Whirlwind Speaking Tour of Pakistan

I just reached Dubai International airport after concluding an extremely rewarding visit to Lahore.

The main purpose of my visit was to deliver the keynote address at a humanities conference organized by the University of Lahore, department of English, but, as is always the case with my Pakistan trips, I ended up giving three additional talks at different universities.

The conference, entitled Geographies of Resistance, was a wonderfully organized two-day event with a dual focus on literature and linguistics. I found all sessions to be extremely well organized and very well attended. Some of the major figures of Pakistani higher education were present during various sessions and I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Mujahid Kamran and Dr. Tariq Rahman and had the chance to see some old friends and mentors like Dr. Shahid Siddiqui and Dr. Waseem Anwar.

I think even more delightful part of this whole experience for me personally was the chance to meet and interact with the young and emerging scholars. People have often asked me as to why I agree to visit for such short visits, especially considering that it usually takes me two days to reach Pakistan from Dallas. My usual answer is always that it is my way of giving something back to Pakistan, which is an honest answer. But I think for me personally, all such visits are also always spiritually and professionally invigorating and I always return home with some new ideas and always after having made some new friends. So, in this sense, the University of Lahore conference wasn’t just a professional opportunity but rather also an event that gave me a chance to meet some brilliant young scholars and enabled me to share my own current thoughts on humanities with a curious and eager audience of fellow learners. I am deeply grateful to the conference organizers for inviting me as their keynote speaker.

I would like to personally thank the Dean, Dr. Muhamamd Shahbaz Arif, for his hospitality and the two conference organizers, Dr. Farah Kashif and Arjumand Bano, for their kindness and care during my visit.

As always happens with my visits, this time too I ended up doing more than what I had planned. My other activities included a lecture on postcolonial studies at UMT, which was organized by my friend Dr. Naila Sahar. I enjoyed the wonderful questions that her students asked during the session.

Yet another session was organized by Aisha Ahmad, another dear friend, at Lahore Leads University where we mostly talked about theory, post colonialism, and scholarly writing. My friend Shaista Zeb, Chair of English at NUML Lahore, organized yet another sessions on scholarly writing. So, even though physically I was pretty much exhausted by the time I left Lahore, I was, however, intellectually and spiritually invigorated.

Just seeing the degree and intensity of interest in learning, often under trying circumstances, is what I find the most impressive about Pakistani students and scholars.

I hope to return this summer to have some more of these enriching exchanges.

By M R

Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja is an Associate Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory and the editor of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies.
Raja tweets @masoodraja

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