Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Journey Interrupted: Being Indian in Pakistan by Farzana Versey

It took three weeks to receive this book, but it was worth it. I was very excited to read and finished the book. I truly enjoyed it.

Through the scenes and narrative, I felt closer to the characters and situations although I didn’t even know any of the Pakistani writers or other well-known people in India and Pakistan. But, all the more, the narrator drew me into her world. This reading was truly special to me. Out of all the elements, politic, religion, history, travels, and personal accounts, I trusted the narrator’s wisdoms and sensitivity in language.

From this book, I learned many facts. First, I knew many Muslim people live in India, but I didn’t know more Muslims in India than in all of Pakistan. I thought most of the people I know probably didn’t know that. And I was even more surprised to find that 3 millions Hindu people live in Pakistan. I thought to myself, “What a simplistic imagination I used to have!” Second, Goa, India, was occupied by Portuguese until 1961. That wasn’t too long ago.

About the terms the narrator used, I thought them interesting, such as atheist Muslim or secular government because I thought governments are to operate independently away from religion. Obviously, I’ve been taking this kind of things for granted because I’m Japanese. So, reading this book, I started to understand the needs of such terms even though I understood the narrator was against labeling. It made me think.

About Urdu, I enjoyed reading dialogues. Even though I don’t know the language at all, I read each dialogue with much interest. I appreciated the narrator’s deep knowledge of the language and culture.

About honesty, the author/narrator’s voice seeped through, and I just loved when her honesty spilled humor. It was like Flannery O’Connor, my favorite American author. The narrator made me chuckle more than a dozen times, but I would give just two examples. On her first visit to Pakistan and about to be deported, her Pakistani driver says, “When you return home you can at least tell people you saw the best sight in Karachi.” Haven’t we all had such experience? Then, the narrator says, “I did not know what I had ‘seen’ since my back was turned to it.” I imagined the seriousness of her situation, a famous ancient site in Pakistan, and the driver’s concern for tourists, I started to giggle reading late at night. Second example, a fortune teller said to the narrator, “Men will cause you troubles.” She said, “You could tell this to any woman in any part of the world and she would agree.” Ha ha. I couldn’t agree more!

I learned a lot from this book and very satisfied with it.


Do you mark sentences and write comments on the book as you read?  I do especially the book I really enjoy.   This book turned very used looking already.                            


keiko amano said...

I wrote this book review and put it up on Red Room and Amazon, and also posted on Facebook. Since then, the author created a post and our conversation continued. I thought my readers here could be interested in listening in. I am curious in reading other people's reviews, too.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I just wanted to share my passion.

Below, we started our conversation about the book.

Vincent said...

I was completely fascinated by your review, Keiko & very glad you have established a relationship of discussion with the author.

I knew some of the facts that you mention, but question what you say about the atomic bomb detonated at Bikini in 1954. It is well-known that this was a test by the USA. Are you saying that the bomb was actually manufactured in Pakistan? I cannot believe that.

The reference to atheist Muslim reminds me of Northern Ireland during the Troubles when there was local civil war between Protestants and Catholics. If you were stopped in the street by vigilantes, it was no good telling them you were an atheist. they would ask "Catholic atheist or Protestant atheist?"

In answer to your question, I never underline passages in books nor do I make notes in the margins. I respect those who do, & know that if you are a famous author who does this, like Martin Amis, your notes will increase the value of the book you've thus defaced. But I cannot bring myself to do it.

keiko amano said...


Thank you for pointing out about the Pakistani bomb. I think I misread one sentence. “The United States unleashed a Pakistani bomb in a bikini.” The author didn’t refer to the Japanese ship incident or the year it happened, and I jumped into the conclusion. I think she meant for the 1998 nuclear experiments by Pakistan.
It was good that I marked it. It was on page 178.

Because of your comment, I read Japanese Wikipedia sites. The U.S. conducted 67 atomic bomb experiments in Bikini Atoll from 1946 to 1958. The Hydrogen bomb experiment there on March 1st, 1954, was 1000 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The result created a crater of 2 km in radius and 73 meters deep into the ocean floor. About 1000 boats were affected including the Fifth Fukuryu-Maru. The captain of the Fukuryu-Maru wasn’t informed of the experiment beforehand. I’m sure others were in similar situations. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. 250 km away from the bomb hit, a small island which I do not know how to spell but it sounds like (Longallup Atoll or island?) was affected, so 64 people had to evacuate from their home. The U.S. Wikipedia site shows very little information on the atomic bomb tests compared to the Japanese sites.

What I’m distressed right now is that I just learned that the naming of bombs is such as Bravo and Little Boy. I don’t know how you feel about them. It hurts even to try expressing how I feel about it. Also, I don’t know for sure, but I thought maybe the word Bikini came from the atomic bomb experiments. I don’t blame you if you like Bikini, but I have problem with the way the name was born. It makes me sick to my stomach. I’m probably more affected by this now because of the tsunami on March 11 and the subsequent radiation fear in Japan, and this afternoon, a young innocent American man was reading his wonderful fast paced story. In it, he used the word, “an atomic bomb” as a simile for a blast. I said nothing. But I’m concerned about those innocent people.

Without any context, Catholic atheist or Protestant atheist sounds illogical to me, but your example makes sense. Thank you.

About underlining or writing comments on books, I started doing it since probably from 2002. Chris Meeks, my former creative writing professor at UCLA, suggested it in our class, and I thought it was good idea. The only problem is friends of mine have to read my comments when they borrow my book.

keiko amano said...

I eliminated the sentences about the bikini. Thank you, Vincent.

kristieinbc said...

This looks like a very interesting book. Thanks for the review! I just wish it was available in Kindle format. I am finding that I prefer reading on my Kindle, much to my surprise!

ashok said...

Hello, I am visiting your blog after a long time and see that you are busy reading. I hope you could read my new book at amazon as thoroughly and post a review too. It has lots on Indian culture, India and Indian philosophy.

For sure lots of Muslims live in India and many Hindus live in Pakistan.

Congratulations for the engagement of your daughter. When is the wedding?

keiko amano said...


Thank you for reading my review. I felt compelled to write it. I had been planning to read this book for a long time because I became very interested in the author and the countries. She is very stong and creative writer. I'll ask her about Kindle. Please wait.

keiko amano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
keiko amano said...


I'm glad to see you back.

Right now, I'm rewriting my memoir, and as usual, I read to satisfy my curiosity. I read "A Bend in the River" by Naipaul. Have you read it? I thought it wasn’t bad, but I'm not interested in reading another fiction by him. Also, I wish your book succeed, but I'm not good at reading books by request, and I would never write my review by request.

I've read "Judge Pal" by a Japanese author. It was excellent. The book is about Radha-Binod Pal. He was incredible person. I wish I can discuss about the book with someone who is knowledgeable about Tokyo Saiban and his role in it. Currently I'm reading "Ancient India" by Nakamura Hajime, and really enjoying it. I was surprised to find out that Ashoka sent his message for the purpose of spreading dharma (Buddhism) to all the kingdoms which included Greece and the message was written in Greek. The author said Buddhism was known in the ancient Greece. I didn’t know that.

By the way, do you have close Muslim friends or relatives?

Thank you for your blessing on my daughter’s engagement. I think the wedding will take place within a year.

keiko amano said...


I think there was the rights issue before, but now the author owns the rights, so it's a matter of time the book will be on Kindle. First, she has to figure out how to do it because she has never done it. I have no idea, but my imagination goes like this, "click, click, click, and done!" I think it will be available soon. I'm interested in hearing what you think of the book.

ashok said...

Thanks for your frank comments Keiko. The ancient greeks had interactions with India ever since the time of Aleaxander the great nad exchange of Buddhist ideas took place. It influenced Greek thinkers of the time.

One of my uncles married a muslim lady and that way I have some distant muslim relatives. Yes, I have had lots of muslim friends from India and from amongst the Arabs too.I have spent four years in the middle east (1986-1990) and made very good muslim friends at the time. With time though we have been less and less in touch.

keiko amano said...


You’re welcome. I think to be frank is the only way to deepen our communication. So, I appreciate your frankness in replying to my comment.

About the Greek influence, I knew the expedition of Alexander the Great all the way to India and the faces of many Buddha sculptures show the influence of Hellenism. But I didn’t know that 40 Greek Kings existed in ancient India consecutively. The author wrote that those facts are known from the coins discovered. The expanse of their rule must be a long time. The author said unlike Japan, India didn’t record Greeks’ activities in writing. In West, many documents about Alexander’s expedition exist and they are considered important historical facts, but in India, his name does not appear in the historical documents or literatures. Is that right?

The author went on to say this. In Japan, Mongolian tried to invade in 1274 and 1281, but they failed because of rain storms, and we had the American occupation after WWII. Those incidents weight heavily in our history, but India treated Alexander’s invasions like a typhoon. After he was gone, they didn’t talk about him. The author said this fact is big problem in the world history. That’s so interesting. I’m fascinated by the history, and wish the book doesn’t end.

When your uncle married a Muslim woman, did the couple have hard time? What did your parents and grandparents say? It is still quite brave thing to do in your country, isn’t it? No? I knew a young Indian woman and man separately, and although they had been living in the U.S. for a long time, they followed the tradition for their marriage.

Oh, I forgot that you had worked in the Middle East. I’d like to hear your experience working there. It must be very interesting. Did you have mishaps because of the difference in religion and culture?

kristieinbc said...

I am glad to hear it might be available in Kindle sometime soon! I will put it in my Amazon wish list and keep checking. Thanks!

keiko amano said...


If I hear any news about the availability to Kindle, I'll let you know.

By the way, she said that she just got back the rights to her book, except the Indian subcontinent. So, Canada is good.