by Imteyaz Alam
Saeed Naqvi’s “Being The Other: The Muslim in India” (Aleph, 2016) is part memoir and part account of a series of unfolding events in modern India which he witnessed from close quarters as a journalist. Naqvi says that the shilanyas ceremony of 1989 at Ayodhya–that culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992–acted as the catalyst for writing this book which had gestated in his heart and mind over six decades.
The book is also an elegy to the syncretic Hindu-Muslim culture of Lucknow and its vicinity which was the cultural capital of erstwhile Awadh. The noted journalist grieves in the introduction of his book, “Rather, it’s a chronicle of my growing disillusionment, disappointment, with the direction in which the country is heading”.
Naqvi’s lucid language is a joy for the reader. The style is adorable and gripping. But the esteemed scholar fails to shed his biases. Only three chapters into the book and one encounters the writer’s elitist, sectarian prejudices. The writer quotes Akbar Allahabadi’s couplet:
Council mein bahut Syyed
Masjid mein faqat Jumman