Book Review Of: Through Orphaned Eyes: A story of two people, two nations
Author: Ajay Singh
Reviewer: Fiza Pathan
Through Orphaned Eyes: A story of two people, two nations, written by Indian author Ajay Singh, is an amazing story of two countries or rather two brothers who were ‘almost’ born one after the other; one was born on the 14th of August 1947 while the other ‘seems’ to think that he was born on the 15th of August 1947…which we respectively celebrate as the Independence Day of two countries…Pakistan and India. Ajay Singh through his remarkable style has managed something that no author has managed to really do, that is, to tell the parallel stories of how both India and Pakistan, newly independent countries have developed in the past 69 years of independence through the eyes of two brothers, one who grows up in India and the other in Pakistan; blood brothers indeed and yet just like the countries themselves, so far apart. This is the magic of the tale spun masterfully by accomplished author Ajay Singh, who has also served in the Indian army for 28 years and who has a vast repertoire of knowledge about the political, military, economic, religious, social etc., affairs of both the aforementioned countries.
The author skillfully uses two styles of creative writing to tell the story of India and Pakistan. For India, he uses the first person narrative, while for Pakistan, he sticks to the third person narrative style. Both these styles complement each other which make the saga of India and Pakistan a great informative read, but also a good mix of fiction and non-fiction to a certain degree.
The characters in this story are well formed and very lifelike so a reader can empathize with all of them. The unnamed hero of India, the wise Masterji, the talented Shazia, the resourceful Shahnawaz, the fanatic Bitullah Wazir, the martyr Gaurav etc., are few of the characters which make this book a sparkling treasure house of contemporary history in prose form.
To give a brief synopsis of Through Orphaned Eyes: A story of two people, two nations, the story begins with the partition riots that took place immediately when independence was given to both Pakistan and India. In the middle of the turmoil one brother, a mere infant who doesn’t even know his real date of birth is separated from his yet unborn brother who later is named Shahnawaz by his adoptive parents. The elder brother remains unnamed in the story to symbolize that:
- We really do not know the exact date of the origin of the Indian civilization
- This ‘elder brother’ represents every Indian who loves his country dearly and
- We were somewhat ‘orphaned’ when India and Pakistan were partitioned where families, relatives, friends etc., were separated from us, turning both to a certain extent every Pakistani and every Indian an ‘orphan’.
And therefore the beautiful title Through Orphaned Eyes: A story of two people, two nations, at a glimpse suddenly makes sense, for are we still not orphans? Indians and Pakistanis’ will remain ‘orphans’ until some questions are dealt with…some crucial ones which in a fiction form we encounter here in Ajay Singh’s book.
Questions about the reality behind the partition and the losses incurred; questions about the deaths of both the Fathers of India and Pakistan (Gandhi and Jinnah respectively) and what sentiments did their countrymen have for them; questions about the many wars fought between the two countries and how did it affect the people who had wished for peace for both their countries; questions about the assassinations, military coups and terrorist acts that shaped India and Pakistan’s foreign relations; questions about the ‘bone of contentment’ that is ‘the Kashmir issue’; questions about the many lives lost during the Kargil war; questions about governments falling and corruption increasing; questions about the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan and the rise of an India with a bureaucracy steeped in corruption and much more.
Through Orphaned Eyes: A story of two people, two nations, makes the reader think and analyze situations from contemporary history. It also highlights to a great extent the life in the military section of each country which makes the book very interesting and fast paced. Emotions are felt and battle scars of old are made to bleed afresh with the question of in reality…who is the real enemy…Pakistan?…India?….You need to read the book to find out.
Through Orphaned Eyes is especially a ‘must have’ book for those whose interests lie in politics and history. Being a history teacher myself I was drawn to this book immediately and enjoyed every bit of it. However, I also realized that I did not know much about certain issues that were brought to light very efficiently in the book, especially about how slowly the Tehrik-i-Taliban is killing the liberal Pakistan that its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah wished it to be. The many scams that have been brought to light in India is nothing new to me, but when it was brought up again artfully by Ajay Singh, I felt miserable indeed.
To be frank, I was certainly not present for at least 85% of the historical events that are described in the book but yet through the emotive writing of the author, I felt like I was reading the story of not my country as an abstract identity but, I felt like I was reading the story of my own identity; to be even more frank, I even felt one with the history of Pakistan although we are termed to be ‘so called’ enemies. It is sad that we have drifted apart; I hope we in the near future will become kinsmen once again.
With that I must say that Through Orphaned Eyes: A story of two people, two nations, by Ajay Singh is a cut above the rest, and I hope to read more of his literature very soon.
Copyright © 2016 Fiza Pathan
Buy book at: http://www.pentagonpress.in/bookdetails.aspx?this=1866
Judith Barrow says
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Mary Smith says
This sounds really interesting. I have looked for it on Amazon but it seems to be only available in India. I will do some further searching to find it.
Ajay Singh says
Thank you for the review. I must admit, it is one of the most perceptive and comprehensive reviews the book has received. I am touched that you have delved so deeply into the book.
If I may add. The title, “Through Orphaned Eyes” pertains not only to the Orphaning of the two principal protagonists. Rather it hints at how both nations – India and Pakistan- have been orphaned by their leadership. This also heightens the symbolism between the characters and their nations that runs through the book,