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Aasim Khan

By Chowra Makaremi Trasnslated by Renuka George
Yoda Press, Delhi, 2013, pp. 149, Rs. 250.00


The last 100 years have cast a long shadow on the 21st century; their dark patterns appear particularly sinister in those parts of Asia that saw an end of colonial domination and emergence of free, independent states. Maybe today there are fewer conflicts and military coups, nuclear wars seem less imminent and secret prisons do not make headlines as often. But defending such arguments is tenuous, sometimes entirely farcical. Today even as a new generation comes into the political life of these states, from Iran to China, from India to Turkey, the past is never too far.   It is in these moments, when hope and fear intermingle, that a book like Aziz’s Notebook becomes very necessary. Surely the legacy of the last one hundred years is a complex one, and Asia is rising from what Pankaj Mishra has fittingly called the ‘ruins of empires’. But what is in store in the next hundred years is difficult to tell. It is the role of historians to remind the people of what went wrong. But sometimes ordinary men and women like Aziz Zarei, the author of the notebook within this book, accomplish that task much better. As the cover of this slim book puts it, in plain simple words he answers the question, ‘What happens when a Revolution goes bad?’   The changes that occurred in 1979 in Iran are too complex to fit into a single narrative, and Aziz Zarei, the father of two revolutionaries, does not try to tell any authoritative account. His task is modest. To write an account so that his grand-daughter (Chowra Makaremi) should know what happened to her family. The opening line of his diary (scribbled on the back pages of his personal copy of the Quran) says it all, ‘Oh my dear Koran, I will entrust you with the sorrows of my heart...’ This honesty and piety is evident in the passages that follow, as Aziz details the trial and execution of his two daughters.   The two sisters Fateneh and Fatemah Zarei, whose story their father recounts in the pages of his notebook, were among the best and the brightest of their generation. Driven to revolution against a despotic and undemocratic regime, they ended up becoming committed antagonists of the new order. But the tragedy of this particular tale lies in the poignancy with which Aziz recounts the daily travails of a family, as it lives through ...

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