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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


He has written about Kashmir, riots within, the clashes between the West and the rest - by all accounts scholarly discourses which have been deeply insightful. Yes, we know about his stellar achievements which include being at the helm of some of the leading publications of our times in his 20s. But this is a man of grit, who remained unfazed by the 'exigencies of space' and continued writing. His real learning began at 17 in a manner that almost sounds like the stuff of fiction. But M.J. Akbar's immensely engaging 'Blood Brothers' draws on his life to capture the biggest story of India's history.

It tracks the lives of three generations of a Muslim family (largely his own) to unravel what happened in the last 150 years, starting with starvation, "the slow fire that sucks life out in little bursts, leaving pockets of unlinked vacuum inside."

From here you are drawn to the fascinating world of Telinipara. There is a conversion, there is love, humility, humanity and food - lots of it. As the family grows, so do the events marking the lives of the memorable characters in the book. They collectively make the leap from one page to the next ensuring you flip the pages to find out what happens next. Just like Akbar's earlier books, this one turns out to be a quick history lesson as well. If like me, you can't put your book down till you reach the end, then be prepared to travel through Bengal and Punjab before, at the time of partition and post-partition.

Then is a fleeting mention about the capture of the Haji Pir pass - something that remains close to my heart. See this earlier post -

Beyond being a memorable lesson in the trials and tribulations of a country that has lived through its share of crises, the book also gives you insights into events that marked one of 'India's most cerebral editor's' journey into the world of words. To tell you about it, would mean wrecking this post with a spoiler alert. Let me only get away with saying, it's worth reading 'Blood Brothers' to find all about that and a whole lot more - including Sharmila Tagore's bikini.

Celebrity endorsements never hurt and 'Blood Brothers' has deservedly received its fair share, including one by Henry Kissinger, that is bound to be seen in the next edition of the book (which will definitely be soon). So I'll end this by letting some of the blurbs do the talking - that is if you are still trying to make up your mind about picking up the book:

"M.J. Akbar's Blood Brothers is a marvellous work of history in the form of a deeply engaging story of a Muslim family in Bengal. The exploration of the complex interface between Muslims and Hindus over the last 150 years has the freshness of a first-person experience which it actually is. A work of considerable charm, grace and insight."
- Shyam Benegal
Acclaimed Film-Maker

"A skilfully crafted family saga down three generations packed with information of events in the country and the world, particularly changing Hindu-Muslim relations. It could be a textbook on how to write, mix fact, fiction and history. It is beautifully written; it deserves to be in Category A1."
- Khushwant Singh
Author & Historian