One of my favourite books for 2016, Jinnah Often Came To Our House, is a work of historical fiction which serves as a testimony to the Indian independence struggle, with accurate references to events from 1900- 1948. It enunciates different viewpoints and piques the curiosity of the reader, without judging any of the prominent historical figures. The impeccable research, the refined and sophisticated narration and the deft handling of a sensitive subject, make this book an absolute pleasure to read. Click HERE for the review.
AB: Why Jinnah?
KD: As an Indian diplomat, I was often required to deal with Pakistan. I was even posted in the Indian mission in Islamabad once, with instructions to ‘normalise’, or improve India’s relations with Pakistan. Like scores of Indian diplomats before me (and, if I may add, after me) I failed. It was then, I think, that I first started asking myself why it was so difficult for India and Pakistan to be good neighbours. The reason was not, I felt, any of the reasons given by the government of either country. Those were only symptoms. The real reason, I felt in my bones, was something with much deeper roots. Finally, some years back, I embarked on a journey into the past to find the reason. The journey took me to 1947, then 1946, 1940, 1920 . . . all the way to 1905, when I came face to face with Jinnah, and I stopped. Jinnah Often Came to our House is, in many ways, an account of my journey back from 1905 to 1947, and then a little further, to Jinnah’s death in 1948.
AB: You say that you have had this idea for decades. How difficult was the research, especially since one of the main protagonists has been idolised by so many?
KD: All my life I have been a student of history, so I already knew the basic facts of the Indian history of the period before I started writing the book. But yes, I did do quite a bit of reading while writing it, partly to make sure that I did not make any factual errors (e.g. about the exact location of Jinnah’s chambers, or the precise dates of Gandhi’s visit to Bombay in 1920) but in main to get my Jinnah right. What was the man really like? What inner compulsions drove him to do the things he did? What were the external influences in his life? . . . Finding answers to the questions was both difficult as well as simple, difficult because very little of substance has been written about his early life, and nothing by him himself, simple because stripped off both the halo he has been given in Pakistan and the horns in India, he was a quite uncomplicated man (unlike, say, Gandhi, a hugely complex man.)
AB: How long did it take you to write this book?
KD: About three years, including the time for the research.
AB: Did you face any objections after the book was released?
KD: No. Not yet, I should say. There could be in future, for the history of the partition of India is a thorny one. So far, however, I have received only the most appreciative comments from readers.
AB: What next?
KD: If you mean whether I am planning to write a sequel, I confess I am toying with the idea, but have not made up my mind yet. There are a couple of other possibilities.
Artika Bakshi (currently based in Sri Lanka,) co-manages thegoodbookcorner.com, runs an online book club with over 600 members, helps writers with their manuscripts, teaches Commerce and History at an international school and is a regular at the Galle Literary Festival and other literary events in Sri Lanka. Artika's articles and book reviews have featured in the Daily Mirror and Daily News and on sikhchic.com and sikhnet.com. She is actively involved with SAARC Women's Association of Sri Lanka.
You can reach Artika at firstname.lastname@example.org