31 July, 2021

The Imam’s Horse Flies

Rooted in a capacious subcontinental society of 80 years back, these novellas also levitate in their gleeful use of myth, magic and fantasy

Photograph by Getty Images
The Imam’s Horse Flies

A wonderful book deserves a stu­­nning cover, and Day and Dastan has one. On a pure white ground stand green trees, their crowns formed of round patterns from illumina­ted manuscripts. On one a stylised bird stands ready for flight. Birds and trees were very important to Intizar Husain.

Day and Dastan are two novellas, but Husain’s friend Nasir Kazmi, on whom he based the main character in his famous novel Basti, saw clearly that they formed a ‘single fractured narrative’. Even this seems an inadequate description. Husain learned storytelling from that great cultural treasure-house—a grandmother. In the tradition he imbibed from her, space is unbounded, time is fluid, thinking  flexible and boundaries are porous. So these two novellas share one ethos and are beautifully and subtly linked in very many ways.

Day is, if you like, the alaap, before the drut teen taal of Dastan. It transports you to a time when there was plenty of time, to a neem-shaded haveli at the height of summer...

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