The Virani Lecture Series of Islamic Studies

The Pity of Partition, Manto’s Life Times and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

6:15 p.m. Reception
7:15 p.m. Lecture

Liu Institute for Global Studies
6476 NW Marine Drive

With guest speaker Professor Ayesha Jalal

Ayesha Jalal is a professor at Tufts University. Since 2003, she has held a joint appointment at the History Department and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and she is currently the holder of the Mary Richardson chair. After double majoring in history and political science from Wellesley College in 1978, Jalal went to the United kingdom where she received her doctorate in history from the University of Cambridge in 1983. She was a MacArthur fellow between 1998–2003.


A rising screenplay writer in the Bombay film industry at the time of partition, Manto’s reluctant journey across the arbitrary lines of 1947 to Lahore illustrates the curious symbiosis between life and literature at the moment of a great historical rupture. The talk will demonstrate how the life and work of Manto unsettle the dominant communitarian mode of analyzing partition. By probing the creative tension between fictional and historical narratives, the lecture will analyze the post-colonial transition, the advent of the Cold War in South Asia, the impact on Pakistan and its relations with India.


Amir and Yasmin Virani are second generation Ugandans who have adopted Canada as their home. Their incredible story gives an insight into their life, and their experiences provide the background to what has led to their generous donations to UBC, the Vancouver community, and British Columbia as a whole.

Born and raised in Uganda, the Viranis enjoyed life just as any family would in their home country. Having grown up, married, and started a family in Uganda, the Viranis were fully established in their East African community. And then a drastic regime change in Uganda followed by immense political destabilization changed their lives forever.

After leaving Uganda – stateless and dependant on other nations’ support – Amir and Yasmin moved to England where Amir’s brothers lived while studying at university. Amir and Yasmin applied for Canadian Visas and after 11 months in London they came to Canada to start all over again.

“We were one of the fortunate ones that knew where we were going,” explains Yasmin as she describes how countless other families were evacuated by UN troupes, often being split up and taken to different countries.

With only one suitcase per person to preserve three generations’ worth of memories, Amir and Yasmin left everything behind and began their life in Canada with two small children and a new lease on life.

Upon arriving in Canada, Amir worked briefly as an accountant; however, he knew that he wanted to start his own business. In 1976 he purchased a bankrupt coffee roasting business on Main Street in Vancouver with his brothers. He used the new business as a platform to start importing, wholesaling and distributing dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Over time, he added a manufacturing arm to the business. When Amir finally sold his company in 2007, Golden Boy Foods was the largest manufacturer of peanut butter in Canada and the Western United States with sales of over $250 million annually.

The traumatic circumstances that led to this success have made the Viranis realize the important role Canada and their community played in their lives. Amir talks about Canada as “a safe haven where you can raise your children without fear – a place where with hard work, determination, and commitment you can make any dream come true.” To give back to the country that welcomed them with open arms, Amir and Yasmin established the Amir and Yasmin Virani Foundation as a way to reach out to different organizations in B.C.

One of the foundation’s initiatives is The Kids at Risk program aimed at giving socially or economically disadvantaged children the tools, resources and support they need to succeed in life. This comes from the Viranis’ strong beliefs that education is a precious gift that cannot be taken away from anyone – regardless of what challenges one may face in life.

The Viranis’ effort to have a positive effect on their community does not end there. To help educate the community about the part of the world from which they come, and to support programs that foster and encourage cross-cultural communication, the Viranis have funded the Virani Lecture Series at UBC.

The Virani Lecture Series presents an opportunity to start an open dialogue about Islam through the study of art, literature and history. Asian scholars and artists are brought together to showcase how Asian cultures are not that different from those in Canada. The lecture series is now in its fourth year and features films, speakers, and performers from all over South Asia.

By: Arash Ehteshami
Arts Wire: November 25, 2010

Friday, March 15, 2013

Separating at Close Quarters
Interpreting Partition Violence

2:30 – 4:00 p.m. Seminar

St. John’s College
Lecture Hall #1080
2111 Lower Mall