Abdullah Khan’s Debut Novel Patna Blues Is More Than Just a Political Statement

In India, we attach a plethora of stereotypes to one’s identity. Judging the person by his/her name, religion and home-state is a common practice. Some words like Bihari, Momdan, Chinky, Madrasi among others are used loosely and are often meant to be derogatory. Abdullah Khan in his debut novel Patna Blues traces the life of one such identity which is both a Bihari and a Muslim. The book talks about the desire, dreams, and destiny of a young boy Arif Khan based in Patna. Arif khan in his early 20s preparing to be an Indian Administration Officer, falls in love with a married Hindu woman much older than him. With so much to handle in a large family of three younger sisters and a brother, his miseries increase with this sweet distraction. He consistently finds himself at the crossroads- struggling to choose between his dreams and desire.

The book is a page turner with a lot of drama unfolding with each chapter, line by line. It is set up in early 80s spanning over 20 years against the backdrop of political events of the time. The political events are so intricately woven and meticulously placed in the story that for a moment you forget that it was a reality of a time- The times of VCR, PCOs, Mandal commission, fall of Babri Masjid, 1993 Mumbai attacks, Bihar’s Chara Ghotala, and many more.

The book does not sympathize with the struggles the identity brings him rather makes a strong point on what is and what ought to be. It smoothly ventures into the life of his family members and their aspirations. Many a time, it cuts open the wounds to show bare the prejudices of a majority of society towards a few. Arif’s father, a police officer in Patna is not handed over confidential documents just because of his religion despite his clean records. Younger brother, an aspiring actor faces mockery and rejection owing to his accent despite being talented. The family has to deal with the pressure of ill practices and beliefs of society like arranging dowry for his sisters. However, the author does not delve much into the lives of sisters and they are just to add more ‘blues’ to their life and story. Their portrayal is typical- with suppressed dreams and forced acceptance for their destiny- with everything culminating into marriage.

The book is not at all about making a political statement but shows the effort of a Muslim family to live a comfortable and respectful life despite all odds. Intermittently, the story line is showered with Urdu shayari and old Bollywood song lines which make it refreshing. The story written in simple words is entertaining. It also captures the popular places of Patna like Gandhi Maidan, Dak bunglow Square making it vivid and close to reality. This story of love, aspiration, failure, and grief travels places from Patna to the interiors of Bihar, to some of the metro cities and captures the sentiments of society about one’s identity.

Pick the book for a journey back in time, for a journey from expectations to reality, dreams to destiny, and above all from grief to hope. You can buy the book here.

Bangalore Mirror ran this blurb for its news story. What happened next …

What happened next shall be a lesson for Bangalore Mirror. When the citizens act more mature than the so called conscience keepers of the society, we should not lose hope of a better future for our nation. The story runs like this – Bangalore Mirror reported a crime incident in the city – “A 40-year-old man is fighting for his life in the ICU after being stabbed and robbed behind Mecca Masjid in Austin Town in the wee hours of Sunday. After the robbers left him bleeding on the deserted street, he ran 1.5 km to reach home, and collapsed at the doorstep……”
The man is fighting for his life in ICU and we hope he recovers well. However, men at the social media desk of Bangalore Mirror wanted to get more visitors and shares and likes and follows and what not – so a plain report detailing the incident wasn’t enough. The social media link came with the following blurb while the article didn’t have a single mention of ‘Patna‘-

“Shocking! Is Bengaluru the new Patna?”

Now, how much of the comparison is true/untrue is something I will leave to the sensibilities of the readers. It’s not very difficult to bring up a comparative study of crime rates of Indian cities. However, there is no denying that the introductory note to the article was in utterly poor taste and a vulgar visage of sensationalism. However, many of the readers chose to react to this mockery of journalism in a way that surprised me. While I had expected an unfortunate bickering between Bangaloreans and Patnaites because of Bangalore Mirror’s hara-kiri, I found something that must have made the social media rookies at BM chew their own feet.

Following are a few comments that we have chosen to highlight from the article link on Facebook. We salute these sensible readers for showing such maturity in an age when media is trying its best to disintegrate the society.
Do let us know what you think about all of these –

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