To those of you have been following my blog for a while, you have probably seen a post or two about my friend Maryam Shahbaz, the Poet from Sialkot, Pakistan – the City of Poets. For those of you who haven’t there are other posts about her. I don’t want to bore anyone with redundant exposition.
Anyway, It’s still odd in this new (to me) world of Social Media to have lost contact with her. We have been working on a project together, Maryam’s first published poetry collection. The silence lately has been deafening and a bit disconcerting considering her recent activities.
Maryam is a busy woman. She’s in the final stages of editing and publishing her book, which is all fine. She’s also been working on the political campaign of Imran Kahn, a reform candidate from Pakistan, which is all to the good also, except she lives in a dangerous neighborhood…Eastern Pakistan where the borders of India, Kashmir and Pakistan merge. It’s also a bit dicey when a young women gets involved in trying to get elders and especially elder males to consider voting for a reform candidate when she often finds herself having to go through male relatives to communicate with those elderly, more conservative males. These two gentlemen would be a good example of that attitude. She told me that her cousin had to act as a go-between when communicating with them. They don’t represent the modern, emerging Pakistan, but they are a reminder of the cultural and religious barriers which have been in place for longer than anyone can remember.
I’m hoping that all is well with her, and it’s just a case of my friend being busy, busy, busy. It’s as if a friend who lives next door got involved in a tense situation and no longe answers the door when I knock…in this case my “knocking” is in the form of e-mails and blog posts which in the past have been usually answered within a week.
There are other issues at play, of course. The electricity situation where she lives is one of brown-outs, and sometimes black-outs. Then, there’s the previous theft of her identity by a hacker who set up internet accounts using photographs and information from her previous social media site. Her family is concerned over this, as she is, and seems to strongly support her regression from the world of social networking. That would be a completely understandable reaction for parents and brothers to be protective of a beautiful, young daughter or sister who is exploring a world which they might not fully understand, and have been given reason to distrust.
These photos above of Maryam paying homage at the graveyard where the shrine to Imam-ul-Haq is located is a reminder to me that she comes from a culture I know little of, but am learning about through our social media networking and concerted efforts on a book project.
The reverence that she shows for the holy men and poets of her culture must be mirrored by some reverence and understanding from me, as a novice to the world she lives in and will have to live with. Her work for a candidate whose campaign gave hope to a changing culture in a changing area of a changing world, I admire. The conservative, failed politicians of her countries recent history seem to be doing everything in their power to slow, halt, or even reverse that progress. That can get ugly sometimes.
My well wishes for Maryam, along with my impatience may be conspiring to raise unfounded concerns.
I’m hoping so.