Author: Nayantara Sahgal
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8172234449
In 1932, Nurullah, an English teacher aged twenty-three, comes to the city of Akbarabad. He teaches literature to first-years at the university and encounters a non-violent resistance movement against British rule. The book ends in 1968 with a lookback and a reconsideration by the man Nurullah has now become.
It seems to him a bizarre way for an occupied country to confront an empire in a violent unequal world – one more wrong turn, among others, that Indian history has taken.
During the ten years from 1932 that he lives with a non-violent family in the national monument that their domed mansion has become, Akbarabad educates him in varied ways, leaving him stubbornly resistant to non-violence.
Is non-violence a lunatic’s fantasy? Has it any place in the world as it still is? Did it work even in India? Shall we ever know? An American journalist of the 1930s and 40s believes it matters. An American scholar comes searching for its surviving strands in 1968 when disarmament remains a distant dream. Nurullah, meanwhile, has come to terms with what ultimately matters – himself – and learns what he owes to the city named after Akbar the Great.
The portrait’s painted eyes held whoever’s was looking into them from wherever the viewer sat…He was best remembered for the treason trial after the Great War and his defense of the sole survivor of the bloodbath below Victoria’s statue in company Bagh that had killed his three co-conspirators…his lawyer’s chilling argument had whipped the mask off a ruling power whose law courts condemned men to death for following his own example. For the crime, he had famously declared, of putting their words to your music.
EXCERPTS FROM REVIEWS:
Sahgal pursues ideas with a subtle intelligence that never interferes with the vital sweep of action.
-The New York Times Book Review