Triumphant Civilizations

pakistan flag

Moshin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist tells the story of Changez, a Pakistani man who comes to the United States to attend Princeton on a scholarship and is then employed as a consultant by the prestigious Underwood Samson firm in New York City. Changez conveys the story in a monologue, many years after he has returned to Pakistan, to an American at a café in Lahore.

Changez adapts extremely well to life in New York City despite his nostalgia for home. This is helped by his success as an analyst and the diversity of the city. However, after the attacks on September 11, 2001, Changez almost immediately begins to feel the encroachment of distrusting eyes and Islamophobia. Changez is less and less capable of focusing on work and spends much time reflecting on the absurdity of his job as a pricing asset analyst. In response to what he perceives as somewhat bizarre behavior on the part of the American people following the attacks in their return to old rhetoric of “duty” and “honor,” Changez also begins to reflect somewhat on the absurdity of American foreign policy from his perspective. He becomes quite angry at the hegemonic influence the US brandishes without apology. Eventually, his disillusionment with America in conjunction with his failure at a job and the death of his love interest, Changez returns to Pakistan.

I found the parts of the novel where Changez reflects on American foreign policy, especially in the context of Islamophobia, very interesting. He cites the audacity with which America makes claims on the world, and counters them with the great civilizations of the East. As such, I decided to respond to the novel by creating a Pakistani flag inscribed with a quote that was particularly compelling:

“For we were not always burdened by debt, dependent on foreign aid and handouts; in the stories we tell of ourselves we were not the crazed and destitute radicals you see on your television channels but rather saints and poets and — yes — conquering kings. We built the Royal Mosque and the Shalimar Gardens in this city, and we built the Lahore Fort with its mighty walls and wide ramp for our battle-elephants. And we did these things when your country was still a collection of thirteen small colonies, gnawing away at the edge of a continent.”

This represents Change’s reappropriation of his country’s dignity and of his identity within it.

1 Comment »

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    July 27, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

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