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Political Dilemma of a Modernist

Hilal Ahmed

By Asghar Wajahat
Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 232, Rs. 350.00


This novel makes a wideranging comment on a complex sociocultural world and virtually troubled political loyalties of a generation of intellectuals, who proudly describe themselves as progressive intellectual activists in pre1990 India. Focusing on the intellectual life of contemporary Delhi, the novel quite stridently interrogates the manners in which the conceptual vocabulary of progressdemocracy, liberty, equality, social transformation and even revolution finds new meanings in the everyday individual discourses. The novel with sociopolitical trajectories of Indian public life critically engages with the personal lives of a few wellcrafted characters. Written in the first person, the novel is about a senior English journalist, Sajid Ali, who is known for his propeople, leftoriented writings and who also has written four books and a number of articles on bonded labourers in India. Sajid belongs to an Ashraf Muslim family of UP. Like any other Ashraf boy of 1960s, Sajid is sent to Aligarh for higher education, where he learns his first lesson in progressive politics. This ideological conversion changes his worldview. Sajid explores the exploitative nature of the existing system and an elusive search for achieving the ideals of absolute equality begins. Sajid draws a clear dividing line between the oppressed and oppressor/between inequality and equality/and between justice and injustice to adequately situate acts, events, processes and even individuals in the larger project of emancipation. This ideological clarity turns out to be a methodological device by which the merit of individual acts is determined and justifications are drawn. Yet, Sajid is an Ashrafan economically powerful and culturally rich man, whose family provides all kinds of support to his varied experiments. He spends a few years in Delhi to get a job, gets into bigscale farming, mobilizes the working class people of his native Kasba for revolutionary politics and even contests a local election. He is given complete autonomy to choose a profession of his own choice. The cultural capital, which he inherits from his family and/or generates through his own involvement in elite left politics of late 1960s, finally help him in securing a permanent job in a highly regarded English newspaper. The job transforms Sajid from a serious Ashraf boy to a left oriented English journalist, who works in the newspaper primarily to bring revolutionary consciousness through his English writings. Quite inevitably, Sajid gets into a public sphere of progressive politics and finds a space in the muchcelebrated coffee ...

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