Indians wear saris, Pakistanis shalwar kameez
Islamabad: After Britain-based literary journal Granta`s special issue on Pakistan featuring a satire on "how to write about Pakistan", cyber-tongues are giving their takes on "how to write about India".
Granta decided to follow up its well-known satirical piece "How to write about Africa" to pin the many clichés that exist about Pakistan? Arguably "the most dangerous country in the world," according to some sections of the Western media.
African author Binyavanga Wainaina advised potential authors to "always" use the word "Africa" or "darkness" or "safari" in the title of the piece, and `Zanzibar, `Masai`, `Zulu` in the subtitles.
For an equivalent for Pakistan, which according to the magazine`s editors "seemed only appropriate" for the special edition, four Pakistani authors Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Daniyal Mueenuddin and Kamila Shamsie were asked to put their heads together.
Though the Pakistani authors` take nowhere equals Wainaina`s tongue-in-cheek write-up, they use "mangoes" as the ultimate metaphor.
According to them, all potential writes should portray Pakistan as a mango-eating people, who have maids who serve mangoes, and have affairs with man servants who should occasionally steal mangoes! The writers encourage potential authors to preserve the horrors of brand Pakistan: "When it comes to Pakistani writing, I would encourage us all to remember the brand. We are custodians of brand Pakistan. And beneficiaries.
The brand slaps an extra zero onto our advances, if not more, Brand Pakistan is a horror brand. It`s like the `Friday the 13th series`. Or if you`re into humour, like `Scary Movie`. Or `Jaws`, if nature-writing is your thing."
The writers also denounce all things Indian. "Too much writing in this position over the years has given me neck-aches. I`d do yoga if it weren’t such a non-Pakistani sounding activity.
For a Pakistani writer to do yoga feels like questioning the two-nation theory." A debate was subsequently triggered in the virtual world on how to preserve the India brand for western consumption.
"Saris", "yoga", "holy cow", "Taj Mahal", "samosas" and "mangoes" were thrown up as metaphors for preserving the image of the land of snake-charmers.
"Use broken English when your characters are speaking (or thinking) even when they are supposed to be speaking in their own language," wrote a reader on Sepia Mutiny, a blog where the debate kicked off.
"I would imagine that any mention of Pakistan (by Indians) involves mentioning the Taliban," suggested another reader.
Zachary Latif, a reader, suggested "India Shining", "Call Centre India" and "Bollywood" as good examples for India branding, even as he pooh-poohed the Pakistani authors` piece as "pathetic and unreadable".
Razib Khan came up with suitable clichés to describe Brand Bangladesh.
He suggested that mangoes be replaced with "jackfruit", and a very definite mention of Rabindra Nath Tagore or Nazrul Islam.