New Delhi– She says sometimes happiness can be a radical undertaking as well as an act of defiance.
Yes, she does feel that she will forever be shaped by the violence that has surrounded her, but Pakistani author Fatima Bhutto, daughter of Murtaza Bhutto, niece of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and granddaughter of former Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ai Bhutto, whose latest book ‘The Runaways’ (Penguin Random House) was recently released in India, told IANS, “I was haunted for a long time, though now I see it differently. I know however present it is, how easily it can appear, so I live with an openness to joy.”
Stressing that her defence mechanism comes from knowing that the “world is a beautiful place” and that our moments of connection and compassion towards each other weigh much larger in the imagination than violence does, Bhutto elaborates on her latest work, “I always write about what I’m most entranced by — I wanted to know what has to happen to a person to make him go to war against the world. These young radicals are not just fighting their society, but also their families, their countries and their whole vision of the world. I think the book has been received well, at least I’ve enjoyed hearing from readers across India and Pakistan.”
Insisting that anger, and not religion, is the source of radicalism, she believes that humiliation, isolation and fear are more responsible for luring thousands of young people towards radicalism. “Being excluded from society and having no vision for one’s future, you will be vulnerable to any vision that is offered to you — and that has nothing to do with religion. Even MI5 has done studies and found that religion is an insulator against radicalism, not a spark.”
The author, whose last outing ‘Songs of Blood and Sword’ that chronicled the four generations of her family and the political violence that destroyed them, says she is in a heavy non-fiction phase at the moment. “I choose depending on what I want to say and what the best medium would be to do that.”
For someone who was born in Kabul, lived in Karachi and Syria, and studied in England, “home is the people I love”. For her, wherever they are, that’s where she calls home for she believes in being flexible enough to accept that location is constantly moving and changing. “I feel fortunate to be able to embrace the different geographies that make up so many memories. Damascus will always be the first home I ever had, Karachi is the home I learnt the most in-it formed me through a lot of happiness and sorrow. New York and London gave me places to think and to write as a student and I hold a special place in my heart for both.”
Bhutto feels that a major reason that contemporary Pakistani writers in English are enjoying success across boundaries is the fact that they are deeply engaged with the world and all its curiosities, joys and horrors. “There is an urgency, a questioning and a powerful sense of witnessing that you see in a lot of their work.”
She may be extremely disciplined when writing, working every day without breaks and exception, but what happens when the last page has been written? “Oh… You are overwhelmed with emotion and adrenaline. You can’t quite believe it. But then, when the book is truly finished, and the edits are done, I always feel slightly distraught and lonely.” (IANS)