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Whither the Peace, the Temples?

Sukrita Paul Kumar

By Qurratulain Hyder
Women Unlimited (an associate of Kali for Women), New Delhi, 2004, pp. 182, Rs. 250.00


My Temples, too is a testimony to a world cracking; a secure world, ensconced in the stability of everyday living, suddenly faced with the turbulence of Partition. This is an English avatar of the Urdu novel Mere Bhi Sanamkhane, the translation of which has been done by the author, Qurratulain Hyder, herself. As in the case of her earlier translation, Aag ka Darya (The River of Fire), this translation too is actually a recreation. The translator uses her prerogative of being the author and feels free to change, mould or even sometimes edit the original expression. Critics may wish to impose the notion of “fidelity” on the translator, but when the translated text bears the seal of the author, can anyone raise any objections regarding faithfulness? So let us look at the text as the original itself…   The novel opens with a Prologue that creates a backdrop for what is to follow: “…Mahatma Gandhi says we are going to be free and Jinnah Sahib says the Muslims must have Pakistan”. “And, Sahib, I want to get back to Lahore. I’ve seen enough of battle-fronts, and some people said the other day…that there will be a big war in India itself…” From the World War to the harmonious cultural context of Lucknow and then, on to the splitting of India, the novel moves from the war outside to a war inside the nation, between the two major communities . In between, it provides us with a glimpse of the leisurely life being savoured by a bunch of young people, Rakshanda, Salim, Peechu, Kiran and others—all of them avowed idealists floating in the quiet rhythms of upper class domesticity, attending parties and discussing politics and ideologies indulgently.   To Rakshanda, the society is in fact a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces will soon scatter. She is not the one to succumb to any pressure from Peechu to compromise her principles and change the policy of her paper The New Era. There is a gradual transformation in the reading public though, which as Peechu tells her has discarded its old principles. But Rakshanda’s resistance to accepting the idea of a Hindi-Muslim divide showcases her commitment to a united and secular India.   My Temples, Too is a novel dealing with a period seeped in political tensions on the one hand and on the other, it is the story of the transformation of life ...

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