AZADI by Chaman Nahal


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Azadi or ""Freedom"" is a broad-gauged novel dealing with the Partition in 1947 as experienced by the family of a grain merchant in a small West Punjab village. A solid Hindu citizen, somewhat more educated than his wife if behind his son who is now at college, Lala Kanshi Ram has always viewed the British with Angrez -- a hate not devoid of admiration. Little does he realize the far greater separations and sorrows to follow, just as the shooting of a dog on the streets by an English soldier revealing the same cavalier indifference with which they had once gunned down Indians, is only prefatory to the later scenes of riot, looting, stampede and slaughter. And the Partition which will lead to more bloodshed between Muslim and Hindu, will, by the close, leave Lala Kanshi Ram and the survivors of his family (his daughter, elsewhere, is killed) much more alone with their uncertainties and regrets. In between the family is forced to leave the village for a refugee camp, further relocated, and finally arrives at the homeless safety of New Delhi. Arun, his son, must give up his love for a Muslim girl for the more available Chandni of much lower caste -- only to have her kidnapped by the Muslims. Throughout, Nahal (author of other works -- not novels -- and head of the English Department at Delhi University's Institute of Postgraduate Studies) fills in the hubbub of family life and its sexual intimacies and frictions. The novel informs to a greater degree than it involves (the foreordained inevitability of that East-West cliche?) but it is rewarding as it sets not only a country but to a degree a civilization in motion toward. . . ?

Pub Date: April 21st, 1975
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin