Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Fragrance of heritage: The fascinating history of the iconic Mysore Sandal soap

A soap that has held a special place in the hearts of Indians for more than a century, Mysore Sandal Soap’s legacy is intricately interwoven with Karnataka’s history and heritage.

There is something beautifully Indian about the fragrance of sandalwood. Sweet, warm, rich and woody, it is a scent that is deeply interwoven with the nation’s history and heritage. This is, perhaps, one of the many reasons why the Mysore Sandal Soap has held a special place in the hearts of Indians for more than a century.

Here’s the fascinating story behind India’s most-loved sandal soap.


One hundred and one years ago, in May 1916, Krishna Raja Wodiyar IV (the then Maharaja of Mysore) and Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya (the then Diwan of Mysore), set up the Government Sandalwood Oil factory at Mysore for sandalwood oil extraction.

The primary goal of the project was to utilise the excess stocks of the fragrant wood that had piled up after World War I halted the export of sandalwood from the kingdom of Mysore (the largest producer of sandalwood in the world at the time).

Two years later, the Maharaja was gifted a rare set of sandalwood oil soaps. This gave him the idea of producing similar soaps for the masses which he immediately shared with his bright Diwan. In total agreement about the need for industrial development in the state, the enterprising duo (who would go on to plan many projects whose benefits are still being reaped) immediately got to work.

The Sandal Oil Factory
A stickler for perfection, Visveswaraya wanted to produce a good quality soap that would also be affordable for the public. He invited technical experts from Bombay (now Mumbai) and made arrangements for soap making experiments on the premises of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). Interestingly, the IISc had been set up in 1911 due to the efforts of another legendary Diwan of Mysore, K Sheshadri Iyer!

From the talent involved in the research happening at IISc, he identified a bright, young industrial chemist called Sosale Garalapuri Shastry and sent him to England to fine tune his knowledge about making soap. Affectionately remembered by many as Soap Shastry, the hardworking scientist would go on to play a key role in making Visveswaraya’s dream a reality.

After acquiring the required knowledge, Shastry quickly returned to Mysore where the Maharaja and his Diwan were waiting anxiously. He standardized the procedure of incorporating pure sandalwood oil in soaps after which the government soap factory was established near K R Circle in Bengaluru.

The same year, another oil extraction factory was set up at Mysore to ensure a steady supply of sandalwood oil to the soap making unit. In 1944, another unit was established in Shivamoga. Once the soap hit the market, it quickly became popular with the public, not just within the princely state but across the country.

The Government Soap Factory
However, Shastry was not done yet. He also created a perfume from distilled sandalwood oil. Next, he decided to give the Mysore Sandal Soap a unique shape and innovative packaging. In those days, soaps would normally be rectangular in shape and packed in thin, glossy and brightly coloured paper. To help it stand out from the rest, he gave the soap an oval shape before working on a culturally significant packaging.

Cognizant of the Indian love of jewels, Shastry designed a rectangular box resembling a jewellery case— with floral prints and carefully chosen colours. At the centre of the design was the unusual logo he chose for the company, Sharaba (a mythical creature from local folklore with the head of an elephant and the body of a lion. A symbol of courage as well as wisdom, the scientist wanted it to symbolise the state’s rich heritage.

The message ‘Srigandhada Tavarininda’ (that translates to ‘from the maternal home of sandalwood’) was printed on every Mysore Sandal Soapbox. The aromatic soap itself was wrapped in delicate white paper, similar to the ones used by jewellery shops to pack jewels.
From Left: Nalwadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV, M Visveswaraya, SG Shastry
This was followed by a systematic and well-planned advertising campaign with cities across the country carrying vibrant signboards in neon colours. Pictures of the soapbox were noticeable everywhere, from tram tickets to matchboxes. Even a camel procession was held to advertise the soap in Karachi!

The out-of-the-box campaign led to rich results. The soap’s demand in India and abroad touched new heights, with even royal families of foreign nations ordering it for themselves. Another important turning point for the company was when, in 1980, it was merged with the oil extraction units (in Mysuru and Shivamoga) and incorporated into one company called Karnataka Soaps and Detergent Limited (KSDL).

However, in the early 1990s, the state-run firm did face a rough patch due to multinational competition, declining demand and lack of coordination between sales and production departments. As losses started rising, it was given a rehabilitation package by BIFR (Board for Industrial & Financial Reconstruction) and KSDL grabbed the lifeline with both hands.

The company streamlined its way of functioning and soon it had started showing profits again. Thanks to rising profits year after year, it had soon wiped out all its losses and repaid its entire debt to BIFR by 2003. The company also successfully diversified into other soaps, incense sticks, essential oils, hand washes, talcum powder etc.

Nonetheless, the Mysore Sandal Soap remains the company’s flagship product, the only soap in the world made from 100% pure sandalwood oil (along with other natural essential oils such as patchouli, vetiver, orange, geranium and palm rose). Due to tremendous brand recall and loyalty associated with the soap, it also bags a prized position on the shopping lists of visiting NRIs.
A 1928 advertisement for Mysore Sandal soap

In 2006, the iconic was awarded a Geographical Indicator (GI) tag — that means anyone can make and market a sandalwood soap but only KSDL can rightfully claim it to be a ‘Mysore Sandalwood’ soap.

Thanks to this near-monopolistic presence in the market for sandalwood bathing soaps, KSDL has also become one of Karnataka’s few public sector enterprises that turns consistent profits. In fact, the company registered its highest gross sales turnover (of ₹476 crore) in 2015-16.

Such is the legacy of sandalwood and this earthy, oval-shaped soap in the state that even Karnataka’s thriving film industry calls itself Sandalwood!

Today, there are a multitude of branded soaps in the market but Mysore Sandal Soap continues to hold a distinctive place among all of them. Its production figures continue to rise, even as the availability of sandalwood is on the decline.

To counter this, KSDL has been running a ‘Grow More Sandalwood’ programme for farmers, that provides affordable sandalwood saplings along with a buy-back guarantee.Working in partnership with the forest department, it is also working to ensure that for every sandalwood removed for extraction, a sandalwood sapling is planted to replace it.

The story of Mysore Sandal Soap and its enduring appeal is an inspiration not just for Indian PSUs but for the entire FMCG sector. Here’s hoping that its future is aromatic as its history!

(Source: The Better India)

Monday, 23 October 2017

Human trafficking survivor, raped 43,200 times, dedicates life to help sex slaves

Between the ages of 12 and 16, Karla Jacinto, was forced to have sex 43,200 times.

She was lured away from her dysfunctional family home, in a small town near Tenancingo, Mexico, and into the dangerous human trafficking ring by false promises, expensive gifts and kind words.
“I started at 10 am and finished at midnight,” Jacinto told CNN’s Freedom Project. “Some men would laugh at me because I was crying.”

“I had to close my eyes so that I wouldn’t see what they were doing to me, so that I wouldn’t feel anything.”

Now, at 24, Jacinto has dedicated her life to saving sex slaves from the trafficking industry, waiving her right to anonymity to help raise awareness about the “growing” issue.

“I never imagined that the girl who used to stand on the corner wearing high heels, who was considered a prostitute, would feel so strong,” she said, referring to the transformation she’s gone through. “Nowadays many people listen to me.”

Among them, Pope Francis.

Jacinto met with the Pope during a conference in July, to talk about the reality of modern day slavery. She also shared her story with the United States Congress in May, which was later used as evidence in support for H.R. 515, or Megan’s Law, which obliges US authorities to share any information relating to American child sex offenders when these convicts attempt to travel abroad.

Human trafficking has become a trade so lucrative that it knows no borders, linking small towns like Tenancingo with cities like Atlanta and New York.

Many of her clients, Jacinto shared in her testimony, were foreigners visiting her city “looking to have sexual interactions with minors.”

She revealed that in this dark underbelly of society, some of her worst abusers were even authority figures, including on-duty police officers.

“She had clients that were judges, priests, pastors, police,” Rosi Orozco, a former Mexican congresswoman who now fights human trafficking, said. “So she knew that she could not run away to go to the authorities.”


Each year, an estimated 800,000 women and children are trafficked across international borders, according to Soroptimist, a global volunteer organization working to improve the lives of women and girls. And that figure doesn’t include the amount of women and girls trafficked within their countries.
“If women experienced improved economic and social status, trafficking would in large part be eradicated,” the organization explained on its website.

In the years since she escaped with the help of a client during an anti-trafficking operation, Jacinto has gone from being a victim to a champion for women and girls who have suffered from the same fate.

“It is up to us, both governments and non government organizations to work together to prevent this crime, punish those who commit them, to look for and rescue those who are already caught in the web, and to provide the care necessary for their healing and reintegration to a healthy society,” she said. “Not one person can do it by himself or herself. We are all responsible, we are all affected, and we can all do something.”

(Source: Global Citizen)

The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft holds the secrets of a long tradition of magic

In the small town of Holmavik, located on the western coast of Iceland, there is a museum dedicated to preserving the world of magic and sorcery. The Strandagaldur, also known as the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, started out as a small but enthusiastic project from its original curator, Sigurður Atlason, and ended up as a popular tourist attraction.

A caped skeleton reaches out while bursting through the stone floor, welcoming guests and setting the haunting tone of a past world filled with incomprehensible recipes for over-riding your troubles. So, if you are interested in making yourself invisible, obtaining an infinite source of money, or just getting really good at fishing, this place is right for you, offering spells for each of these fortunes.

The Strandagaldur gives a unique insight into an age dominated by superstition and magic. When the heritage of a polytheistic religion clashed with the notion of Christianity, the byproduct arose in the form of sorcery. It was present in everyday life, since it was an instrument by which a person could influence their destiny, foresee it, or perhaps even shape it.

Christianity became an official religion in Iceland in 1000 AD, but a developed pagan culture had already put down deep roots in Icelandic society. It was something of a bond with Iceland’s former motherland in Scandinavia.

The exterior of Strandagaldur, the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, in Hólmavík.
Author: Bensisto CC BY-SA 4.0
Therefore, pagan sorcery accepted the authority of the Christian church and even attempted to “misuse” it for personal gain. For example, a spell for producing a tilberi includes stealing sanctified wine from three consecutive Sunday communions. A tilberi, for all those not acquainted with Icelandic folklore, is a demon summoned by a witch, with the sole purpose of stealing milk from neighbors.

Even though this type of witchcraft sounds almost harmless, there is a macabre twist in Icelandic sorcery. One of the main exhibits, which is a replica and is certainly the one that causes the most disgust, is the Nábrók. These can be translated as the “necropants,” trousers made of human skin meant to supply the wearer with an endless source of wealth and fortune.

Now, putting the gore aside, this does have a tempting promise. The spell includes a Stave, which is an Icelandic system of magical songs, permission from the person whose skin was used after his death, and a coin stolen from a poor widow.

Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft. Author: Jennifer Boyer CC BY2.0
In order for the person wearing the pants and exploiting the spell to avoid eternal punishment in the afterlife, he is required to give his Nábrók to someone else before he dies.

Even though there is not sufficient evidence of someone actually producing the necropants, this strange and dark piece of folklore is captivating, even more so since a very realistic replica was made for the purpose of the Museum.

Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft.  Author: Jennifer Boyer CC BY2.0
Other exhibits include occult books, scrolls, and records of witchcraft and magic, mostly dating from the 17th century, when a bulk of the Staves were first documented in various spell books, or grimoires, as they were called.

Decorated rather spookily, the Museum is somewhere between a horror show and a site of historic value. Perhaps that is why it is so popular among tourists who happen to visit the region of Westfjords.

Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft.  Author: Jennifer Boyer CC BY2.0
Opposition initially arose among the more conservative locals, as the scenery of the museum was considered to be too macabre for the community.

As the small coastal town began to experience the benefits of such an attraction, all opposition disappeared. The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft was opened in 2000, running consistently for 17 years, and it continues to draw the attention of visitors while exploring and demystifying the long and forgotten tradition of Icelandic sorcery.

(Source: The Vintage News)

We must look to the past, not Isis, for the true meaning of Islam

Emir Abdelkader was a Muslim, Sufi, sheikh, humanist, protector of his people against Western barbarism, protector of Christians against Muslim barbarism, so noble that Abe Lincoln sent him a pair of Colt pistols, writes Robert Fisk on the Independent. Read on: 

After the Manchester massacre… yes, and after Nice and Paris, Mosul and Abu Ghraib and 7/7 and the Haditha massacre – remember those 28 civilians, including children, killed by US Marines, four more than Manchester but no minute’s silence for them? And of course 9/11…

Counterbalancing cruelty is no response, of course. Just a reminder. As long as we bomb the Middle East instead of seeking justice there, we too will be attacked. But what we must concentrate upon, according to the monstrous Trump, is terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. And fear. And security. Which we will not have while we are promoting death in the Muslim world and selling weapons to its dictators. Believe in “terror” and Isis wins. Believe in justice and Isis is defeated.

So I suspect it’s time to raise the ghost of a man known as the Emir Abdelkader – Muslim, Sufi, sheikh, ferocious warrior, humanist, mystic, protector of his people against Western barbarism, protector of Christians against Muslim barbarism, so brave that the Algerian state insisted his bones were brought home from his beloved Damascus, so noble that Abe Lincoln sent him a pair of Colt pistols and the French gave him the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. He loved education, he admired the Greek philosophers, he forbade his fighters to destroy books, he worshipped a religion which believed – so he thought – in human rights. But hands up all readers who know the name of Abdelkader.

We should think of him now more than ever. He was not a “moderate” because he fought back savagely against the French occupation of his land. He was not an extremist because, in his imprisonment at the Chateau d’Amboise, he talked of Christians and Muslims as brothers. He was supported by Victor Hugo and Lord Londonderry and earned the respect of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III) and the French state paid him a pension of 100,000 francs. He deserved it.

Muslim historians claim Abdelkader saved 15,000 Christians, which may be a bit of an exaggeration. But here was a man for Muslims to emulate and Westerners to admire
When the French invaded Algeria, Abdelkader Ibn Muhiedin al-Juzairi (Abdelkader, son of Muhiedin, the Algerian,1808-1883, for those who like obituaries) embarked on a successful guerrilla war against one of the best equipped armies in the Western world – and won. He set up his own state in western Algeria – Muslim but employing Christian and Jewish advisors – and created separate departments (defence, education, etc), which stretched as far as the Moroccan border. It even had its own currency, the “muhamediya”. He made peace with the French – a truce which the French broke by invading his lands yet again. Abdelkader demanded a priest to minister for his French prisoners, even giving them back their freedom when he had no food for them. The French sacked the Algerian towns they captured, a hundred Hadithas to suppress Abdelkader’s resistance. When at last he was defeated, he surrendered in honour – handing over his horse as a warrior – on the promise of exile in Alexandria or Acre. Again the French betrayed him, packing him off to prison in Toulon and then to the interior of France.

Yet in his French exile, he preached peace and brotherhood and studied French and spoke of the wisdom of Plato and Socrates, Aristotle and Ptolemy and Averoes and later wrote a book, Call to the Intelligent, which should be available on every social media platform. He also, by the way, wrote a book on horses which proves he was ever an Arab in the saddle. But his courage was demonstrated yet again in Damascus in 1860 where he lived as an honoured exile. The Christian-Druze civil war in Lebanon had spread to Damascus where the Christian population found themselves surrounded by the Muslim Druze who arrived with Isis-like cruelty, brandishing swords and knives to slaughter their adversaries.

Abdelkader sent his Algerian Muslim guards – his personal militia – to bash their way through the mob and escort more than 10,000 Christians to his estate. And when the crowds with their knives arrived at his door, he greeted them with a speech which is still recited in the Middle East (though utterly ignored these days in the West). “You pitiful creatures!” he shouted. “Is this the way you honour the Prophet? God punish you! Shame on you, shame! The day will come when you will pay for this … I will not hand over a single Christian. They are my brothers. Get out of here or I’ll set my guards on you.”

Muslim historians claim Abdelkader saved 15,000 Christians, which may be a bit of an exaggeration. But here was a man for Muslims to emulate and Westerners to admire. His fury was expressed in words which would surely have been used today against the cult-like caliphate executioners of Isis. Of course, the “Christian” West would honour him at the time (although, interestingly, he received a letter of praise from the Muslim leader of wildly independent Chechnya). He was an “interfaith dialogue” man to please Pope Francis.


Abdelkader was invited to Paris. An American town was named after him – Elkader in Clayton County, Iowa, and it’s still there, population 1,273. Founded in the mid-19th century, it was natural to call your home after a man who was, was he not, honouring the Rights of Man of American Independence and the French Revolution? Abdelkader flirted with Freemasonry – most scholars believe he was not taken in – and loved science to such an extent that he accepted an invitation to the opening of the Suez Canal, which was surely an imperial rather than a primarily scientific project. Abdelkader met De Lesseps. He saw himself, one suspects, as Islam’s renaissance man, a man for all seasons, the Muslim for all people, an example rather than a saint, a philosopher rather than a priest.

But of course, Abdelkader’s native Algeria is a neighbour of Libya from where Salman Abedi’s family came, and Abdelkader died in Syria, whose assault by US aircraft – according to Abedi’s sister – was the reason he slaughtered the innocent of Manchester. And so geography contracts and history fades, and Abedi’s crime is, for now, more important than all of Abdelkader’s life and teaching and example. So for Mancunians, whether they tattoo bees onto themselves or merely buy flowers, why not pop into Manchester’s central library in St Peter’s Square and ask for Elsa Marsten’s The Compassionate Warrior or John Kiser’s Commander of the Faithful or, published just a few months ago, Mustapha Sherif’s L’Emir Abdelkader: Apotre de la fraternite?

They are no antidotes for sorrow or mourning. But they prove that Isis does not represent Islam and that a Muslim can earn the honour of the world.

How the Muslim world lost the freedom to choose

A brave new book describes how Pakistan unraveled — and provides a blueprint for understanding declining pluralism across the Middle East, writes  Kim Ghattas on Foreign Policy. Read on: 

When national security advisor H.R. McMaster wanted to convince U.S. President Donald Trump that Afghanistan was not hopeless, he whipped out a 1972 black-and-white picture of women in miniskirts on the streets of Kabul.

The point of this exercise was presumably to show that the country once embraced Western ideals and could do so again with America’s assistance. McMaster’s trick worked: Trump ultimately reversed his earlier skepticism about the war effort and decided to raise troop levels. But it also showed the continued limits of America’s understanding of the countries it has sought to remake in its image. The snapshot depicts Kabul’s urban elite — an elite that was unrepresentative, even back then, of the wider Afghan population. Not everyone was walking around in a skirt before the Taliban imposed the burqa.

The photograph, however, does capture something that has been lost not just in Afghanistan since the rise of the Taliban, but also across much of the Muslim world in recent decades: the freedom to choose.

Not every Afghan woman wore a miniskirt in the 1970s, but they could do so without fear of an acid attack or a flogging. Other pictures from that era depict the educational and professional opportunities available to Afghan women. But it’s always the clothes that get the most attention. Pictures of Saudi Arabia from the 1960s and 1970s are also making the rounds these days in the Middle East, showing men and women in bathing suits by the pool and on the jetty of a famous beach resort. Most of those in the pictures look like foreigners — some are airline staff on a break in Jeddah. But Saudis also patronized these beaches, and even if some shook their head with disapproval, the option to go to the beach without fear of violence was there.

Beyond skirts and beaches, the 1960s and 1970s were also a time of vigorous intellectual debate about the role of religion in society. Debates between leftists, secularists, capitalists, Marxists, and Islamists raged across the region, from Egypt to Pakistan. Militant Islamists will dismiss those decades of more progressive, diverse thought and culture as decadent Western imports — the lingering after-effects of colonial influence. But if some of it was certainly emulation, much of it was also indigenous. One of the Arab world’s most famous feminists of the early 20th century was Nazira Zain al-Dine, from Lebanon, who had no connection to the Western feminist movement of the time.

Yet over the course of the last few decades, the space for debate and freedom of choice has become increasingly narrow. Pakistan provides a stark and cautionary tale for other countries about how intolerance gets legitimized. It’s not only when a group like the Taliban seizes power violently that a country loses its more diverse, vibrant past. A slow erosion of progressive norms, a slow shift in beliefs can be just as devastating.

In Pakistan from 1927 to 1985, only 10 blasphemy cases were reportedly heard in court. Between 1985 and 2011, more than 4,000 cases were handled. Even worse, blasphemy, real or alleged, can get you killed in today’s Pakistan.Even worse, blasphemy, real or alleged, can get you killed in today’s Pakistan. In January 2011, Punjab governor Salman Taseer was killed by his bodyguard for coming to the aide of a young Christian woman who had been charged with blasphemy. Taseer’s killer was sentenced to death, but he was celebrated as a hero by tens of thousands who attended his funeral, and a mosque was built in his name in Islamabad.

The assassination of Taseer — as well as that of Pakistan’s first Christian federal minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, just two months later — shocked Farahnaz Ispahani, a friend of both men. Ispahani, a former journalist, was at the time a member of Pakistan’s parliament serving on the Human Rights Committee. Together, the small group had repeatedly tried to raise the issue of minority rights. In parliament, Ispahani had access to more information than the general public and was shocked about the extent of daily violence against minorities — and that none of her colleagues were willing to discuss the issue.
Women walk through Kabul in 1972. (Via Amnesty International UK)
The assassination of her two friends prompted Ispahani to write “Purifying the Land of the Pure.” The book, published last year, charts the slow death of minority rights and pluralism in Pakistan, and what it means for the future of democracy. The result is a sweeping but concise chronicle of how things unraveled. A minority herself, as a Shiite, Ispahani was careful to avoid polemic and opinion by delivering a thorough, methodically researched work. She and her husband, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, have both faced death threats for their work and live in self-imposed exile in Washington.

In her book, Ispahani tracks the unraveling to within a few years of the independence of Pakistan. The country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah — a secular Shiite — envisioned a country where “you are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship.” But Ispahani writes that “his hopeful declaration of religious pluralism” remains unfulfilled.

The trend toward making Islam a central tenet of life in Pakistan started soon after independence in 1947, a result of Muslim feelings of being victimized by both Hindus and British colonialism in India. By 1973, Islam was declared as the state religion of Pakistan. In 1974, under the ostensibly progressive Prime Minister Zulfiqar Bhutto, parliament declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims. A Muslim movement that started in the late 19th century, Ahmadis follow the teachings of the Quran and consider their founder to be a prophet, upsetting orthodox Muslims who believe Muhammad is the final prophet.

Bhutto found it hard to redefine Pakistani nationalism away from Islamic ideology. He was, Ispahani writes, unable to manage the “delicate balancing act of implementing liberal ideas and appeasing Islamist sentiments.”

By the mid-1980s, hate literature targeting Shiites was proliferating. It fanned the narrative that they were not Muslims, a dangerous charge in a Sunni-majority nation where Shiites made up around 15 percent of the population. Military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq acquiesced to Sunni militant attacks on Shiites, paving the way for a systematic campaign to eliminate Shiite doctors, engineers, and teachers in Karachi and elsewhere. Today, Shiites and their mosques are still regular targets of deadly attacks: Since 2003, an estimated 2,558 Shiites have been killed in sectarian violence.

Ispahani identifies four stages in Pakistan’s loss of minority rights and growing intolerance. The first stage was the “Muslimization” of society, with transfer of non-Muslim populations out of Pakistan around the time of independence, followed by the rise of an Islamic identity with the loss of East Pakistan. Then came the Islamization of laws under Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, and finally the rise of militant, organized violence.

While there was no sudden, overnight transformation, Ispahani nevertheless identifies Zia’s rule as the point of no return. The military ruler Islamized the laws of the country, introducing sharia courts and new Islamic laws known as hudood ordinances, which apply strict Sharia punishments for specific offenses. It was during his time that the blasphemy laws were strengthened, adding life sentences and the death penalty as punishment.

No aspect of culture was spared from the Islamization driveNo aspect of culture was spared from the Islamization drive, as movie theaters were shut from Karachi to Peshawar, artists were driven underground and school curricula redesigned to create a “monolithic image of Pakistan as an Islamic state and taught students to view only Muslims as Pakistani citizens.”

Zia’s legacy remains, entrenched in the system and people’s daily lives. Pakistanis under the age of 40 have never experienced any other lifestyle, while the older generations reminisce about a more diverse past — even as they also gloss over some of that past’s shortcomings. But however it came about, Pakistan’s growing intolerance has taken its toll on diversity: Between 1947 and today, minorities went from 25 percent of the population to 3 percent.

“Its about pluralism, that can only happen when there is room for many kinds of people,” Ispahani said. “You cannot have a pluralistic, democratic state when you believe in the purity of your religion.”

The picture that McMaster showed Trump is a good reminder of what once was, but it does not provide a strategy to restore the pluralism that was once an accepted part of life in Pakistan or other countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, or Egypt. Ispahani’s book serves as a reminder that something far more profound than miniskirts has been lost in these countries. Washington’s counterterrorism policies, which help curb groups like the Taliban, are a good start, but they often fail to go any further toward restoring basic norms like respect for diversity. That will ultimately depend on the efforts of the local population themselves.

Those efforts may be able to draw on the power of nostalgia. When people in Pakistan, Egypt, or Afghanistan rifle through the photo albums of their parents and grandparents and wonder what happened to their country, they see skirts or cleavage — but they desire diversity and freedom of choice.