For the Greeks, nostalgia meant a mix of sweet and bitter pangs that humans suffer in search of their roots and identities. From what was once considered a return of pain or some sort of sickness, relived nostalgic moments are now said to improve mood, increase self-esteem, strengthen social bonds and imbue life with meaning. It does so for Ziauddin Sardar, as moments of reckoning through sights, scents, and sounds of the lived past reveal his true self as a ‘desi’, an identity sans ethnic lineage and national boundaries. Why should my identity be limited to a mere seventy years and a vaguely samosa-shaped area on the world map? As a compassionate critical thinker and an accomplished author, Sardar traces his identity in the macrocosm of culture and civilisation beyond the body politic of the nation-state called Pakistan.
Ways of Being Desi pieces together those aspects of history and culture that have either faded from peoples’ imagination or lie marginalised in the percepts of territorial identity. Such an identity has cast an unmistakable imprint on people’s minds, shattering their self-esteem to the point that they don’t find anything true and authentic within their own country. Nothing could be worse for a heterogeneous population than a lack of belief in self and the country, the psychological underpinnings of which reduce the sense of belonging to a caricatured symbolism of political identity. It is the diasporic sense of separation and loss that is beautifully reflected in the rich anecdotal narrative.