqbal Mahmood. 42 15. 9 8. 7. 11. 25 14. The Buddha of Suburbia.