The Duttas – Sudhamoy, Kironmoyee, and their two children, Suranjan and Maya – have lived in Bangladesh all their lives. Despite being part of the country’s small Hindu community, that is terrorized at every opportunity by Muslim fundamentalists, they refuse to leave their country, as most of their friends and relatives have done. Sudhamoy, an atheist, believes with a naive mix of optimism and idealism that his motherland will not let him down.

And then, on 6 December 1992, the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in India is demolished by a mob of Hindu fundamentalists. The world condemns the incident but its fallout is felt most acutely in Bangladesh, where Muslim mobs begin to seek out and attack the Hindus. The nightmare inevitably arrives at the Duttas’ doorstep – and their world begins to fall apart.

Synopsis from goodreads

Oh dear, I don’t know what to say about this book or the story. The blurb at the back of the book gives an impression that this is a story about the Dutta family, but the Dutta family members are used as stock characters to highlight issues in Bangladesh, and this book is mostly non-fiction with a paper-thin wrapper of a story surrounding it. So, if you go into the book hoping for an emotional and powerful read, you are not going to get it.

What you will get is pages upon pages of facts thrown at you. You will get a listing of all the temples that are burnt, the Hindus that are killed, the women that are raped, until the book practically feels like a police account of atrocities committed. In between there is an entire chapter listing the inheritance law in Bangladesh and detailing how it is unfair to the minorities. And frankly, I felt a bit tired reading this book. It just seemed so monotonous.

So definitely, this is not an easy to read book, it is not particularly well-written, and the translation is clunky. But it is important nevertheless because this is probably the only account there is (and it reads like a very truthful account) of the fundamentalism that is growing in Bangladesh. This book was first published twenty years ago, and it seems like things haven’t changed much in Bangladesh. Just a couple of weeks back, I saw this incident published in the newspaper.

News article highlighting a recent incident

News article highlighting a recent incident

Reading this incident also highlighted Nasrin’s bravery in writing and publishing this book. There is a fatwa on her. She had to flee Bangladesh to avoid being imprisoned or killed and is now living a secluded life in Delhi.

Many times while reading the book, I felt like just putting it aside. It was so depressing, and worse, it made me feel so angry at the narrow-mindedness of people everywhere. But I kept on regardless skimming through the boring parts (that horrible chapter on inheritance law! Gah, so dense, I still don’t know what that was about), but I am glad in the end that I did finish this book.

And I really loved that she has dedicated this book to the people of the Indian sub-continent with the words

Let humanity be the other name of religion.

That’s such a lovely thought and coming from her, it really rings true. In fact, the whole book rings true, I only wish it had been better written or edited to make it more palatable to a wider audience.

Huge thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book for review consideration.

You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon

  • Wanton Ruminating

    I agree with your assessment of a it being a difficult read. We are a Hindu majority nation and have our own set of problems but everybody is allowed to talk about it. Ruckus is created over injustice and people bad-mouth governments all the time. Imagine living in a country where you can’t even speak out against the atrocities committed against you, where you have no rights because you belong to a minority! Its the same in Pakistan – non Muslims do not even have a vote, which means no politician is bothered about their well-being!

  • It’s fiction? Because it sounds like I’d prefer to read a nonfiction book about these issues, rather than an imperfectly fictionalized account. Which isn’t to criticize the author — what an awful thing for her to be forced out of her home.

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