Top critical review
9 people found this helpful
Some profound substance and much journalistic banality
on 7 April 2017
Saeed Naqvi's book is an amalgam of many perspectives on the Muslim situation in India - a cultural perspective, a historical perspective that particularly highlights the cataclysmic events of the partition, and a current affairs perspective which looks at the various political maneuvers that have led us to the situation that exists in the country today.
The book is remarkably beautiful in its portrait of the 'composite culture', the 'Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb'. The most lyrical, endearing passages of the book lie here, as Naqvi takes from his personal experiences to show us why the relationship of the Hindu and the Muslim are crucial - they present us a possible vision of human togetherness and creativity which we deeply require in the face of the challenges of the modern world.
Also very thought-provoking and significant is Naqvi's understanding of the Congress and its role in the partition of the country, and thereafter, in the gradual deterioration of the secular ethos of the country. The Congress is seen here as a hypocritical entity, communal while wearing a secular cloak. Employing substantial evidence from witnesses to the partition, including Maulana Azad and several historians, Naqvi argues - importantly if not always persuasively - that there were no truly secular leaders in the Congress, not even Jawaharlal Nehru, and had these leaders put their commitment to the composite culture before their personal ambitions and their limiting anxieties, India and Pakistan would today be a single nation, culturally robust and with less of the hatred for the other that marks many of their people. While Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad and others are portrayed as communal to varying degrees, Gandhi is seen by Naqvi more as a political weak and confused force at the time of partition rather than communal.
After this excellent, provocative beginning to the book, Naqvi seems to get entrenched in issues that have a lesser cultural import, and are largely matters of current affairs. Details of his meetings with Prime Ministers, narratives of off-the-record discussions, and superficial descriptions of political events dominate most of the second two-thirds of the book. In this portion of the book one wishes that Naqvi saw the incidents of politics with the larger, historical and philosophical questions of the idea of India in the background.
Being the Other is a mixed collection of thoughts of a journalist on a variety of issues, all centering around the question of the Muslim in India. It evokes much admiration when it carries cultural and philosophical depth, but more often than that, falls into newsy discourse on comings and goings of Indian politics.