& occasionally about other things, too...

Monday, February 29, 2016

Tahir Gora's Rang Mahal

‘It has taken an Urdu fiction writer more than half a century, after Manto, to garner enough courage to express human sexuality in a popular idiom’

Tahir Gora is a journalist and a writer who has over the past two decades attempted to forge an unconventional path. He is holds controversial views, and doesn’t mind expressing them with complete candor. Tahir's opinions are unpalatable to many adherents of Islam. His political position is to the right of centre, and to his credit, he steadfastly holds to his position.

I support him generally in his fight against obscurantism, but that is about it. On practically all other matters, we differ radically and vehemently. 
And yet, I count him among the few friends I have in Canada. That is because as a person, Tahir is warm, sincere and extremely loving.  
Tahir and Haleema at their 25 th wedding anniversary recently 

Recently, I spoke to him on my show Living Multiculturalism. The show is on TAG TV, a channel Tahir launched in 2014. On my show, I talk to authors, poets, musicians and artists. We talk about being creative in Canada, in a multicultural ethos.

Tahir, besides being an activist and a journalist, is a reputed author. He prefers to write fiction in Urdu, and explains that as a writer he is able to be true to himself when he writes in his language. A couple of years ago his controversial novel Rang Mahal was published both in India and Pakistan.

The novel explores the angst of the Pakistani diaspora in Canada. “It has elements of nostalgia for Lahore, as well as the reality of Canada,” Tahir says. During an hour-long conversation we traversed through a wide range of topics including the significance of experience and imagination for an author, He obliquely referred to the controversy that had been created in Pakistan when the novel was published in Aaj magazine. As a result, the novel was first published in a book form in India, and subsequently in Pakistan.

Recently, Tahir drew my attention to a review of his novel by Irfan Javed in Pakistan’s Friday Times. Here it is: “The most conspicuous and ground breaking novel appeared at the end of 2013 in literary magazine “Aaj”. Canada based writer Tahir Aslam Gora’s “Rung Mahal” is a riveting account of the lives of the Pakistani diaspora in Canada. Its diction is original, eloquent, absorbing and innovative. It has taken an Urdu fiction writer more than half a century, after Manto, to garner enough courage to express human sexuality in a popular idiom. It portrays the lives and psychological conflicts of Pakistanis based in Canada, with a rare insight into revealing glimpses of personal experiences. The story shuttles between the past and the present, bringing to life characters that follow their adopted country’s life style alongside those whose insecurity in an alien world pushes them to seek refuge in extreme versions of religion. Unfortunately the story ends rather abruptly but leaves enough room for a sequel. At times I felt that the excessive dose of sensuality laced with out-of-place sexual content was unnecessary and extraneous. It is a blessing that religious zealots don’t read literary novels any more, otherwise by now its publisher would have sought refuge in Canada along with Mr. Gora.”

That is undoubtedly wholesome praise.  

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