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HUSBAND OF A FANATIC : A Personal Journey Through India, Pakistan, Love, and Hate Hardcover – 1 Oct 2004

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Invisible borders between Hindus and Muslims 16 May 2005
By shireen - Published on
Amitava Kumar is an Indian Hindu literature professor teaching in a college in the East coast of America, in his early forties, and married to a Canadian-Pakistani writer of Muslim heritage. And this brief bio matters as the subtitle of his book makes clear - A personal journey through India, Pakistan, Love and Hate.

Kumar revels in sharing his reading and travelling experience organised around the theme of the Hindu-Muslim border. But this isn't the physical border that divides India and Pakistan. Instead these are the invisible lines of control that regulate, constrain and deform relations between peoples of similar cultures.

Much of Kumar's book occupies itself with exposing the shallow, unexamined and compensatory machismo of the Hindutva ideologues who dominated Indian political life in the 1990s. Kumar tracks down their representatives in the US, and even provides some frightening examples of how American Hindutva ideologues have squared the American dream with the Hindu meme.

Kumar makes a virtue of the technique of testimony, and an extended section of his book is dedicated to reproducing letters between young Indians and Pakistanis on the state of bilateral relations (Kumar actually ferried the letters).

Kumar provides important reminders of the fusion between Muslim and non-Muslim culture in India before and even after Partition. For example, it is forgotten that before the Partition, Muslims made up many of the shabad singers in Sikh Gurdwaras. And even today, Pakistanis and Indians revere the same local South Asian saints. Kumar visits one of these shrines on the Indian-Pakistani border, and his description of his visit, what he sees and hears, stands out in this travelogue.

Kumar's choppy transitions are one of the major weaknesses. Others have criticised his cut and paste approach, but that a flaw and not a fatal sin. He makes up for it with his inclusive humanism, his wonder at what he calls the "enchanted civil society" and his welcome highlighting of the inter-confessional cooperation of Indians in the South African anti-apartheid struggle.

Also welcome is Kumar's habit of mentioning key sentences and phrases in Hindi (with translation) which allows Hindi-speaking readers a deeper register of meaning.

But perhaps the shallowest part of the book is Kumar's highlighting of his wedding and his 'half-conversion'. The way it is described smacks of hucksterism, but that is less a criticism than a comment. Perhaps he had his reasons, and honestly, in the clamour of reportage on the rising elephant called India, you have to ride the wind.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Deceptive Title 8 May 2005
By Kirti - Published on
The title of the book is deceptive and am not sure whether it adds any value barring catching the attention of the would be buyer. Or it is a clever play on the word 'fanatic' as the book demonstrates the many facets of fanaticism that he encounters. I found the book to be interesting but it did leave me with an ambivalent feeling as huge chunks of the book are devoted to retelling of stories from other writers..I found this to be particularly disturbing when reading the section on Gandhi in SA and was struggling to understand how this long section added any value to the text. The same applies to the extensive citing of authors and books written by them and then a synopsis of the story is embedded in the text. Felt that this could have been eliminated as this was not an anthology of stories but the writer's exploration of the impact of fanaticism, social exclusion and the rise of anti-secularism. The jumps in chronological time can also intrude as when he is in Pakistan you expect a coherent account of this: instead one flips past and forward which detracts from the main objective.

An intriguing read but it does leave you somewhat bemused!
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Read this book. 29 Sept. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on
This is one of my favorite books. Though I have looked far and wide, this is the only book that I have found that begins to explore the complexity of the causes of the ethnic violence that plagues nearly every corner of the modern world. It offers no answers or definitive explanations because, so far, no one has found any. Instead, it presents an impressive array of examples and evidence of Hindu and Muslim views of one another.
14 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Lacking courage of his convictions... 3 Aug. 2005
By S. Kumar - Published on
Amitav Kumar's "Husband Of A Fanatic" is well written but I came away feeling pity for the author's lack of spine. Marrying a Pakistani Muslim, he feels he hasn't converted to Islam but has no guts to stand up to his convictions when being forced to change his name to a Muslim one. Despite acknowledging the Official ban on Hindu-Muslim marriage in Pakistan and unbroken legacy of forced conversions, he has the gall to spend 99% of the book criticizing India's openness and secularism (however flawed) & Hinduism in general hiding behind the excesses of RSS, Shiv Sena and BJP. What is sickening is that he feels very little compunction to apply the same standards to a much more closed and brutal society and religion in Pakistan.

So here is one more spineless Hindu intellectual essentially apologising to his "superior" Muslim Masters and in the mean time collecting a few more browny points with the appeasing Liberal Intellectuals in the West. Very depressing indeed.
6 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Nothing more than a left liberal political journal 20 May 2009
By Vivek - Published on
Title is provocative but deceptive and in no way connected to the story. It looks like author wrote this book to prove something to his muslim wife(a Tajmahal ???). He seems to somehow feel guilty for being a hindu; which lot of left liberals do. The stories he recounts may be true but they are one sided and biased. He completely ignores equally horrible stories of hindus as victims in Kashmir. He sure wears very thick left liberal glasses. I wonder if he is doing this out ignorance or on purpose. But He does come out as much more sincere and genuine than the likes of Teesta and other leftists. He keeps interviewing some uneducated right wing fringe or riot affected muslims to soft-pedal his view point, instead of honestly presenting equally if not more terrible acts by muslims.
Part of what he writes might be true but mostly it his own understanding of the hindu muslim divide and lacks in depth undestanding of the subject. Perhaps not being from a place with substantial muslim population is the cause (Bihar is not one of those states). All in all book is waste of time.
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