Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Kashmiri chai and the roots of this bloggers narcissism

Narcissism is a sin. Except for bloggers for whom narcissism is an absolute necessity. Writing personal stories day after day for an audience of a few hundred (out of a possible few billion) readers requires a self-absorbed egoist at the helm.
In my case, it is also part of a complex procedure to process my life experiences into a coherent whole.
Regular readers are used to a fare of mildly provocative Singapore related issues with some proselytising about Pakistan thrown in for good measure. This post may seem a tad soppy for such readers.
It is about my father.

My father was a Kashmiri who never set foot in Kashmir (as far as I know). I don't remember him enjoying Kashmiri tea (pink tea with a salty taste). He said he spoke Kashmiri but we never knew for certain. The only Kashmiri certainty about him was his fair complexion.
His family was from a small village in Kashmir. The village, Wachi, is located (somewhere) in Indian Kashmir. It is thought that most people in Wachi were (are) craftsmen, generally woodcutters. I don't know if the village still exists.
My father was born and received his schooling in Calcutta. My paternal grandfather was a police constable (enforcing 'His Majesty's Writ') in Calcutta.
He attended Lahore's Forman Christian College where he became an activist for the All-India Muslim League. He recounted with great pleasure the instances when he heard Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah  speak.
I don't wish to bore you with my father's achievements during his adult life, although they were plenty. It is sufficient to suggest that our family's story only began after the birth of Shafiq Ahmed in 1926.
The Pakistani legacy is one of wanderers. You squat in Pakistan long enough and you become a Pakistani. No need for a pink or blue identity card.
Ask NATO, they seem to think Al-Qaeeda types have been squatting in the Pashtun tribal areas for the last twenty years! Given that three million Afghans never left the region after the First Afghan War it is not surprising.
One cousin is convinced that if we trace our family history back far enough, we are actually Balochis who carried the surname 'Miran.'
Balochistan, as you know, is Pakistan's largest province from where the Quetta Shura allegedly directs the war against the infidel invaders of Afghanistan! Balochis also tend to rebel against the Pakistani state every twenty years or so. (Couple a rebellious Balochi streak with a Punjabi penchant for arguing and you have uncovered a part of me.)

Balochistan, Pakistan's largest and most sparsely populated province, comprises primarily of desert and rugged mountainous terrain

How, why and when my father's family came to adopt the surname 'Ahmed' and drop 'Miran' is a mystery. Many strange things occurred during the partition of the subcontinent, changing names and places of birth among them.
Whether the narrative began in Balochistan, Kashmir, Bengal or Sind it is difficult to say. Even harder still, is to know where the wandering will end.
But his four grandchildren, who roam the world's streets as young adults, know that their grandfather's principles remain true whether they adopt 'Mullahism' (God forbid) or 'Kemalism' (Praise be to Allah).


  1. Imran, it's not boring when you talk about your family--in fact, making your blog personal makes it a more entertaining read. Those few times that you have talked about your childhood are some of your most interesting posts! As you explore the world you inhabit, your own history--and that of your family--both informs your own understanding and gives your readers perspective on why you hold certain values or have developed a particular point of view. You too are a wanderer--but as the saying goes, "not all who wander are lost"--and what you write about is our opportunity to see the world vicariously through your eyes.

  2. Hi Melissa,

    Thank you for taking the time to post a comment.

    I am glad you find such writing interesting. Yes, the influence of the family on one's values and opinions is often subtle but always there. As no discussion of my father can be complete without one on my mother, I hope to write one on my mother soon.

    I hope you will keep visiting and look forward to hearing from you again soon.

    Kind regards,


  3. I agree with Melissa.. making ur blog personal doesnt make it boring but interesting instead.. so looking forward for more articles like this..

    Ordinary Me

  4. Hello Ordinary Me,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am glad that you enjoyed the post. You can certainly look out for more such articles coming your way in the future.

    Please keep visiting.

    Kind regards,