Ask for a piece on Pakistan and Bangladesh during December and you’re likely to get something about the 1971 wars — note the plural, because the eastern part of the subcontinent simultaneously experienced an inter-ethnic civil war and ethno-communal cleansing, genocide, inter-state conventional war and a war of national liberation, all climaxing in the crisp Bengali winter of 1971. Naeem Mohaiemen’s seven part series is an example, covering many aspects of that fateful year.
Let me skip 1971 in this post. Instead, I’ll begin by marking the other December anniversary, one that will have a particular relevance for Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2013. And I’ll note the parallels between the post-1971 developments in the two wings of former United Pakistan.
If it’s not obvious from my writing, I like movies. I don’t think there is any movie on 1971 that one can call a classic. And there isn’t a single movie that captures the war element of 1971.
Inspired by a lot of Tarantino, Leone and the like, back in 2009 I thought about a storyline to redress this. After the whole Meherjaan fiasco, I am now going back to the drawing board.
No, I am not doing so because I was imagining some complicated and implausible ‘counter-narrative’ that would make me a target of overzealous Bangla bloggers. Rather, as Naeem Mohaiemen points out, Meherjaan packs many subplots: the closeted possible lesbian, the last Muslim quasi-feudal, the feisty coquette, the leftist radical — it seemed as if Rubaiyat Hossain wanted to have everything she read/heard/thought on the subject in the two hours. And it occurs to me that I have been guilty of precisely the same sin.