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Taqi Ali Mirza

By Mumtaz Shah Nawaz
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2004, pp. 451, Rs. 375.00


The Heart Divided is a graphic picture of the upper class society of Lahore in the years before Independence. It is the story of two sisters, Sughra and Zohra, the protagonist, and their brother, Habib, against the backdrop of the momentous political changes that were taking place in Punjab in the 1930s and the War years. Lahore was still a centre of the composite culture, as were Delhi, Lucknow and scores of other cities in the country, which had grown over a number of centuries. Mumtaz Shah Nawaz was a product of this culture, but, like many of her contemporaries, succumbed to the pressure of the demand for a separate homeland for Muslims, culminating in the creation of Pakistan. The Heart Divided is not, however, a political novel. It is, rather, a sociological novel, and, as Krishna Kumar, in his foreword rightly calls it, “a fictional documentary.” The story of the two sisters, and the Shaikh family to which they belong, portrays not only the crises in their personal lives, but also the inevitable emergence of the state of Pakistan. Zohra becomes a strong supporter of this movement, and there is, at the end, a comfortable resolution of all issues, personal and political. On the personal plane, Habib, the brother, overcomes his grief over his failure in love for Mohini, a charming Kashmiri Pandit girl, and her death and, eventually marries Najma, who has herself passed through a trying time. Sughra’s marriage has been a disaster, but she ultimately finds happiness in reconciliation with her husband. Zohra is drawn towards Ahmed, a bright, young man, much lower in social status, and her resolve to marry him is strongly opposed by her parents, but, finally, they yield to her demand to lead her own life, and she begins a new life of political and social activism. On the political plane, the fulfilment in the personal lives of the principal characters coincides with the fulfilment of another goal, the creation of Pakistan.      One will probably never know how much of autobiography there is in the novel, which was published in 1953, many years after Mumtaz Shah Nawaz’s tragic death in an air crash in Ireland, which cut short a life of great promise. Mumtaz was only thirty-five at the time of her death. This is the first time that this remarkable novel has been made available to readers in India by ...

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