A son's father

Aatish Taseer interviews well. And comes across, even on television, as being both articulate and intelligent, so it is no surprise that his writing has already garnered high praise from the likes of V S Naipaul, and from Khushwant Singh.

At its core, his debut novel Stranger to History tells a sad story. "As a child, all Aatish Taseer ever had of his father was his photograph in a browning silver frame. Raised by his Sikh mother in Delhi, his Pakistani father remained a distant figure, almost a figment of his imagination, until Aatish crossed the border when he was twenty-one to finally meet him. In the years that followed, the relationship between father and son revived, then fell apart. For Aatish, their tension had not just to do with the tensions of a son rediscovering his absent father - they were intensified by the fact that Aatish was Indian, his father Pakistani and Muslim. It had complicated his parents' relationship; now it complicated his. The relationship forced Aatish to ask larger questions: Why did being Muslim mean that your allegiances went out to other Muslims before the citizens of your own country? Why did his father, despite claiming to be irreligious, describe himself as a 'cultural Muslim'? Why did Muslims see modernity as a threat? What made Islam a trump identity?"

And in answering these questions, the book grows. Aatish travels through Islamic Lands: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and then Pakistan. Ending his search in Lahore at his father's home... There are many partition stories in this book. Barriers that cannot be crossed, and barriers where none need exist. Touching and insightful, one can only hope that this book is the first of many from a hugely talented writer.

In our Indian Writing in English section, hardcover, 338 pages, Rs 495. ISBN: