When there is again a talk about India-Pakistan brotherhood, I must tell you about my Pakistani friend. No, 70-year-old Naz Ikramullah is no backslapping buddy of mine. I first met her two years ago during one of her Delhi trips. It was love at first sight. Her Sonia Gandhi-esque sarees, grey hair and sweet smile added to her elegance. Then she’s such a big-time artist. Trained in lithography, Naz’s works are scattered across the globe — Amman, Ottawa, Islamabad, Mumbai, Washington DC (Library of Congress!) and Delhi. She herself divides time between Karachi in Pakistan and Ottawa in Canada.
Naz has a kind of genetic je ne sais quoi that probably comes only to people with a lineage as impressive as hers. Her father was Pakistan’s first foreign secretary. Her mother was posthumously awarded the
, a high civilian honour. One uncle was Pakistan’s prime minister; the other was India’s vice-president. Her sister is married into the Jordanian royal family. But this is not what makes Naz special. In a time when Indians and Pakistanis don’t dare cross the border unless they happen to be professional peaceniks, Naz comes to Delhi just to... well, hang out.
The last time I saw her was when she arrived just after the Mumbai terrorist attack. Disturbed by the events, she had come to Delhi to revive her sprits. Naz loves this city. It was here that she went to the kindergarten. Here her parents moved amongst the history makers. Once, her brother told the future founder of Pakistan, “Mr Jinnah, you write good articles in Dawn (the paper).”
Then the Partition happened. Her parents migrated and Naz became a Pakistani. But her personality transcends boundaries. Despite being a two-time emigrant (first to Pakistan, then to Canada), Naz is not rootless. She has roots everywhere.
Over coffee in Khan Market, she laid out the family tree — mother from what is now Bangladesh, father from somewhere in Uttar Pradesh, one nephew married into a Jain family in Mumbai, son-in-law a Pakistani Punjabi... then I lost the thread. Actually Naz is truly cosmopolitan, truly provincial. In that trip, I saw this London-born lady talking to cab drivers in Purabiya (East UP Hindi dialect) and conversing with society butterflies in English.
Too bad good things don’t last long. Naz had a short stay. But she’s coming. I’m meeting her on Februray 1 in India International Center.