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Writing the Unknown Pakistan
Daniyal Mueenuddin (photo courtesy of the "In Other Rooms, Other Wonders" book site)

Daniyal Mueenuddin

The headlines from Pakistan are relentless, and all too familiar. But Pakistani author Daniyal Mueenuddin, in his stunning debut collection of short stories, goes well beyond the predictable, into the brooding, tender heart of his country.

Friendships and love affairs; poverty and ambition; the dramas, large and small, of rural life. Behind it all, a tapestry of banyan trees, mango groves, decaying feudal estates. And history, in the eyes of maids, laborers, and landowners.

This hour, On Point: Daniyal Mueenuddin on his Pakistan.

You can join the conversation. What’s your question about life in Pakistan? Pakistani, South Asian listeners, do you hear familiar voices in Daniyal Mueenuddin’s stories?


Daniyal Mueenuddin joins us from New York.  His debut collection , “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders,” has captivated critics, with strong reviews in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He grew up in Pakistan and was educated here in the United States. He worked in the U.S., but moved back to Pakistan years ago and now tends a farm in a rural stretch of Punjab province, where he grows mango, cotton, and sugarcane.

You can read the collection’s title story at The New Yorker.

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  • Mari McAvenia

    “The preachers in the mosques might be a bit more virulent.”

    This statement touches a sensitive nerve in US-Pakistan relations. There are many similarities between the evangelist christians in The USA and the fundamentalist muslim mullahs of south Asia.

    Both groups subjugate women. The primary difference is that many Pakistani muslims are perceived as being eager to administer violent punishment upon females who “stray” from strict patriarchy.

    It may not be quite on-point to state this, now, but a Pakistani born broadcaster in Buffalo beheaded his wife there last week. This sort of horror does nothing positive for the image of traditional Pakistani men.
    Not in the minds of Americans, at least. Maybe it’s a different experience all together for those virulent preachers in Pakistan, though, and the flocks of people who listen to them, faithfully.

  • http://cpwhitin@aol.com Charles Whitin

    Daniel Mueenuddin attended a boarding school in Massachusetts and later, moved on to attend Dartmouth College.

    Did his English teachers in either school directly influence his becomeing a writer? Was Daniel an English major?

    Would he credit a mentor/thesis advisor with getting him to “write about what he knows.”

    –Charles Whitin, Providence

  • http://tombstone001.blogspot.com MOHAMMED N. RAZAVI

    Growing up in pakistan, I was not able to find any romance in life there, everything, every aspect of life was controlled, by family or tradition or religion. Even the most utterly non sensical tradion had to be followed without question, yes, even by my US educated uncle and a physician father.

    The blind leading the blind, the most illitrate were able to recite Koran, without eve knowing what the words meant, because they were forced to learn it, and that was the only possible “education” provided them,
    none of it has changed much in the past forty years.

    Rich get richer, and oppress the poor, in all manners, there is no concept of justice or fairness, no concept of human rights and respect for the rights of the others, thus we have the Islamist insurgency, supported by the poor, just as I had predicted 23 years ago to my relatives there.

    What I do see and have been writing about is, that the United States, over the last many years has followed down the same road of not caring about the poor, or giving a whit about economic and social justice, all in the name of progress.

    When you corrupt a senator, or a police officer,aa judge or a city council man, once, for your own advantage, you corrupt the whole lot of them for everyone.

    In many ways, I see the United States becoming more like Pakistan, and that is a scary thought.

  • Syvalia Hyman,III

    This was a great program. How can I find out about the music that was featured
    during this broadcast?

  • Robert Young

    Regarding Syvalia Hyman’s question about the music featured on the February 20 program: “Writing the Unkown Pakistan,” I believe I recognized the haunting voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a Pakistani vocalist of the ancient Qawwali tradition. He is considered the Pavarotti of this style. Deservedly so. One can find his biography on Wikipedia.

    Robert Young

  • Elma E. Vaidya

    Shahbash for a beautiful book of linked short stories depicting the lives of people in different social, and economic groups of Pakistan. I’m looking forward to more of your storeis, and I’d love to meet you in person if you visit the Boston/New Hampshire area. Your life in two different worlds strikes a chord dear to me having lived 40% of my life in India and 60% in the US. At Duke I married a PHD forestry student. Shortly after marriage Madhu wanted to return to India. I went with him and lived a very enchanting and different life as the American wife of an Indian forest officer in Himachal Pradesh. Being of two cultures is something very special and I totally agree with your comment on the radio show that one changes so much in personality while speaking two different languages and truly interacting with people of two cultures. When I am speaking Hindi I also increase my gestures and my facial expressions change as you mentioned.

  • Imad Raza

    Daniyal’s life experience reminded me of my childhood. Raised by servants who almost become part of your family. Not just those individuals but their relatives as well; for examples their children, nephews etc… I am about the same age as D.M. and can relate to his experience. You can write so much about Pakistan. Its story changes every 10 years. 70′s was sociallism, 80′s was Soviet war, 90′s was Taliban and last 10 years have been war on terrorism.

  • Mike

    Just found out from NPR’s Morning Edition that his mother is from Wisconsin and that’s where he spent his time in the U.S. as a kid. And he’s writing stories about our state! Yay!

  • Iftikhar Ahmad

    How wonderful! Daniyal’s insightful observation of the life and society in Pakistan is very informative. It is a unique perspective which is not only honest but is also presented with empathy. I suggest we should spread the word about this book. Let more people read it. Thank you, Daniyal, for writing it.

    Iftikhar Ahmad
    New York

Apr 24, 2014
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, left, talks with Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Covina at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, April 21, 2014. Hernandez proposed a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to again allow public colleges to use race and ethnicity when considering college applicants. The proposal stalled this year after backlash from Asian Americans. (AP)

California as Exhibit A for what happens when a state bans affirmative action in college admissions. We’ll look at race, college and California.

Apr 24, 2014
A Buddhist monk lights the funeral pyre of Nepalese mountaineer Ang Kaji Sherpa, killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest, during his funeral ceremony in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 21, 2014.  (AP)

A Sherpa boycott on Everest after a deadly avalanche. We’ll look at climbing, culture, life, death and money at the top of the world.

Apr 23, 2014
Attendees of the 2013 Argentina International Coaching Federation meet for networking and coaching training. (ICF)

The booming business of life coaches. Everybody seems to have one these days. Therapists are feeling the pinch. We look at the life coach craze.

Apr 23, 2014
In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, file photo, Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., shows a tablet displaying his company's technology, in New York. Aereo is one of several startups created to deliver traditional media over the Internet without licensing agreements. (AP)

The Supreme Court looks at Aereo, the little startup that could cut your cable cord and up-end TV as we’ve known it. We look at the battle. Plus: a state ban on affirmative action in college admissions is upheld. We’ll examine the implications.

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