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The Alive and Well in Pakistan project provides independent reporting from and about Pakistan, humanizing Pakistanis for a global audience and giving Pakistanis worldwide an honest, sympathetic portrayal of their situation in the contemporary world that goes beyond the headlines and cliches, in film, print and other media such as short videos, still photography, and audio.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Pete Sabo and I arrived back in Seattle on Saturday, and we're currently recovering from jet lag and catching up on correspondence and other work. Our six-week trip through India and Pakistan, from Mumbai to Karachi entirely overland, was chock-full of fascinating if sometimes exhausting encounters both planned and serendipitous, and I've only just begun processing it all.
My plans to write a fully-fledged sequel to Alive and Well in Pakistan - a first-person travelogue of which this six-week trip will be the narrative spine, but covering the action-packed past five years (2004-09) of Pakistan's history - are now firm. I'm exploring several options for publishing it in book form, hopefully sometime in mid-2010.
But in the meantime, the nature of the project itself as well as changes in both the possibilities and the economics of media compel me to start telling the story of the trip - and by extension reporting on the themes and topics of contemporary Pakistan and its place in the world - now. I'll be doing that, at least once a week, in written form on this blog starting next week, drawing on two full notebooks' worth of notes and many hours of audio recordings that I'm starting to transcribe. Pete took about 6000 photographs during the trip, and we'll also be presenting some of those here and elsewhere online, as well as in the in-person presentations I'll be giving around the US starting next month.
I also am hoping to relaunch the column that I used to write weekly for the Pakistani newspapers Daily Times and The News. I'm approaching contacts at both of those papers and at the leading daily Dawn, but if you can help make any relevant connections to help me begin publishing regularly again in the Pakistani English-language press, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Similarly, I'd welcome any opportunity to write for newspapers or magazines in India.
On May 5, 2009 I'll be presenting the slide show and report from this trip for the first time, at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Vancouver, Washington. Later in May we have presentations scheduled in Seattle, Portland, San Jose, and hopefully Vancouver, British Columbia - stay tuned for full details on those and other dates, and by all means let me know if you'd like me to come to your city.
There are about 190 copies of my first book, Alive and Well in Pakistan, currently available in North America. I've just purchased most of these and will be offering them for sale online and at speaking engagements. I'm happy to sell them at the normal retail price, since a printing is in the works. Because availability is limited until then, though, and because this project needs support, priority will go to anyone who contributes $100 or more online (via the ChipIn widget on this site) or by check. So if you don't yet have a copy of the book Ahmed Rashid calls "magnificent" and Edwidge Danticat calls "wonderful ... so worldly yet personal," get yours today!
You also can support the Alive and Well in Pakistan book-and-blog project by telling others about it, urging them to join our mailing list (by emailing email@example.com), and inviting us to speak to your congregation, civic group, or university or high school class. If you're in Pakistan or India and would like a copy of the first book, you can also write to that address and we'll do our best to make arrangements for you to get one.
I'll be back next week with the first proper post-trip blog entry. The photo is of a visit we made to a Human Development Foundation school outside Lahore with HDF board member Dr. Shahnaz Khan, April 4, 2009.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
We've been in Pakistan for twelve days, and not incidentally it's also been twelve days since I posted a blog entry. It's been a very full twelve days, and I look forward to telling you all about it in future blog entries, in slide shows, and in the new book.
I'm ambivalent about blogging while traveling anyway, because traveling has to take priority; particularly in this era of global virtual connectedness, direct in-person experience is crucially important. So I'll be sharing more substantial material with you on this blog beginning very soon after I return home to Seattle on April 11.
For today, I'll say: Pakistan is, as ever, a jumble of maddening contradictions. The provisional triumph of the lawyers' movement on March 15-16 is arguably (or potentially) historic and merits a lot more, and sustained, respectful attention in the West and elsewhere outside Pakistan. Urban Pakistanis, whether they consider themselves "liberal" or "religious" or both or neither, are very worried about the situations in Swat and Waziristan and, indeed, in the Punjab, which is Pakistan's heartland. Everyone I've talked to has ruefully confirmed the apparent wisdom of my decision not to visit Peshawar. And yet the rest of the story is that life goes on.
The conditions that have kept me from blogging might be interesting to relate. For a week, Pete and I were in Islamabad, where the place we were staying happened to be somewhere without wi-fi. Our only options there were either to buy a card to connect via dial-up, or (as Pete discovered late in the week by trial and error) by going up on the roof and standing in a certain corner where we could pick up a neighbor's unsecured network. On a nearby street we could use an acquaintance's ethernet cable, but only outside of office hours, and we lost that option when his service got cut off because he hadn't paid his bill. So, out of desperation, we discovered that the Pizza Hut at the Jinnah Super shopping area had an unsecured network, and I could use it when we happened to be there, either stealing the network while sitting on a little concrete wall outside, or by sitting in a booth (and buying some food we didn't really want) in a crowded Pizza Hut.
Here in Kharian, a town on the Grand Trunk Road between Islamabad and Lahore where we're visiting an innovative small hospital, the only place I can get online is actually a hospital room, where a nurse sits at a desk with an ethernet connection. I happen to be alone in the room as I write this, but only because I insisted I needed 20 minutes by myself, and people are waiting for me.
We're driving two hours towards Kashmir today and back in the evening; we've delayed our return to Lahore by a day because of a high security alert in the wake of an attack yesterday on a police academy in which a couple of dozen policemen were killed. "I think security disturb you, you guys," said our very nice young driver, Tahir, meaning the checkpoints on roads entering the city. "You foreigners." So we're going to Kashmir today instead.
The photo is of Tahir (at right) on the Grand Trunk Road between Kharian and Lahore.