03 August, 2021

A Mole Embedded In Tradition

Four young Muslim rebels raise a thick cloud of apostasy. Yet their much-maligned attempts to ‘fit in’ run into the impenetrable wall of their identity. This is a timely state of the nation novel.

A Mole Embedded In Tradition

Zahid-e-tang-nazar ne mujhe kafir jaana/aur kafir ye samajhta hai Musalman hoon main (the narrow-minded devout considers me an infidel/ and the infidel sees me as a Muslim) reads an oft-quoted Urdu couplet. In Sabin Iqbal’s debut novel, The Cliffhangers, which speaks to our broken times rife with religious division, four friends are faced with a similar situation. Usman, Thaha, Jahangir and Moosa, four young Muslim boys while growing up in a sleepy coastal town of Varkala in Kerala--where the two dominant communities are Hindus and Muslims--decide to throw off the yoke of their religious identity and shun its restrictive practices.

The four pride themselves on being Muslim by identity and kafirs by deeds — they flout every rule, from eating pork, consuming liquor, and indulging in illicit sex. The teenage narrator, Moosa, lives with his parents and two sister-in-laws; his two brothers work in West Asia, as did his father once.

The ‘cliffhangers’ is a self-appropriated epithet for Moosa and his three friends, who...

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