Ibne Safi was now dead for seven years and Waheed Murad for four. Bookstores, rental libraries and cinema houses were fast vanishing. Pakistan was soon going to depend on imported fantasies not only for its politics, religion and education but even daydreams. Welcome to the Valley of Wonderment.
I call the twenty years from 1987 to 2006 the Valley of Wonderment in the history of Pakistan because Sheikh Fariduddin Attar has described the valley in The Conference of the Birds as a place where the Unity previously written on the souls is gone. Travelers do not know whether they are dead or alive, awake or asleep, and all they can tell is that they are in love but do not know with whom. There cannot be a more apt description for this phase of our collective life.
Our intelligentsia had been working for it. Since 1936, they had not used any parameters that were our own and had redefined originality as an exercise of imitating "high literature" of the West in the vernacular. What was recognized as the best of our own had been defined by the West too, so it was only natural that the entire society should finally give in to foreign influence whole-heartedly. Hence we asked questions that wouldn’t have arisen if we had known ourselves better (questions about identity, for instance).
These questions gradually came to resonate in my writings too. At least for me it is ironic that this period was my most productive (I was nineteen in 1987, so the Valley of Wonderment was my prime time). I may not agree anymore with a lot of things I wrote then, not because they do not seem to be true anymore but because now I feel that it is possible to look deeper and find other realities beneath the surface. Since the Valley of Wonderment was to see things essentially through approaches that prevailed elsewhere, it meant to find and enjoy contradictions in personalities and to take the benefit of doubt in ideas. When looking at Pakistan, it appeared nobler to search for an identity rather than finding it.
I am still preserving my writings from this period on my website, as many as I may find and possibly upload, because many are good hard work (the Valley of Wonderment is also the phase of erudition). These were also the days when I was reading a lot, and diversely, and that reflects here too. Some pieces also present field research that could be useful in its own right. On the whole, these are my notes from the Valley of Wonderment, which I understand to be a state through which many have passed and many more are bound to pass, and that is yet another reason to preserve these writings as first hand account of the experience:
I draw the line on this phase of my writing in October 2006. That is when I started on The Republic of Rumi and the work became a breakthrough for me.