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.