The last time the venerable literary mag Granta focused on the subcontinent was when India turned 50. I’ve saved that issue as I will be saving the current one which is all about Pakistan and features fiction, reportage, memoir, contemporary art, and poetry by recognized authors such as Mohsin Hamid, Kamila Shamsie, Fatima Bhutto, and Daniyal Muennudin, as well as voices lesser known here in the West.
The issue’s themes and cover art by truck artist Islam Gull is brought to life in this cool short video
I’m still working my way through the issue, but How to write about Pakistan, an online collaboration between Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Daniyal Muennudin, and Kamila Shamsie caught my eye. Inspired by Granta’s most popular feature Binyavanga Wainaina’s satirical piece, How to write about Africa (“Always use the word “Africa” or “Darkness” or “Safari” in your title’,” it begins), here are the the top ten rules for novices keen to write about Pakistan:
- Must have mangoes.
- Must have maids who serve mangoes.
- Maids must have affairs with man servants who should occasionally steal mangoes.
- Masters must lecture on history of mangoes and forgive the thieving servant.
- Calls to prayer must be rendered to capture the mood of a nation disappointed by the failing crop of mangoes.
- The mango flavour must linger for a few paragraphs.
- And turn into a flashback to Partition.
- Characters originating in rural areas must fight to prove that their mango is bigger than yours.
- Fundamentalist mangoes must have more texture; secular mangoes should have artificial flavouring.
- Mangoes that ripen in creative writing workshops must be rushed to the market before they go bad.
[Don't stop here. Do read the whole piece.]
Those of you who have been long-time SM followers will surely remember Manish’s Anatomy of a Genre from back in the day.
Here’s my question: If you were amending this list into an “How to write about India” or “How to write about Sri Lanka” or “How to write about Bangladesh” what would you change? What would you keep the same?