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23091-Cover-1404464388-734-640x480Which of my readers have heard of the TV show, “Zindagi Gulzar Hai”?

A hip new serial made in Pakistan in 2012, it became an instant hit amongst overseas South Asian communities, debuting on a well-known channel called Hum TV. Subsequently, it was shown on Zee TV this year in 2014. The tale of a struggling girl called Kashaf and her family after abandonment by their father and her subsequent marriage to the wealthy Zaroon serves as a catalyst-and a backdrop-against dormant economic and social mores of South Asian/Pakistani culture.

What was interesting to note was the universal appeal of the two leading actors, Sanam Saeed and Fawad Afzal Khan — as they played their roles to brilliance. Never before had there been a TV series — South Asian in origin and made outside of India — so hugely popular amongst so many diverse South Asian communities.

And yet, watching the serial making a mark on its viewers made me cynical.

And hopeful all at the same time.

I must admit that I tend to be a bit sceptical when it comes to building cross-cultural alliances amongst fellow South Asians who do not belong to my country or are not Bengali; in other words, those who do not have a shared history with me or my kin.

But.

Then again, I have been rejected many times based on how I look, dress, how rich or wealthy I am at a given moment, how rich or wealth(ier) my contender is, how powerful he or she is, how that person identifies according to their status and wealth to me, how I speak English and with what accent, how they feel cornered or intimidated by my abilities and skills and so forth.

To say that I would not be able to connect to someone just because they do not share the same passport as mine (or I theirs) would therefore be wrong.

Rather, to limit myself in that way would not only be erroneous, but lethal, for I would be depriving myself of new histories, of new shared experiences.

With that said, it would be interesting to see what kind of an impact Pakistani dramas make on the South Asian subcontinent in the years to come.

For…

India at the moment, dominates cultural capital in South Asia as we speak.

With the advent of Pakistani serials such as Zindagi Gulzar Hai and Humsafar, will South Asian culture become not only more fluid and neo-liberal, but more of a mix of Urdu and Hindi as the dominant markers of identity?

Bangladeshi serials have not been able to make the same kind of impact on the global South Asian cultural fabric. Unlike Pakistani and Indian serials, we as Bangladeshis do not see our country and our lives represented as a model for other South Asian communities to emulate, perhaps because of the fact that our country is still known as an “under-developed, poor” country.

Despite the years of war and subjugation that we had to face at the hands of our South Asian neighbours of which reparations we will never receive…

We still have not made it.

It feels like crude justice here, that our country became the scapegoat for other countries who should have seen us as one and part of one unified identity.

And yet, they are the ones who win, and win again.

What was our fault, exactly? What did we do wrong to deserve such a punishment?

I guess we will never know.

But with India becoming stronger and more powerful each and every day, will there remain any distinct identity in the years in South Asia to come other than Indian and Hindustani, with the occasional blips of divergence which will be seen only in media?

It will be interesting, the years in the future for us to see.

Keeping our fingers crossed.

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Nadia Chowdhury, an aspiring writer, is a graduate from York University, Canada.

4 Responses to “On Pakistani dramas and the Bangladeshi mind”

  1. Muktar Ahmed Mukul

    “Bangladeshi serials have not been able to make the same kind of impact on the global South Asian cultural fabric.” – I understand that language is the main obstacle for BD serials to be liked by non-Bengali South Asians. If BD makes serials in Urdu or Hindi, I am sure those will be as hit as “Zindegi Gulzar hai” in India & Pakistan. But then we are extra sentimental about our language & may not tread that path.

  2. Akteruzzaman Chowdhury

    Bangalees of Bangladesh and West Bengal are superior to the general Indian and Pakistani in many ways. Bangla literature and culture is much superior. Bangla language has nurtured a Nobel prize in Literature in the person of Rabindranath and there are many other Bangla writers who are nearly as versatile. Bangla is one of the few non-European languages that has nurtured a Nobel prize (and the very first), the others being Japanese, Chinese, Turkish and Arabic. The next Nobel Prize in the Indian subcontinent may come for English Literature and there is no chance of Hindi, Urdu or any other Indian language to reach that mark.

    What you see on Sat TV is entertainment with very little of culture and literature. Another interesting point. Modi wants to make Hindi more important than English in India. Hindi (or Urdu) is more popular among the muslims in the subcontinent, than among Hindus. Modi wants to establish Hindutva by forcing an issue which is less liked by the Hindus.

    • Sumit Mazumdar

      “Bangalees of Bangladesh and West Bengal are superior to the general Indian and Pakistani in many ways.”

      Mr. Chowdhury: Bamgladesh has indeed made great progress, in spite of political unrest over the last many decades. However, you are wrong about West Bengal. Our state is 32nd out of 36 states in India when it comes to secondary education. In violence against women we are nearly number one. When it comes to political murders – we ARE number one. Industries have been decimated over three decades of communism and three years of Mamata’s rule. Young people are leaving the state by the thouands. We are NOT superior to the general Indian – in any way except being “baksarbasya”.

  3. Azfar Khan

    The Bengali mind has been culturally paralysed by the waves of nationalism. They blocked any air from outside and they preferred to live in a tight compartment. Indians have an artistic and liberal accepting mind. They are the enemy and then a friend of good things in a short period of times. Bengalees drive their lives in the rear mirror. They had a shred history with Pakistan and should have understood good and bad things from Pakistan. If you think every thing is bad from Pakistan then I think you are not that much smart.

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