Trial by fire, lit­er­ally

Governance Now - - BOOK BRIEFS -

Amem­oir of trauma and hope set against the back­ground of the 1969 ri­ots of Ahmedabad, Ag­ni­parik­sha re­counts the ex­pe­ri­ences of an em­i­nent Gu­jarat high court lawyer who lived in both word and spirit a life of re­li­gious and cul­tural pluralism. Hamid Kureshi grew up in prox­im­ity to Gandhi in a fam­ily whose devo­tion to the na­tion, and to Gandhi, was ab­so­lute. Dur­ing the ri­ots, when per­haps for the first time, Kureshi – a third-gen­er­a­tion Gand­hian and a non-prac­tis­ing Muslim mar­ried to a Hindu woman – is re­duced to be­ing only a Muslim, he strug­gles to com­pre­hend the ha­tred and rage di­rected at his com­mu­nity even as an en­tire legacy of Gand­hian syn­creti­cism stands chal­lenged.

in this mat­ter-of-fact, re­strained, yet poignant first-per­son ac­count, Kureshi pro­vides the land­scape of a vi­o­lence-rid­den city, as also a glimpse into the many lives as­so­ci­ated with the Gandhi Ashram. in an at­mo­sphere of ter­ri­ble fear and un­cer­tainty, he re­counts how his fam­ily’s strug­gles for self-preser­va­tion were buoyed by the con­stant shield­ing pres­ence, con­cern and af­fec­tion of Hindu friends and neigh­bours, and the Ashram com­mu­nity. This me­moir is an as­ser­tion of hu­man kind­ness, friend­ship and dig­nity amidst mor­tal dan­ger, ha­tred and fear; and Kureshi’s nar­ra­tion, un­touched by bit­ter­ness or re­sent­ment, leaves the reader moved.

Ag­ni­parik­sha is a valu­able ad­di­tion to Gu­jarati lit­er­a­ture and a wel­come com­pan­ion to Gandhi and Peace stud­ies. This trans­la­tion by rita Kothari, a re­puted cul­tural his­to­rian, au­thor and trans­la­tor, makes a rare doc­u­ment of a pe­riod, a city and in­ter-faith re­la­tion­ships ac­ces­si­ble to a wider read­er­ship for the first time.

ag­ni­parik­sha By Hamid Kureshi (Trans­lated from the orig­i­nal Gu­jarati by Rita Kothari), Ori­ent Black­swan, 84 pages, ₹235

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