31 October, 2020

Anne Of The Crumbling Gables

Movingly elegiac about a vanishing cosmopolitan Lucknow, Hyder’s early work deals with Partition as background hubbub, not as lurid hyper-reality.

Lucknow’s Hazratganj—playground of the fashionable. Hyder’s characters would have known it well.
Anne Of The Crumbling Gables

Tea has been laid out in the verandah of Najmuddau­lah House, stately home of barrister Khan Bahadur Nasim Ahmad and his wife, Begum Nasim Ahmad. Their son, Fawad, surveys the soft whir of domesticity with a languid nostalgia: “The magic of places and homes!” He observes that soup is being prepared for his abbujan. Other images of his Lucknow—the new Lucknow—become sharply focused as he moves across the garden. Bey­ond the swimming pool is a glittering collage of the city: author Banne Bhai (Sajjad Zaheer) discussing his new book London ki ek Raat; pianist Ratna Siddhanta playing Wagner’s Carnival at writer Attia Hosain’s place; an art school hidden by Ashoka trees, where a meenakari portrait is being painted.

This then, is the cosmopolitan crowd that flits through Qurra­tulain Hyder’s second novel, Ship of Sorrows, first published in Urdu as Safina e Gham e Dil in 1952, and translated into English now by Saleem Kidwai. This then, is the gentle mechanism of...



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