03 August, 2021

'We Are All Converts'

Amitava Kumar on his marriage to a Muslim, his 'conversion' and his first visit to Karachi

'We Are All Converts'

ON my arrival in Karachi, Nani asked me to sit beside her on the sofa. Nani is my wife Mona’s maternal grandmother. She told me that she was throwing a party that night in my honour. Nani wanted me to meet everyone in the family. The guests, she said, had been informed of Mona’s marriage to me the previous year. She said in Urdu: "I told them that the groom is from Hindustan. And then I told them, ‘He has accepted Islam.’"

Nani said that people had congratulated her. "Sabhi mujhe mubarakbad dene lage. Kehne lage ki Mona ko jannat milegi (Everyone began congratulating me. They began saying Mona will be assured a place in heaven)." I think Nani knew that I did not think of myself as a Muslim. Her account about the guests for the dinner that night was her way of orienting me to her world.

That evening, the people I met were polite and even affectionate. Many of them did not call me by my usual name. They called me Safdar. When dinner was over, one guest, my mother-in-law’s cousin, turned in my direction and...

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