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Interesting and evocative but irritatingly biased
on 29 August 2013
For those interested in Indian history this is a facinating glimpse into what life may have been like in Delhi in the early years of the 20th century. I say 'may have been like' because the writer is Muslim and describes Muslim culture and I presume therefore does not write for Hindus. Muslim culture - in Delhi in 1911 anyway - does not come out of this well in that the story revolves around a Muslim family and details the confinement of the women to the zenana and the seemingly glib attitude of the men to taking mistresses and prostitutes. Regular attendance at Friday prayers by the male characters does not seem to have resulted in any behaviour modification and the author's own attitude seems to be one of tacit approval.
The introduction to the book also refers to the enslavement of Africans by western countries - I wasn't quite sure how this fitted into a book about life in India - yet for some reason the author ignores the heavy involvement of Muslim traders in African slavery which predated European activity by several hundred years. Of course the other inconsistency is that the Mughals and before them the Turkic and Afghan tribes, from whom the Muslims in India derive their religion, were themselves invaders who defeated the Indian rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries and 'colonised' much of India. The authors unwritten contention would seem to be that Mughal/Muslim civilisation was superior to that of the British/Christians. The simple fact of the matter is that just as the Mughal empire disintegrated in the face of Indian nationalism so did that of the British. Perhaps that says it all.