“If magic is to be defined as the employment of ineffective techniques to allay anxiety when effective ones are not available, then we must recognise that no society will ever be free from it.”

These are the closing words of Keith Thomas’s remarkable book Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971). As someone who is often made fun of for being gullible or superstitious, I derive consolation from his conclusion.

Am I to take it then that magic can be modern? Does this mean that I am not by definition an anachronism? Maybe reading horoscopes (admittedly a bit too avidly) and flinching – silently, slightly, and on the inside – when crossed by a black cat is not such a throwback after all?  (Harry Potter lovers, you already know this).

There are other forms of magic that I find stupifying and problematic, however. The people who practice them would never allow that what they are practicing is indeed just magic. Just Magic. These habits and pieties pretend to have authority.  Their advocates have conviction and resist any admission that they’re as much in the dark as the rest of us.

At least I have a sense of humour about the horoscopes I read, the ladders I dodge, and the cats that haunt my steps.

What are we doing here?

In June 1947, Mountbatten, the British Viceroy of India, likened Pakistan to a tent. *

“What are we doing? Administratively, it is the difference between putting up a permanent building, and a Nissen hut or a tent. As far as Pakistan is concerned we are putting up a tent. We can do no more.”

His words evoke a man whose selfhood depends on his sense of capability. Maybe he had pitched tents in the Lake District or a put up a Nissen hut somewhere in the colonies. I can never think of Nissen huts without thinking of Conrad and Graham Greene.

In talking about tents – the shelter-of-choice for nomads, backpackers and wanderers the world over – Mountbatten was onto something.

If Pakistan is a tent, then I can take her with me, wherever I go. Pitch her on the Alps or at Glastonbury. Put her away for the winter and take her out again if the weather permits. The point I’m making is not just about a convenient identity. Its about coming from a place with no fixed co-ordinates, with a muddy origin and no clear destination. It may not have the grandeur of a royal palace or the provenance of a stately home, but it keeps the rain off your head. What’s more, tents have always served refugees as a shelter away from home.

*I’ve been following Perry Anderson’s provokative pieces about Indian History in the London Review of Books. He quoted Mountbatten in his piece “Why Partition?” on July 19th.


Disorder in Court

I’ve been watching The Three Stooges lately. I love their fresh, irreverent and truthful comedy. I particularly enjoyed this little short called Disorder in Court.  It manages to poke fun at just about everyone involved in the legal process and the belief that order can somehow solve all our problems. Watch Disorder in Court.

Welcome to Nasheed’s blog

Hello! Thanks for visiting my blog, which is primarily a space for me to share aspects of my work as a writer and director. I will also use this space to collate ideas, observations and insights about movies and film making. Of course, these things don’t exist in a vacuum so I will inevitably end up handling a few other subjects too

I hope you enjoy wandering through these pages, and look forward to reading your comments.