17 June 2010

Songs of blood and sword by Fatima Bhutto

Cool mind, clean hands, warm heart
This book was sent to me for review by Marie Claire, and you can click on this image to read what I wrote. The article also carries some questions I asked Fatima Bhutto along with her answers.
I enjoyed this book and learned from it. Though it is full of researched and documented facts and ideas, it is overwhelmingly emotional and filled with pain. It made me sad to think of these wonderful, smart people and the kind of suffering-filled lives they have lived. The Bhuttos are a landed family in Larkana with roots in Rajasthan. Fatima’s grandfather, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was executed in 1979 and three of his children were also killed: Fatima’s uncle Shahnawaz was murdered in 1985, her father Murtaza in 1996 and her aunt Benazir in 2007.
Fatima spent her early years with her father Mir Murtaza Bhutto. A sensitive and brilliant man who graduated from Harvard in the top fifteen percent of his class, his assassination was a searing tragedy and it is the central theme of this book.
Growing up in Afghanistan and then Syria, she studied in the UK and the USA. However, Fatima writes of a time when she was very young and fell ill. In a cranky mood, she had cried, “I want to go home!” even though she was in her own home. She meant that she wanted to go to Pakistan, where she’d never been, because that had always been “home” to her family.
To an Indian Fatima Bhutto’s book also highlights our essential similarity with Pakistanis – and our difference. We share language and environment – one simple representative example being the hybrid expression “double roti”. And yet, the same historical event is often viewed from very different perspectives. When writing, for example, of the Tashkent Accord, she does not mention what to us would be a critical association: the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. And we could well react smugly at her observation that, “Karachi is often described as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Home to somewhere between 16 and 18 million people, our city is overcrowded, underdeveloped and poor. Its police force, perpetually violent and corrupt, lends itself easily to crime and has a sinister reputation among citizens irrespective of their neighbourhoods,” without even thinking of the Indian cities that answer to this description too.
The part of the book that struck me most and I would like to preserve in my thoughts and actions is something that Fatima Bhutto did not write herself. It is a sentence from the diary of Ashiq Jatoi, one of the three others who was killed along with Fatima’s father, and was written on the day he died: “What happens to me doesn’t matter, what matters is how I behave when it is happening to me. Cool mind, clean hands, warm heart.”

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