Sunday, May 13, 2007

the mohsin hamid evening

Before I begin, let me get this off my chest. I am prejudiced against baba log.
I thought they were limited to India, until I met the Pakistani version when I went abroad for graduate studies ("How come you always dress in Salwar Kamiz here?", I was asked by one of them, the subtext being, shouldn't you know better than to look so "ethnic"). When I came across an article in the Times magazine by Hamid about going back to Lahore a couple of years back, I found elitism and class consciousness written all over it and was reminded of the Sahibs and Begums I met in that University town.

So, I was almost determined not to like Hamid's talk and book reading as well:-) Hamid comes across as a nerdy investment banker(which is not surprising given that he is still employed). But the first thing which struck me when he walked on to stage were the eyes and the glasses, and how they looked a bit like Salman Rushdie's.

He made a lot of interesting, though not original points about the so-called war between Islam and the West. I found his explanation about using the novel as a device for the larger political points such as the use of the monologue format, nostalgia and romanticising in the novel and the choice of the title, illuminating. He handled questions well - I expected some Hindutvadi type questions about Pakistan and Je+ha+d, but fortunately, we were lucky. One questioner asked about Hamid's audience and his agenda. I detected a certain edge to that question and it seemed Hamid did as well. He laughed it off saying his first agenda was to get some milk and then went on to say that just because the listener in the story is an American, does not mean that it is meant for a western audience alone ("I want everyone on the planet to read this book", I remember him saying) and as far as his agenda is, he said, he did not need a novel to explain his agenda, his views were clear from the Op=Ed pieces he had written.

Perhaps the best point he made was the "fundamentalist until proven secular" point about Muslims in countries where they are a minority. Hamid said, this may be true of Indian Muslims and I nodded my head vigorously in the audience. This sort of (I am still prejudiced against the BL) redeemed Hamid for me.

Theres a piece on Hamid in this weeks Tehelka (too tired to search for the link, sorry!)

1 comment:

Baraka said...

I saw him in San Francisco when he was on book tour too. Definitely a bit BL. :)

Hope your Ramadan is going beautifully!