Wednesday, 5 June 2013

In Good Faith . .A journey in search of an unknown India

This book describes a journey across India by the author in search of her own identity and the identity of India she can identify with .During this journey , she frequently comes across people   whose behaviour and practices  challenge  the  commonly held  notions of what it means to be a Hindu or a Muslim in India.As a result , she discovers an India in far away , little places where  followers of the two religions find a common God, a  building  which is both a temple and a dargah. She discovers little islands  where  diverse, multiple religions coexist ,providing the evidence of unity and a  strong counter to fundamentalism .She discovers dialogues and voices which  indicate  that India has a tradition of unity and religious tolerance which goes back to many centuries.
                     The book "In Good Faith  . . A journey in search of an unknown India" by Saba Naqvi  , published in 2012 by Rupa Publications India Pvt. Ltd , has191 pages , and is a racy read .It is essentially a book  about an honest , unbiased and long search for identity .Having worked in Uttar Pradesh as an IAS officer for 32 years and in Moradabad as District Magistrate from 1991 to 1994, I found the author  struggling  to search for answers to similar  questions which often  have  occupied my mind  too.That is why , I find these accounts of journeys by the author very authentic.In a state which is often  plagued by the virus of religion and caste, this book comes like a fresh breeze.Such books inspire confidence between the two communities and must be read by all  the administrative and police officers who have a major role in the governance   as also the  people interested in understanding the traditions of inter-faith harmony and peace .
                                                            There is  always a scope for self-doubt when we see instances of religious intolerance .I quote:"The truth was that , somewhere along the way , I had  also begun to doubt the work itself.That's why it took me so long to give it a serious shape.Having collected the material over several years , I became a non-believer. . . . But somewhere down the line , I knew I had to keep some idealism alive.Over the years , i would periodically return to this project that , in some sense, represented an India I would like to believe in, a culture I wanted to survive.I struggled with my own scepticism about it being categorised as romantic mush to deem that it was worth my while and indeed, a valuable contribution to put down all the material I had collected and knock it into some sort of a sensible shape."I find this self -doubt very real and natural .In fact , this self-doubt  gives this book a touch of authenticity .A parallel self-doubt comes when as a civil servant I struggle with my scepticism and retain my faith that honest governance is still possible , when I see in  some  civil servants   glimpses of honest courage and willingness to pay the price for the cause of truth.The book by  Saba Naqvi gives hope and faith on several planes.
                           The author says that each chapter has the attention span of a journalist sniffing out a story and not the rigour of an academic .To my mind , this is one major strength of the book .Had it been written by an academic , it would have lost  some of its readability and impact .The book covers the journeys to places in  12 states  of West Bengal ,, Maharashtra,,Andhra Pradesh,Orissa,Tamil Nadu,,Kerala,,Rajasthan,Uttar Pradesh,Assam,Karnataka,Manipur,Kashmir and Bollywood. The book has rightly highlighted the positive impact of Sufi movement and Bhakti movement  on both Hinduism and Islam .
                               Despite all instances  strifes  and  communal  disharmony in India , the stories described in the book give "glimmer of hope".I recommend you to read this book to understand the  religious and  cultural diversity and unity of India.