Zakhme Dil – A Scarred Heart

On Wednesday 25th June 2008 at the Lord Mayor’s Hospitality Suite in Coventry, Save the Children launches a ground-breaking film entitled ‘Zakhme Dil – A Scarred Heart’ – telling the story of a young unaccompanied refugee in the UK.

Written and directed by Shakila Taranum Maan in collaboration with the young people from The Positive Press Project based in the West Midlands, the film tells the story of Ali, a young unaccompanied refugee from Afghanistan and It portrays images of life both in Afghanistan and UK.

There was once a time of no war, of everyday the sun-rising and children going to school. When fathers and mothers would do their job and sisters and brothers played and learnt about how to be in the world. When beautiful buildings stood proud; ancient, historical, with memories. And fragrances that were Greek, Persian, Chinese, Afghani, unimaginable.”   Extract from Zakhme Dil – A Scarred Heart ©Shakila Taranum Maan 2008

The Positive Press project has been running for the past year with an aim to give young people a voice on issues affecting them and to challenge representations of young refugees through the media. Young people participating in the project are drawn from both refugee and non-refugee backgrounds from Coventry and Birmingham. The project was funded by Comic Relief

The DVD is being officially launched by Save the Children in Coventry and will feature in the “Refugee Week” festival in London.

For further details contact Joanna Turner on 0121 555 888 or email her on

Save The Children, Save the Children West Midlands, Afghanistan, Asylum Seekers, Refugees, Comic Relief, Refugee Week

Please Don’t Go There

In Roray MacLeans review of ‘Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart’, he captures the essence of Tim Butcher’s extraordinary journey through the Democratic Republic of Congo  in the footsteps of Stanley  and Livingston.

Writing in his review, MacLean states that “the DRC is a nation wracked by decades of war. Acute poverty makes lawlessness, rape and murder routine. On his journey, Butcher is moved time and time again by the desperate willingness of people to cling to the old vestiges of order as an anchor against modern anarchy. In Kibombo he meets a stationmaster who diligently turns up for work every morning even though no train has reached the town in six years. In Kisangani traders wait for the tourist boats which will never arrive. On the banks of the Congo a fisherman asks him to smuggle his four-year-old son out of the country so as “to save him from a life of disease, hunger and misery”.

And this is the paradox; despite 130 years of worldwide social, economic and technological advances, there is little difference between the Congo seen by Stanley and by Butcher. Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene may have visited the country. Bogart and Hepburn may have come here to film The African Queen. Concorde may have flown in for the president’s pleasure. But today the riverboats rot on the mudbanks. The roads have been eaten away by jungle. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is once again “the most daunting, backward country on earth”.

Click here to read the full article.

The Matter of Whiteness

The recent bill-board campaign by the British National Party in London for the Mayor’s election,  putting ‘Londoners First’ showing a working white class family – semi obese and content brought to mind Richard Dyers book entitled ‘White’.

In the culture of ‘White is Right’ – where the white majority feel they have to fight back to regain their whiteness and britishness, non-whites are beginning to feel the backlash – recently local council’s are doing away with specialist ethnic community groups in favour of ‘services for all’ and in the process losing vital knowledge necessary to combat racism, especially that of a feminist perspective.

Dyer’s ‘White’ seems somewhat time sensitive. Published in 1997 by Routledge as part of their ‘Cultural/studies/Race and Ethnicity’, much of the writing remains relevant – although it could do with a re-visit by Dyer. The publishers state that ‘white people are not literally or symbolically white. Yet they are called white. What does this mean? In Western media, white take up the position of ordinariness, not a particular race, just the human race… while racial representation is central to the organisation of the contemporary world, white people remain a largely unexamined category in sharp contrast to the many studies of images of ‘black and Asian peoples.’ 

Richard Dyer in his chapter entitled ‘The matter of Whiteness’ says that ‘this book is about the racial imagery of white people – not the images of other races in white cultural production, but the latter’s imagery of the white people themselves. This is not merely to fill a gap in the analytic literature, but because there is something at stake in looking at, or continuing to ignore, white racial imagery. As long as race is something only applied to non-white peoples, as long as white people are not racially seen and named, they/we function as a human norm. Other people are raced, we are just people.’


Romila Thapar – A History of India and the Absence of Satan

Romila Thapar’s ‘A history of India 1’ is worth every re-visit. I had the good fortune of coming across is some years ago, prior to that, I had very little knowledge of the historical make of the modern India, although her work stops at the arrival’s of the Europeans in the sixteenth century.

Published by Pelican, the book ‘traces the evolution of India before contact with modern Europe as established in the sixteenth century. Professor Thapar’s account of the development of India’s social and economic structure is arranged within a framework of the principal political and dynastic events. Her narrative covers some 2,500 years of India’s history, from the establishment of Aryan culture in about 1000 B.C. to the coming of the Mughuls in A.D. 1520 and the first appearance of European trading companies. In particular she deal’s interestingly with the many manifestation of Indian culture, as seen in religion, art, and literature, in ideas and institutions.

Thapar states that ‘the history of India in the first volume begins with the culture of the Indo-Aryans and not with the prehistoric cultures of India.’ She further says that ‘1526 marks the arrivals of the Mughuls in northern India and they were (amongst other things) actively involved in the future of Europe in India.’

In her chapter ‘The Antecedents’, Thapar says ‘wealth in India, as in every other ancient culture, was limited to the few. Mystical activities were also the preoccupation of but a handful of people. It is true, however, that acceptance of such activities was characteristic of the majority… whereas in some other cultures the rope-trick would have been ascribed to the promptings of the devil and reference to it suppressed, in India it was regarded with amused benevolence. The fundamental sanity of Indian civilization has been due to an absence of Satan.’


A dedication to Kenya

As events continue to spiral out of hand in Kenya, the plight of many minorities in the country remains uncertain. Once a country on the road to recovery from it’s colonial past, Kenya looks like as if its on a journey of no return. The hopes and desires in this poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, written for Africa  now seem to lay in ruins. 

Come Africa by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Come, I have heard the ecstasy of your drum –
Come, the beating of my blood has become mad –
‘Come, Africa!’
Come, I have lifted my forehead from the dust –
Come, I have scraped from my eyes the skin of grief –
Come, I have released my arm from pain –
Come, I have clawed through the snare of helplessness –
‘Come, Africa!’

In my grasp a link of the manacle has become a mace,
I have broken the iron-collar on my neck and moulded it into a shield –
‘Come, Africa!’

The earth is throbbing along with me, Africa,
The river dances and the forest beats time;
I am Africa; I have taken your figure
I am you; my walk is your lion walk:
‘Come Africa!’
Come with lion walk –
‘Come, Africa!’

‘Come Africa’ appears in ‘Poems by Faiz’ translated by Victor Kiernan and published by Vanguard Books PVT Ltd, South Publication, London 1971. Copyright UNESCO 1971

Harappa and much more…..

Okay folks, it’s not everyday you come across a cave full of treasure. But here is one I discovered recently…. have a look at this excellent website.

 I hope you enjoy it as much as I have, particularly this comparative of Lahore Railway Station in Pakistan. 

A History of India

First published in 1966, Romila Thapar’s A History of India 1 stands as a marker for all academics and historians looking to explore Indian History and evolution.

Deeply insightful, just and a thoroughly scientific work, A History of India is easily penetrable like all good writing should be, informative and incisive.

Published by Pelican, the “first volume in this history traces the evolution of India before contact with modern Europe was established in the sixteenth century. Professor Thapar’s account of the development of India’s social and economic structure is arranged within a framework of the principal political and dynastic events. Her narrative covers some 2,500 years of India’s history, from the establishment of Aryan culture in about 1000 B.C. to the coming of the Mughuls in A.D. 1526 and the first appearance of European trading companies. In particular she deals interestingly with many manifestations of Indian culture, as seen in religion, art, and literature, in ideas and institutions”.

The Journey of Film in Southall

Shooting “The Winter of Love” (formally ‘A Quiet Desperation’) in Southall was paramount to its manifestation. Without Southall – the film would be meaningless. It was not just the question of the story being played out in the streets of Southall – but enmeshed in it was my long standing relationship with the town.

My connection with films in Southall goes back to the heady days of the three cinema’s on South Road, leading up to the Green starting with Liberty Cinema, with Century in the middle and the Dominion Cinema towards the end. Our journeys to these cinemas were with our parents – larger than life images of Hindi film stars; great movies such as



Hanste Zakham,

and Amar Akbar Anthony

played havoc on our imaginations as children. Southall like many small Asian communities throughout Britain created a hub and buzz around Hindi Cinema and made it popular outside of India and brought it to its present day success in Britain and generally in the West – a success that British Asians should be given a full credit for.

With the demise of the cinemas and the rise of video’s that collective viewing soon disappeared along with the closures of the three cinemas – the Dominion Cinema was bought by the Indian Workers Association who renamed it The Dominion Centre. An act of pure charity, the cinema was bought by the IWA with a view that the centre would be funded by the local council and service the entire community regardless of race or gender. As part of the purchase, the IWA in their wisdom demolished a state of the art building and replaced with a monstrosity designed by what can only be described as a creatively deprived architect who created a building without a heart and soul as well as acoustics! But the users and the people of Southall embraced the building as their own and now it operates as the only secular community building in Southall.

Many creative individuals since have emerged from Southall. A key inspirational figure in making a marking on the film and theatre scene was Harwant Bains. And film for a brief moment seemed to have returned to Southall. His ‘Wild West’, shot in 1992 caused a stir amongst the local community as well as nationally. The story is set in Southall where a young Pakistani sees himself as a cowboy and has ambitions of fronting a country and western music band – his dream is to go to Nashville. A zany caper, ‘Wild West’ gave many of us inspiration to create and produce our own films.

Since then a number of documentaries have appeared on television covering various issues around Southall; “A Fearful Silence”, about the work of Southall Black Sisters on domestic violence in Asian communities produced by Azad Productions; Acting our age directed by Gurinder Chadha and a powerful and moving search by Melanie Sykes for a sense of belonging in her Melanie Sykes Southall Stories directed by Fatima Salaria.

Deeply inspirational, Southall has been an example to British Asian communities through out the British Isles and many communities in Europe. My decision to shoot and locate ‘The Winter of Love’ (formally ‘A Quiet Desperation’) in Southall stems directly from a sense of deep belonging to a place that has influenced and shaped my outlook on life.

Southall means many things to many people. Acting as a town near a point of entry (Heathrow) it has traditionally sheltered all immigrants coming into its borders; Jewish refuges from the second world war; West Indian settlers from the Windrush; Pakistani and Indian settlers in the 50’s and 60’s; Ugandan Asian’s escaping Idi Amin’s regime along with Kenyan’s and Asians and most recently Somalian’s.

Southall’s ability to absorb a diversity of life is a testament to its openness and embracing nature. Perhaps we will see many more stories coming from Southall with a Somalian; Polish, Jewish or Irish slant nestled within universal themes.

Visiting Bill Cooke & Terry Tkachuk website, the Southall Film Studios History Project confirmed its place in the creative history of British film making.

You can pre-order your copy of ‘The Winter of Love’ here.

[DVD] [Trailers] [Gallery] [Cast & Crew] [Press & Publicity] [Synopsis]

The State of Martial Rule – Groundhog Day

Re-reading Ayesha Jalal’s   “The State of Martial Rule – The origins of Pakistan’s political economy of defence” makes it pertinent in light of the event in Pakistan today. Groundhog Day – the recurrence of military rule in Pakistan is a devastating comment on a nation unable to govern itself democratically.

Noises about General Pervez Musharraf  going the way of Saddam Hussain (having opponents killed off etc) is taking a strong hold. Ayesha Jalal’s comprehensive and compelling book looks at Pakistan’s first military coup in 1958 throws light on the profound similarities to the rise of Musharraf and the strategic concerns of the 1958 event. Small unseen measures taken by governing authorities have had a cumulative effect on the economy and political psyche of a nation. In her book, Jalal explains that:

“If anything, the state’s palpably crude attempts at Islamic social engineering gave religious bigotry its head as never before.  In a step that baffled the more discerning citizens of the state, Liaquat Ali Khan issued an official injunction urging Muslims to observe the ramazan fasts in letter and spirit. Someone thought it would be a good thing is this was followed up with a law forcing hotels and restaurants to go out of business during the house of the fast….”

An important and relevant text, Jalal’s book (published in 1990) could have been written today. Sub-textually she looks at Pakistan’s perpetual return to medieval sensibilities – where Pakistan is more and more reliant on living under military rule of some sort – hell bent on un-educating itself in democracy – running towards a religious orthodoxy.

The paradox is: will this orthodoxy deny itself modernity in the realms of technology or will there be a need to find a relevant text from the holy text giving permission to partake in the world’s economy?

The State of Martial Rule – The origins of Pakistan’s political economy of defence by Ayesha Jalal – Vanguard Publication 1990 ISBN 969-402-036-0