Recently, Ali Sheikh launched his first novel, ‘Thousands of Desires’: based on the verses of the legendary poet ‘Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib.’ The two sisters Roshanaara and Jahanaara battle society, poverty and psychological conditions as they try to live for themselves in a coming of age backdrop. The book is fiction, inspired by true events in society. It depicts an amalgamation of philosophy and conflicting norms in the country. The book is set in Southern Punjab and discovers the Beauty of Pakistan.
Beauty of Pakistan – Featuring Ali Sheikh and Nida Aziz
Before the debut of his first novel, Daastan held multiple webinars with Ali to discuss the major themes of ‘Thousands of Desires.’ In one of the webinars, we were honoured with the presence of Nida Aziz– cofounder of the Karakoram club.
Thousands of Desires is a prose that would be received warmly by the people of the Indian Subcontinent. It highligts the realities and the grass-root issues of the region; providing a closer picture of the lives of people in South Asia.
Moving along, a vital theme to the book is the rich history of the region of Pakistan. It explores the diversity and amount of variety we have in our topography and architecture. The storyline is aligned with the journey through Pakistan.It begins in the heart of Pakistan and the most historically significant city- Lahore.
Going Down the South of Pakistan
In a discussion with Ali, he talked about how the Northern areas in Pakistan have always been explored and made accessible for tourism. Instead of North, Ali’s journey started towards the South. He talks about the undiscovered beauty that lies in Southern Punjab. The beauty of Bahawalpur and the unexplored shrines of Multan and its famous galiyaan. He believes that the South has an incomprehensibly intriguing charm in the culture of Multan, the royalty of Bahawalpur, the Cholistan camping, the stargazing and in the music of the desert.
Further down towards the South, there is Sindh which belts with Rajasthan. The similarities between the two are countless. The book also recognizes and talks about the struggles of people living in these places. Finally, the book ends in the Northern Pakistan– which is, as Ali calls it, ‘The Prime of Pakistan.’
They say don’t judge a book by its cover but the absolutely breath taking cover of ‘Thousands of Desires’ says otherwise. It successfully encapsulates the royal Southern culture of Pakistan that is often not given much media coverage.
Ali discusses how after the partition of the subcontinent, Indians took the ‘name’ with them. He further explained how people refer to ‘Indian food’ and the ‘Indian culture.’ He argues that we have a beautiful culture of our own and that we are on the crossroads. We fall into central AND south Asia with a hint of the Persian influence. The vibrant colours and the majestic essence of the cover incorporate the variety of heritages in the book.
Nida Aziz- Cofounder Karakoram Club
Nida Aziz, the cofounder of The Karakoram club talks about how the club came into being. It all began when she became a part of a group called the ‘Himalayan Club,’ which was operated by a bunch of Indians. The group beautifully represented the magnificent Himalayas, Hindukash and Karakorum.
However, during 2014-2015, there weren’t many Pakistanis in the group. Consequently there were multiple restrictions on them, such as how they were strictly prohibited from writing Pakistan anywhere near ‘Kashmir’ or ‘Gilgit Baltistan.’
It was then, a decision was made. A decision for a group where Pakistanis could post freely. Hence, the formation of ‘The Karakoram Club.’ The platform does not only talk about the Karakoram but all parts of Pakistan.
The Beautiful Topography Of Pakistan
Nida believes that the North of Pakistan shapes the South of Pakistan. The Indus that flows through entire Pakistan is fed by the glaciers. (Fun fact: Pakistan has the highest number of glaciers after the Polar Regions.) The Indus begins from North Baltistan and goes all the way to Sindh. The connection of the different transitions is absolutely beautiful. Considering the fact how it’s the same River but the cultures and languages at North and South are poles apart.
Ali and Nida’s Favourite Parts of Pakistan
Having travelled throughout Pakistan, Samin asks Ali and Nida what their favourite experiences are. Nida says that most magnificent sunrise that she ever looked at was at Gorak Hill – the highest point in the entire Sindh. She also talks about how Rupal Valley in Astore could not be left out of the conversation because it gives you such a view of Nanga Parbat that takes your breath away.
Ali, on the other hand, feels that the South has been underappreciated for a long time. Balochistan is beautiful in its own way. Even though it is barren land and people don’t think of it as a tourist spot, Ali feels that they are missing out big time on the beaches that Balochistan has to offer. The impeccably aesthetic architecture, the culture, the music and clothes are just a part of an experience of a lifetime.
Lack of Tourism in Southern Pakistan
Nida points out the main reason of the lack of tourism in Southern Pakistan is no investments in roads, hotels and facilities are made by the government. She feels that Sindh in itself has so much potential, only if given a chance to explore.
Another possible reason for the lack of tourism, as discussed by Nida and Ali, is the absence of media representation of the Beauty of Pakistan. In today’s world, media is perhaps the most influential source of awareness and should most certainly be used for promoting tourism in Pakistan.
On the contrary, the construction of CPEC has made Northern Pakistan a lot more accessible in terms of tourism. The motorway takes you from Lahore to as far as Khunjerab Pass/China Border.
The Interface Harmony
Thar, or Tharparkar– is the only fertile desert in the entire world. Not only is it one of the most awe striking desert in the world but one of the most harmonious places too. A small proof of the diversity and respect could be the street that has a mosque and a gurdwara right next to each other. Muslims celebrate with other religions and in return the white part of our flag celebrates Eid with them too.
There are around 72-73 different dialects in Pakistan. After every few hundred miles, languages, music and the cultures change. It revisits the ideas of peaceful coexistence. The book, or as we would like to call it ‘a safarnaama’ is now available at Qissa! Order now and indulge in the Beauty of Pakistan and the concept of navigating through life and finding your path. (The interesting part is, that’s not even half of what the book is about!)