In her piece “The Tribal Gene: Jamil Ahmad’s Lost Words,” T.L. Khleif explores the relationship between Ahmad and his native Pakistan as well as Ahmad’s views on tribal governance. Ahmad found himself in the public eye with the publication of The Wandering Falcon, and through both the text and his fiction, Ahmad’s views remained constant.
“One lives and survives only if one has the ability to swallow and digest bitter and unpalatable things.” —The Wandering Falcon
“Then he was completely alone…with nothing to keep him occupied, he became aware of his thirst and hunger . . .
“It was but natural that some men would lose their minds after too long an exposure to such desolation and loneliness.” —from “The Sins of the Mother” as published in Granta
“I had an interest in tribes, per se, even in school…I developed this interest early. And when I was selected for the civil service, you were given a choice where to serve. And my first choice was what was called the frontier list.” —The Los Angeles Times
“I loved that remoteness…I enjoyed no telephone, no contact, no bosses breathing over my shoulder. I loved that life.” —interview with Publisher’s Weekly
“The first thing is for all of us to understand the tribes, to resonate, to harmonize, to have the same beat as the tribes. Because frankly speaking, I still think that each of us has a tribal gene inside, embedded inside. I really think that way. . .
“I’ve always felt that that was the basic building block of human civilization, the tribe. And I’m all for it.” —interview with NPR
“I am, and always have been a great admirer of the tribal system and believe that it is the least tyrannical and least inequitable of all forms of human collectivity. I also believe that it has suffered great harassment from other rival lower systems, nation states, feudalism, empires, consumer capitalist societies, socialist societies.” —interview with The Hindu
“Women, some little more than infants, some already on the threshold between middle and old age; some who laughed at their fate and others who never stopped crying. Some who appeared once and then vanished completely. Others came again and again, sold sometimes to one man and then to another. There were those who had run away from their husbands or their fathers and those who were running away from life. His memory was only a sea of women’s faces, and his small body shook with tension every time he saw yet another face destined to be sold.” —The Wandering Falcon
“If you look at the span of history, all the important history, you’ll see that governments have seen tribes as an adversary at all times…all over the world. . .
I’m feeling very unhappy because the tribal system in this part of the world has been totally decimated.” —interview with Disbursed Meditations
“One thing is very clear, that you see a lot of mistakes have been made in the recent past. They are, in a way, destroying a system which was a strong countervailing system to all what is happening today—terrorism…bigotry and whatever.” –interview with NPR
“I want people to understand that tribes are not savage. Left to themselves, the tribes will adjust to changes in the periphery. There should not be attempts to socially engineer them.” —The New York Times
“This way of life had endured for centuries, but it would not last for ever. It constituted defiance to certain concepts, which the world was beginning to associate with civilization itself.” —The Wandering Falcon
“No, I have no regrets. There is a time and chance for everything. Perhaps the right time for the book was not four decades ago.” —interview with The Hindu
Click here to read T.L. Khleif”s feature on Jamil Ahmad.