Title: Points of Entry
Author: Nadeem Farooq Paracha
Genre: Non-Fiction, Politics, History, Short Essays
Ever wondered where we are and how we got there? This book attempts to answer the later with regards to Pakistan, its culture, people and heritage. Nadeem F. Paracha is a very famous newspaper columnist, and anyone who has read his work would be familiar with his conversational style of writing. In this book, he attempts to correlate the present day Pakistan with her gradual development through history. This is a combination of a travelogue and some historical references, as it is narrated in the form of anecdotes and personal experiences of the author.
The book covers various cultures and flavors that make up Pakistan, rather than just the broader themes we are familiar with. It moves from the ruins of Moenjodaro, through the mountains of Swat, to the food street of Burns Road, translates poetry of Bhullay Shah and brings to life the now-dead pop culture of Pakistan. Here is a verse from Baba Bhullay Shah as translated in the book:
Your fight against Satan is futile
Because you have to first fight your own desires
You seek the one in heaven,
But you never try to reach the one who resides within you.
My favourite essay in the book was the one pertaining to the rise of pop music in Pakistan, mainly because I witnessed this rise and fall myself. As a teenager I remember waiting a whole week for top-of-the-pops (a music countdown) to air on television, just to get glimpses of the latest pop music. To this day, I still know the lyrics to the Urdu pop that was on its zenith at the time. NFP mentions the era of the Queen of Pakistani pop Nazia Hassan, I was too young when she sang for the first time. But have listened and danced to her later albums. NFP mentions that when it was first launched her music was considered too Western, and her videos too bold. Predictably so, they were banned on national radio and television. Inspite of so much adversity during the life time, posthumously Nazia is a legend! Politicians and dictators came and went but the voice of this trend-setter could not be silenced! Even today her melodious voice can be heard through her songs at various radio stations, shops and weddings.
Young Pakistani constantly called Radio Pakistan to play songs from the album and even the somber PTV ran a crude video or two. But when religious adviser of Zia regime saw the video of the album’s title song on PTV, he complained to Zia that PTV- by running such songs-was undermining and mocking the regime’s Islamic credentials.
Some of NFP’s essays are a bit cynical, and some give a leftist point of view, that is not shared by a majority. But NFP never wrote to please the majority, so although some may not agree with his depiction, he has supported his point of view with references. Points of Entry will definitely leave you thinking of a bygone era and yet see patterns of it in present day Pakistan.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get to know Pakistan, through the people and stories. Take a leap, get to know Pakistan aside from what newspapers and history texts tell you. That is because there are stories in every place and person and it is these stories that make us who we are!