Author: Stephen Alter
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0140296646
In India the border represents a source of national regret, In Pakistan it is a symbol of identity and pride. This work describes a journey across the contentious border - 'an artificial fault line' - that lies between India and Pakistan, two countries whose destinies remain inextricably linked.
The author, an American born in India, and who has lived here for much of his life, starts and finishes his travels in New Delhi, visiting the cities of Amritsar, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Peshawar, as well as the hill stations of Mussoorie in India and Murree in Pakistan. Crossing the border by train, he retraces the legendary route of the Frontier Mail, and after reaching the Khyber Pass, he returns by bus along the Grand Trunk Road that was once the lifeline of the undivided subcontinent.
The book contains evocative descriptions of unusual places and people, but is much more than a conventional travelogue. Each of the chapters raises questions about national and individual identity, the territorial imperatives of history and the insidious mythology of borders, and the author provides informed impressions from the unique perspective of an outsider who is also an insider. Conversations and encounters with the people he meets help to illustrate the shared culture and heritage of South Asia as well as the entrenched religious hatreds and bigotry that led to the division of the subcontinent in 1947. Equally, these encounters, seen in the context of the turmoil in Kashmir and the testing of nuclear weapons by both India and Pakistan, present a troubling vision of the future.
Written with admirable objectivity and a keen sense of history, this book is a compelling argument against the impermeability of national boundaries and an insightful examination of the tragic legacy of Partition.
A must-read. Captures some of the daily action beyond the border in a fresh, unbiased and racy manner. Fascinating reading.- Business Standard.