The making of The Perfect Gentleman



Imran Ahmad is good at telling stories, so it made sense that apart from holding a directorship at a prominent local corporation, he also writes. His book, The Perfect Gentleman, was launched here in MPH and Kinokuniya in January.

The Perfect Gentleman has received much acclaim since its release and has been named best non-fiction read of the year by major newspapers including The Guardian. The book has also been picked up by Oprah Winfrey who described it as “a sobering yet humorous read”.

The book, as humorous as its author promises, is a memoir of Imran’s experiences as a Pakistani-born, English-bred man. The entertaining stories may strike the reader at first as kind of a male perspective of Sex and the City but beneath the funny vignettes, Imran manages to discuss some taboo topics of social issues, race and religion. The book is an entertaining social critique, most made possible by the melting pot of conflicts he experienced as an immigrant.

“My parents migrated to London when I was 16 months old, shortly after I was cheated out of first prize at the Karachi bonny baby contest. Although I was wearing a black suit, white shirt and dark tie, and looked like James Bond, I lost to the daughter of the organiser.

This is absolutely typical of third world, banana republic unfairness. I was denied the title of Karachi’s bonniest baby because of blatant nepotism and thus, began my lifelong struggle against corruption and injustice,” Imran shares animatedly only to quickly add: “Of course I remember none of this, but my mother told me all about it.”

Irfan Ahmad hopes to address the human condition he calls “lazy tribalism”, a condition he says dehumanises and divides human beings

The author’s vivid memory is to thank for the ease with which he writes. “Writing these vignettes was very easy because they were already written in my head,” he says. “Or rather, I should say that typing them was easy. You see, whenever anything significant happened in my life, I would hear a detached observer inside my head, already taking notes of the event. So all of these events were stored away in my head, already written. All I had to do was to type them out.”

Many of his stories surround his quest for romantic love after having escaped a loveless arranged marriage.

“It was on our honeymoon in Florida when my then-new wife and I discovered our complete incompatibility. Because of the great stigma of divorce, it took us 20 years to sort things out. When I was in my passionless arranged marriage, I thought life was over. I could see no way out. One of the things I was acutely aware of when I was growing up was how romantic love was completely forbidden to people from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, but romantic love was what I wanted more than anything,” he says.

Through his stories, Imran hopes he can somehow address an issue close to his heart: a human condition he calls lazy tribalism, the allowing of one’s differences perceived by another to shape one’s identity and judgement of every situation. This tribalism, according to Imran, encourages us to view one another as an “other” rather than a fellow human being. It dehumanises and divides.

“One issue that really concerned me was how dehumanising 9/11 was and how readily people fell into tribal positions over it. I don’t believe that there are actually entities called ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ which are diametrically opposed to each other,” he says. “This division is often reinforced by the media, resulting in further stereotyping.”

“In reality, this tribalism cuts us off from our common humanity – the understanding that the ‘other’ is a fellow soul not unlike ourselves, just in a different skin. This dehumanisation, oversimplified black-and-white stereotyping and categorisation troubled me greatly, and I knew I had to do something about it. I knew I had to write a book that would re-humanise Islam and the West, to each other, because I have lived my life in both worlds,” says Imran.


Article courtesy of Prestige magazine

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