Friday, April 17, 2009

Attia Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column, reviewed by Dinesh Maurya

Elegance of finely balanced merging of traditional Muslim family with love and India’s freedom struggle, frank contemplations and childlike curiosity makes Sunlight on a Broken Column insightfully written by Attia Hosain a pleasing and enlightening read. The book’s fadeless tone and characters make it appealing even in these different times and perhaps that is why Sunlight is an unsullied perceptive take of Indian-Muslims, British Raj and social prejudices.

The novel stays peculiarly around love, marriage and traditional practises though the place, people and situation change with the passage of time, which in the whole establishes an unbreakable and gripping cord between social stigmas, political disturbances and emotional longings. Initially I was not certain about Anita Desai’s remark that Sunlight is ‘a gallery full of portraits’, however when I countered so many jumbled but delicately detailed and memorable characters erupting with each new chapter, I agreed to every word of Ms Desai.

Laila doesn’t want to be ‘paired off like an animal’ as her conservative aunt Abida and Mohsin, a kinsman, has decided to choose a good husband for Zahra, aunt Majida’s daughter, while living in her severely ill grandfather Baba Jan’s house as an orphaned daughter of an eminent Muslim kin. Finally after going through a lot of distressing and confusing conditions in Lucknow where she lives with her liberal but autocratic uncle in the uprising of India’s freedom struggle, Laila falls in love with Ameer, however the problem is that he has not being chosen by her family as per the norm of arranged marriage strictly prevalent in their custom. Consequently, Laila and Ameer leave the house, which is narrated by Laila as ‘yet I had already left this home for ever. Ameer’s hand held mine tightly.’

There are numerous mesmerizing lines in the book that not only grasps my attention but makes me read on and on till the last page inquisitively. Presented below are two instances:

‘European and American aesthetes and intellectuals and the ‘smart set’ of Bombay and Delhi had discovered the art and culture of ancient India simultaneously.

It appeared at times that neo-Indians wore their nationalism like mask, and their Indianness like fancy dress.’

‘But as the curtains stirred I felt the hidden fear in my heart flaming in the desire to escape through the imprisoning doors and out to the moonlit veranda, to the courtyard, to my room among those who were untouched by the transformation of dark death.’

Sunlight on a Broken Column may leave a few troubling questions unanswered and doubts unexplained to let the readers think and discover the considerate answers themselves, but it says enough to make every issue apparent and unforgettable thereon.

Find out mroe about Attia Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column here.

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