A readers Review: But You Don’t Look Like A Muslim
Chaman me ikhtilat-e-rang-o-bu se baat banti nahi
Hum hi hum hain to kya hum hain tum hi tum ho to kya tum ho
It is the intermingling of the color & fragrances that makes a garden(Sarshar Sailani)
If there is only us there can be no us & there can be no you if there is only you.(Author’s translation)
But you don’t look like a Muslim, authored by Dr. Rakhshanda Jalil & published by Harper Collins, India in May 2019. This book is a collection of forty essays divided in four contextual sections or themes. The essays covered author’s memoirs, anecdotes, critical reflections & reviews on Urdu literature. Before the text commence you will find a contextual verse of Sailani with dedication note of the work by author to her late father, Dr. Abdul Jalil Sahab. The section “the politics of identities” started with the journey of her late father from the mufassil town of Tarai plains of Himalayas to Delhi in the backdrop of partition politics & demographic shift.
Moving from the collective memoirs focused on the identities, the book moved to the cultural essays, exploring the lesser known facets of Urdu from the days of Khusru to the recent past of golden days when “Jay Siya Ram” was a common greetings in a practicing Muslims. The mosaics of literature concluded on the essay on the facets of unfortunate event i.e., partition in Urdu. Here the narratives of Batwara vs Azadi were explored. The last theme “Rubric of Religion” composed of essays starting from Chand Raat, Muharram, Shabe Qadr to Janmashtami, Holi, Bada Din, & Diwali. The last two essays explored Guru Nanak in poetry of legendary Urdu Scholars along with the literary review of Gita in Urdu & Persian from days of Faizi up to recent publication from India & Pakistan. Collecting a diverse essays in one manuscript with such a contextual title define the sociocultural history of Indian Muslims. The separate themes connected with each other by key word of “Identity” with blend of Urdu poetry & its translations is a reflection of authors long writing journey as a foremost literary historians. In the days when we find the hate mongering is used as a tool for the majoritarian regime to assert the power, the book explores in depth the rich flavors of Urdu poetry centered around Krishna & Ram as an Imame Hind.
Maslak-i-ishq hai parastish-i-husnHasrat Mohani
Hum nahin jaante aazab-o-sawaab
The identity of Indian Muslims that was evolved as an outcome of centuries old syncretic fusion & cultural exchanges has been central to the manuscript. On the other hand when neo-puritan ideologies finds the larger space in elite Indian Muslims in recent days, the authors memoirs on Muharram, & Eid Maulid gave a rich overview to readers with its cultural context in Indian Subcontinent. The starting essay described the preference of her late father. Dr. Jalil, a young medical graduate from an esteemed medical school who had chosen India over the so called promised land of Muslims. His home town located in lap of Himalayas in fertile plains of Tarai faced bloody riots with changing demographic shift due to influx of Hindu immigrants from Punjab & Sindh. He preferred to raise his children’s in land of Nanak & Chishti instead of availing opportunities that were easily accessible to educated middle class Urdu speakers in the newly created state on line of religions.