Monday, 2 January 2012

The Grand Old man of Karachi: Chapter IV

Chapter IV: Karachi, a lovers quarrel and the more things change.
 Also read  Chapter 1: Jinnah & Bhutto: Secularism & the rule of law
 Chapter II: The murder of Bhutto, Zia's blasphemy & his protege
Chapter III: Lost causes, murder, spooks & the storming of the courts (1990-2000)

It is said that a Mughal Emperor was asked on his death bed where he would like to be in his final moments, to which he answered 'Kashmir, only Kashmir' . I suspect if Ardeshir Cowasjee was asked where else he would rather be, he would say 'Karachi and only Karachi'. His love for the city, passionate support for the people, support of Karachi-ites rights to green land, good housing and a good life. His love for the city is shown repeatedly here and here. His struggle with Shehri , 
to protect the city and his work with the fine people in Pakistan's Citizens Foundation.

On the 25th of December 2011, Ardeshir Cowasjee the Grand Old man of Karachi , wrote his last regular column for the DAWN. Titled 'winding down' he writes soulfully On this last Sunday of this year, this is my final column in this space. Now, old at 85, tired, and disillusioned with a country that just cannot pull itself together in any way and get on with life in this day and age, I have decided to call it a day.

In a world where things often go full circle, the first to paraphrase Marx as tragedy and the second time as farce. He wrote about a time not so long ago, about how he took up the pen twenty two years ago. In some ways little has in fact changed , when he first started writing, the Pakistan Peoples Party had come to power in a weak coalition after a long spell in the wilderness. They had achieved power through a Faustian deal, in which they surrendered control of much of foreign and defence policy. Asif Ali Zardari was a reviled figure, Karachi was riven by inter-ethnic strife, the Sharifs ruled Punjab, the ISI chief was busy destabilsing the government through their IJI proxy and the press was enjoying an era of boom and growth. In others ways things have changed a lot, a new urban middle class generation has risen, youthful, impatient and energetic, eager for change but also ignorant of history and immersed in a legacy of authoritarianism.

In other ways Cowasjee, remains an enigma to many critics and supporters. His critics would say of him that, despite his way with words and many good causes he fought, he is tarnished by his distrust for Bhutto and distrust in the democratic process.

They would also argue against his belief that democracy did not work, because of the fickle nature of its politicians and not the dysfunctionality caused by the nations praetorian guardians.

Another critic phrased it differently to me recently, when he said 'It has nothing to do with Bhutto. It has to do with his elitism and double standards.'

My own view is that both critcisms have merit, but when I look back at this Grand old man and his tales of Pakistan's tortured political and personal history. I am instead reminded of Frosts comments:

And were an epitaph to be my story
I'd have a short one ready for my own.
I would have written of me on my stone:
I had a lover's quarrel with the world. 
                  The Lesson for Today

Cowasjee, A ( 25 December 2011) Winding down.

1 comment:

TLW said...

Pakistanis should be renowned for their Lover's Quarrels :-)

Glad to see you referencing the last column Cowasjee sahab wrote. I looked forward to his thoughts on Sunday, and was surprised to see him writing this. Cutted it out for my scrapbook. A fair Adieu.