Lolita is a very famous novel
by the Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov. It is quite scandalous and provocative
according to the moral standards of most societies. But you have to admire the
psychological depth provided by the novelist. He has explored deep dark corners
of human psyche and subconscious. His characters creation is unique and close to
life. His imagery is matchless. Once you start the novel you begin to see the
world through the protagonist eyes. You only see what protagonist wanted you to
see. Besides its great literary value Lolita remained to be the controversial
novel. You can’t discuss Lolita openly. This constraint is most strongly felt by
the Iranian novelist AzarNafisithe writer of “Reading Lolita in Tehran”.
Nafisi began to teach English literature in Tehran University around the time of
revolution. She has narrated her experience of that time. How every western
thing from clothes to literature was banned and people who use them were
despised. She even couldn’t teach Classical literature to university students.
Every person was under suspicion of being western agent, infidel or communist.
High hopes of freedom and better life were shattered. In those troubled days she
found her solace only in books. Literature transported her to another world, the
world where there were no state or society imposed restrictions. Where no one is
oppressed based on his/her personal beliefs and belongings. Everyone is
encouraged to participate in the betterment of the society.
While reading her novel a new perspective about our society emerged in the mind.
Apparently we are living in a society with a democratic system, but restrictions
are everywhere. In our society adherence to the established norms, practices,
and narratives is considered the highest intellectual achievement. You have to
show compliance at every step. Anything besides established narrative is
despised, frowned upon, and severely condemned. Take the example of state
narrative about history of Pakistan. You don’t have the freedom of having any
other narrative based on facts. Many prominent historians like DrMubarik Ali,
Ayesha Jalal, and K.K Aziz have criticized the state narrative about history. In
his famous book “Murder of history” K.K Aziz described history taught in course
books as utter fiction and totally misleading. For keeping such opinions he was
charged with treason. This tradition of labeling people as traitors has a long
history. Anyone who had criticized establishment’s policies or demanded equal
rights was immediately labeled as traitor. We labeled half the population as
traitors in seventies and bore the brunt of separation. Sindhi’s, Muhajir, and
Balcohi’s were labeled traitors at different times. Still we haven’t learnt our
Similarly religious and ethnic minorities are oppressed on different grounds.
Constitutionally they have equal rights but reality is quite opposite. The stats
of violence against religious minorities are staggering. After partition there
was around 19% non-Muslim population and now it is 3%. The rest have fled the
country to avoid oppression and discrimination. We have a habit of mourning over
oppression in different parts of the world while and forgetting the state of
affairs in own country.
Another issue is the state of sectarian and religious extremism. The reasons are
diverse and deep rooted. Although frequent terrorist attacks perturb us but the
most disturbing thing is the extremist attitude in common man. Due to lack of
literacy dogmatism, superstitions, ignorance and extremism prevail in our
society. Books are rarely read. In fact besides course books very few books are
published. In last 5 years only 3000 books were published in Pakistan. These
books include cooking, course books, and magazines etc. In comparison 90000
books were published last year in India. So why don’t we compete India in these
fields that is a big question. Look at the cinema industry, less than 10 movies
were produced last year. You would not see any healthy sport activities in our
streets, schools and at national level. The level of intolerance is depicted by
our attitude towards women. Almost 1000 women are killed annually for
transgressing social norms. MalalaYousafzai and SharmeenObaidChinoyare the
victim of our hatred.
We have to accept the fact that we are living in a close society, where
intellectual and social freedom is just a dream. Everyone is oppressor and
oppressed at the same time. In fact we have lost sense of oppression. History
taught us that these kinds of societies never survive long. We must strive to
change the situation. Older generation is too old to change our only hope is
young generation. Enlighten, tolerant, knowledgeable youth is the solution of
our problems. It is pertinent that youth must dissent from established norms and
narratives for a better society. And first step is opening our minds to the
knowledge. Remember the famous phrase “Seek the truth and the truth will set you