Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, August 16, 2013

"The Death of Shaikh Burhanuddin" by Khaja Ahmed Abbas (1962 translated from Hindi by Khushwant Singh)

In observation of Indian Idependence Day.
Khwaja Ahmad Abbas (ख़्वाजा अहमद अब्बास) (7 June 1914 – 1 June 1987), popularly known as K. A. Abbas, was an India film director,  novelist, screenwriter, and a journalist in the Urdu, Hindi, and English languages.  He wrote lots of highly regarded short stories.

"The Death of Shaikh Burhanuddin" is an amazing story about the terrible violence that swept over India after 
after the country  was granted Independence by the British in 1947.  Millions were killed because of religious 
hatred.   Much of the hostility between groups was taken out on women,  through rape and
kidnapping.  Once a woman was raped, in many cases they were not accepted by their husbands.  

As the story opens, the blood of Muslims is flowing in the streets of Delhi. The narrator tells us that he hates having a 
blames the Sikhs for this and he hates the fact that he has a Sikh neighbor.  He ridicules the long beards
of the Sikhs, insisting they never wash them. Sikhs were viewed by Hindus and Muslims as long time supporters of the British, making them a target for much hatred.   He even insists the Sikh women, who he acknowledges as very beautiful, would rather be kidnapped and raped by Muslims than be with their husbands.  He says what actually happens is the Sikh women are so taken with the heroism and dashing looks of Muslim men that they leave their husbands and seek out Muslim men. There is some new to me history in the story about what the narrator says is the long term record of anti-Muslim perfidy of the Sikhs. Sikhs were seen as lackeys to the English.
As Sikh mobs rampage through the area, the Sikh neighbor tells the narrator he will try to shield him from the mobs.  The man thinks to himself, "my neighbor will lead them right to my house and help steal everything from our house."   Sure enough a mob shows up and begins carrying out all of the families possessions.    Then the neighbor comes over and tells the mob that he is entitled to a share.  The Sikh and his family carry off as much as they can.   The ending has a powerful lesson for us all in this hate filled world we reside in.  Like many lessons, it comes to late for the narrator of the story.

I would gladly read more stories by Abbas.  

I have five anthologies of short stories, about 140 stories,  from the Indian subcontinent.  I am slowly working my way through them.  

Mel u

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