A novel about partition, love and separation from India

World War II raged in the background and Naim enthusiastically enlisted in the British Army, seeing action in Europe and later Africa. This part of the novel contains some of the most touching scenes of the war, and Hussein is unique among his contemporaries for the depiction. There is a memorable passage after the scene where Naïm is snubbed by his superior for being too curious about the still distant war. This is a dialogue between Naim and his childhood friend and fellow rookie, Mahinder:

“It was different,” he said after a few long minutes. “To avenge the blood of one of your own, even a rat can kill. We don’t even know the people here. It’s like killing a pig or a jackal in the jungle.

“Well,” said Naïm, “that’s war.”

Although leaning on hands resting on either side of him on the stone, Mahinder Singh looked slouched, his back arched, shoulders slumped, as if his body had taken on a different shape. .

“Tell me,” Mahinder Singh asked suddenly, “why are we here? “Because of the war,” said Naim. “The enemy has attacked.” “What, attacked our village?” »

“Attacked the British Sarkars and their friends.” ‘What is it for us?’

“They are our masters.

“Our master is Roshan Aga,” Mahinder Singh said simply. “Yes, and the English sarkar is the master of Roshan Agha.

A brief hollow sound came from Mahinder Singh’s mouth. “How many masters do we have? »

Naim burst out laughing. “Well, that’s how it is. »

Mahinder Singh stood up heavily, as if straining to bear the weight of his clothes. “I like this place,” he said, pointing to the graves. “Here, good people are buried. With names.

Naim loses his left arm fighting for the British in Africa and is rewarded with land, a pension, a title, a Distinguished Service Medal for his services; and also Azra’s hand in marriage, despite fierce opposition from her crusty feudal family. Returning to Roshan Pur, he becomes more determined to defy the depredations of the Khan landlords after witnessing the humiliation of Ahmed Din, the oldest resident of the village who, having lost his son in the Great War, refused to pay the exorbitant motorana (motor tax) levied by the Khans. One such attempt to organize the peasants of Jat Nagar ended in the imprisonment of Naim. Later, when sent on “training” to organize oppressed peasants and workers, Naim also disagrees with violence in the name of violence employed by the group he is invited to join, and eventually quits. this group.

Irene B. Bowles