Author: Manzoor Ahtesham
Translator(s): Kuldip Singh
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8129107201
Through the eyes of Rashida, the narrator, and her brother Suhail, A Dying Banyan explores what it means to be a Muslim in contemporary India. Children of an advocate father-an ordinary man with an extraordinary commitment to secular values-and of an unschooled mother, for whom the Prophet of God and His dispensation are the guiding force of life, their questions about identity are as relevant today as they were in the 1980s when the original Hindi version, Sukha Bargad, was written.
Alleys of a Muslim neighbourhood; exploitation by wily politicians; well-off, estranged cousins; memories of Partition; war with Pakistan; Suhail’s unfulfilled love for a Hindu girl; Rashida’s affair with a Hindu boy-these set the tone for nagging questions of one’s place in India society. Suhail’s sleepless nights are haunted by images of a dead banyan tree, a symbol outwardly of frustrated hopes, but at a deeper, fundamental level, of the decay of India’s composite culture. The author offers no ready solutions. We must look for these ourselves if we want the banyan not to die.