Never at Home_Front Cover

 

Title: Never at Home: An Autobiography

Author: Dom Moraes

Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books, 2020

 

 

 

I arrived in Bombay towards the end of the monsoon. This had always been one of my favourite seasons as an adolescent, but I now found myself looking at it in a different way. It made a mess of the roads, and the city seemed to founder under it. I realized with a certain wonder that I was seeing it as a foreigner; that I was seeing it as a foreign city, though it was less than five years since I had lived there. My encounters with people I had previously known had a certain dreamlike quality: their personalities, familiar before, now seemed seen through a kind of mist. I was treated with some awe, because I had won the Hawthornden. I assumed a posture of arrogance, and secretly felt a little ashamed. The newspapers spoke of the book I had come to write.

Actually, I hadn’t planned this book at all; the thought of starting on it slightly terrified me. I didn’t know where or how to start: I had never tried anything like this before. In these circumstances, as often in the past, I consulted my father. He said, ‘I imagine you want to write this book as an outsider looking in. I couldn’t do that myself, about India. The only way I can help is by imagining that you are an outsider.’ There was a slight double edge to this remark, untypical of him. But then he was entitled to it.

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By Amir Ullah Khan

Humera Ahmed is a writer and a poet who recently retired from the top echelons of India’s civil service. She had an illustrious career across various departments and ministries across the country and its capital. One stint in Shimla caught her imagination and she uses her notes to write a lovely book, which is part-travelogue, part-autobiography, part-historical and in parts, a contemporary review of the state of Himachal. She also talks insightfully of how the postal service works and how it has transformed itself during the recent past. Not much has been written about this fascinating part of North India and therefore this book becomes a priceless manuscript documenting one of our most exotic provinces.

The book is titled A Year in Himachal: Memories of an Incredible State, published by Notion press. Humera starts off by telling us of her own trepidation in moving from cosmopolitan Mumbai to a sleepy little hill station. She confesses there was no choice and she had to go, but as the tale unfolds, it becomes clear that it was a decision she cherishes, as it brings her to this awe-inspiring landscape with sublime and splendid mountains. In this wonderfully crafted book, she talks of her one year spent here learning, walking, meeting people and discovering a new life and culture. As if this was not enough, there are a couple of her poems, vividly describing her awestruck gaze on nature’s work in the hills.