Yursil Kidwai and Ali Eteraz discuss the “self-hatred” of South Asian (Indo-Pak) Americans with respect to the culture and heritage of their parents (I will put aside just how you can lump the Pathans of the Frontier with the Malayalam-speaking Muslims of Kerala).

I would like to add that the causes for this marginalisation of South Asian Muslim culture are not only due to the dreaded Wahhabis or Westernisation, but are internal also. I would prefer to ask why anyone would run from the culture in the first place before asking where they stop and find some inner peace; to remember those stuck in Dasht-e-Tanhaii.


3 Responses to “Dasht-e-Tanhaii”

  1. 1 Faramir July 28, 2007 at 9:36 pm


    I wish you would expand upon your points. I wonder what exactly you mean by Dasht-e-Tanhai.

    I am glad that you caught the lumping together of the South Indian Muslims with the frontier Pathans (as you put it). This lumping together is a usual mistake of people who write about the Subcontinent; the complexity there cannot be appreciated unless you spend a substantial period of time there (just like any other region/culture). You can guess that I am a Keralite Muslim, and I am peeved that my heritage is unconsciously reduced to this lump.

    I am too late to engage in a meaningful discussion on Yursil’s blog. However, the internal reasons you mention above for the distancing of the immigrants from their own culture are very relevant. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to develop them.

    Thanks for remembering the Malayalis.


  2. 2 thabet July 31, 2007 at 10:07 am

    salaam Faramir,

    Dasht-e-Tanhaii is a town with a heavy “South Asian” population described in Nadeem Aslam’s “Maps for Lost Lovers” — a lonely desert where an culture of suspicion and fear rule.

    Thank you for your remarks about the complexity of the Subcontinent. I have a Malayali friend who made me aware just how absurd the very idea of “South Asian culture” was — all “Indian histories” appear to centred around the goings on in the northern reaches of the subcontinent; whilst you down south have such varied and wide cultures and histories of your own.


  3. 3 sarah February 1, 2009 at 7:12 am

    Just read this book on holiday and thought it was sumptuosly and beautifully written. The only problem being the book does veer into becoming an anti-islamic, anti-pakistani polemic which was even hard to swallow even for this liberal muslim feminist. No where does the book show compassion or humanise the poor immigrant community it depicts, but only succeeds in caricaturing them. Every woman is submissive, fatalistic, superstitious and in an abusive marriage. Every man is misogynistic and controlling. Not to say these elements do not exist, but there is no compassion in the book, as with Monica Ali’s Nazneen. Characters never act in suprising ways. The only ‘good’, nuanced, compassionate, social justice oriented, educated people in the book are communists! The binary of religious=uneducated=cruel=barbaric and educated=enlightened non-believer are a bit too simplistic. The writer’s ideological bias detracts from the superb lyricism of the book.
    p.s.- still loved the book and in full support of Pakistani writers and artistic licence!

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