The New York Times Lens Blog!

All human beings are hard-wired to look for paradise.”

I couldn’t quite recall the full details of what I had shared during the 2.5 hour Skype interview with The New York Times writer Andrew Boryga, but in all certainty, this statement came out from my mouth in the midst of a very interesting conversation.

With the same journalistic rigour that has made newspapers like “NYT” international household names, Andrew had succeeded in capturing, with very few words, the thought and work process behind the book Paradise. At 7:30am on a Thursday morning, we chatted about photography, paradise and Pakistan. By looking at the photographs and recalling my journey, I was transported back in time and space. I began to smell the chyai, see the mountains, hear the rivers of Swat once again.  I felt, once again, that desire for paradise that had driven me to pursue the theme for five years.

In the same interview, I had went on to say: “For the Swatis, maybe their paradise is mountains, rivers, fruit, family and familiarity.” As I had told Andrew, everyone has their own idea of paradise. For some people, it may be a palace amidst billowing white clouds where souls go to in afterlife. For others, it may be the hidden pristine beaches like those of the the once-secret Phi Phi island in Thailand. And for some, paradise may be more experiential than spatial – sharing a piping hot apple pie at a fireplace with one’s family on a wintry night.

Everyone has their own idea of paradise, and I believe human beings are all hard-wired to look for it. We would search endlessly for it, and in our lifetime, our definition of paradise would shift and morph many times over.

So although Paradise is a book based on the true events that unfolded in a physical paradise called Swat Valley, the  book is not simply about a place. It is an attempt to use a documentary narrative of our times to engage its readers about the universal theme of “paradise”.  In modern times, our busy lives are crowded with so much “noise” that there is nary a quiet moment to pause think about paradise, much less to find it.

Therefore, it is my hope that when someone picks up a copy of Paradise at a bookstore or at a library, the imagery will inspire the reader to look for that paradise again.

For the full interview, please visit the Lens Blog:

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