Visual artist and painter Naz Ikramullah has much to her credit. When it comes to family lineage, she is the daughter of Mohammad Ikramullah, Pakistan’s first foreign secretary and Begum Shaista S. Ikramullah, the renowned Pakistani political leader, diplomat and author of the book From Pardah to Parliament. If that wasn’t enough, Naz has very influential siblings as well, one of them being Princess Sarvath of Jordan.
Naz Ikramullah may have the art of painting in her hands but she has undoubtedly been blessed with a gift of gab too. She speaks as if the tales she tells are never-ending and one is held in rapt attention every minute. She spins one story after another, engaging the audience effortlessly. Her latest talk, that took place at the Oxford University Press book store located at Khalid bin Waleed road, was no exception.
She was a guest who read out just a passage or two from her book, Ganga Jamuni: Silver and Gold: A Forgotten Culture, and mostly delve in to a discussion of the people who were present in the audience.
Talking in terms of sub-continental ‘Adab aur Aadaab’ (Manners and Etiquette) and ‘Tehzeeb aur Tamadun’ (culture and traditions), of the respect which was a part of the cultural background of the dwellers of Indo-Pak in yesteryear, is nowhere to be found today, as we are lost in the blizzard of myths surrounding our history.
Talking about herself initially, she said, “I was born in a Muslim family and was a semi-Westernised child, it was a culture that was taken for granted before partition of 1947.”
She indicates that the cultural gap widened with time, and she feels very strongly about it. “Though, Hindus and Muslims often kept their serving dishes separate for members of the opposite religion, it was never with the die-hard intention of killing the other. Never was that foundation laid, but today, things are certainly different.”
While referring to her most recent visit to India last year, where she met various people belonging to different cultures, she said, “When the infamous Indian rape case and the horrors associated with it were being discussed in that country, one gentle Hindu man said to me, ‘From the land where you originate from, (Pakistan), such things don’t happen to Muslim women. They respect them lot. However, sadly that is not the case in India.’ Remaining indifferent to all else, he looked a little unaware of the things happening at this side of the border too,” she added.
Ikramullah said, “More than the Muslims, it was Hindus who visited holy Muslim shrines and tombs of Sufi mystics in India, paying respect to them. Hindus feel comfortable there and this is in particular a food for thought for us. Sufism was a major force of change in the region.”
Currently based in Ottawa, Canada, she spoke about Jinnah when she was questioned by the audience of her opinion of the Two-Nation Theory. “Jinnah wanted this land to be like a federating unit which is together. No man with a sane mind would ever want to divide a country. He never wished for its natives to be over-run and lose their identity!”
While throwing light on the topic of the growing theological borders, she commented: “Back then (pre-partition days), there were no theological borders. However, each one respected the other’s barriers. They didn’t move in a direction to kill the other.”
Ikramullah has certainly not lost all hope in the younger lot of today, stating calmly, “The more you read, the more you learn, and the germs of ideas grow out from your head.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2014.