When the important people from good neighborhoods of our cities speak of the Pakistani literature, they mean the works produced in English and Urdu. The literature being created in hundreds of languages spoken throughout Pakistan is termed “regional” and hence less worthy of attention.
But this mainstream ‘Pakistani literature’ misses greatly on the lived experiences of the many peoples of Pakistan. There are things that are only being said in the regional languages. There are things that could only be written by a regional writer. The national, for many reasons, cannot describe the regional. The national does not read the regional. The national is living in a bubble.
Last year when I was in Lahore, a Sindhi friend of mine, Aadarsh Ayaz Laghari, would visit me every weekend and in the intoxicating moments after dark, we would read each other poetry. I would read poetry in Punjabi and he in Sindhi. We learned that our languages share very many words. We learned that the poetry we were reading was more intimate than what we had ever read in Urdu. It had a different tone and a different atmosphere. It had the heat of the desert, the roughness of the terrain, and the shadow of the trees. Why don’t others read this literature, we used to wonder.
We could only continue it for about four to five weeks. But those sessions of exchange are the kind of memories I would cherish for the rest of my life, I know.