BOOKMARK In “The Enigma That is Pakistan”, journalist Shivendra Kumar Singh talks about finding a home away from home
In 2004, Shivendra Kumar Singh, a journalist with ABP News, travelled to Pakistan to cover the Indian cricket team’s tour of Pakistan. This was a historic occasion; the icy relationship between the two countries had thawed, and the ripples, like always, were felt in cricket. Unsurprisingly, the series was dubbed “Friendship Series”. Although visiting the country for the first time, Singh, then with Zee News, felt a connection with it, which grew deeper with time and more visits.
His book, “The Enigma That is Pakistan”, a translation from the Hindi, shares his experiences of the country. He compares his role as an author to that of a third umpire. “Some voices thought it to be a failed State, others said that in spite of its challenges, it is a functional State. It is midst (sic.) such perceptions that I had to take my own stand on Pakistan,” he says.
“We have a negative image of Pakistan. But it’s not like that. The people there are nice. Between the Pakistan we know, and the Pakistan I have seen, there is a difference. The Pakistan we have seen makes headlines for all the wrong reasons. This is the enigma of Pakistan,” he adds.
Although it was the sport that gave the book an opportunity to exist, Shivendra uses it as an excuse to look into ordinary lives. At every step of his journey, he finds someone willing to help him out. At a golf club in Lahore, for instance, Raza Khan offers Singh and a fellow journalist aalu tikki and chane, and doesn’t ask for anything in return, except an invitation to India,.
“I have been to all the cities there, and I have friends in each of them. They are like my extended family, who I call up once every week,” Singh adds.
These friendships are contrasted with stories of Singh’s brush with an impersonal and cold visa regime.
Apart from these, Singh also makes the reader meet Pakistan’s cricket fraternity; cricketers past and present (Salim Malik, Sarfaraz Nawaz, Hanif Mohammad), curators and fans. He also offers a ringside view of what happens during tours; of Virender Sehwag singing a Kishore Kumar song (beautifully, in Singh’s opinion) and of an ‘angry’ Sachin Tendulkar after an infamous declaration, for instance.
The book ends in 2009, when the touring Sri Lankan team was attacked. Pakistan hasn’t hosted any international tournament on its soil since, and Singh hopes the country can turn things around. “I am waiting for the day when cricket will return to Pakistan, when Indian team will tour Pakistan. I will definitely visit Pakistan, and will then probably end up writing one more book.”
I am waiting for the day when cricket returns to Pakistan,
when the Indian
team tours Pakistan