Murky Waters is the first authentic saga of a significant segment of the Indian society—the Indian Muslims. For centuries, the Indian Muslims have been portrayed as rulers, nawabs, courtiers and the cultured aristoc-racy. Shaani's novel portrays them as they were—familiar, vulnerable people with their personal and social struggles, their humble triumphs and humiliating tragedies, their little joys and enormous sorrows, their individual passions but a collective identity. But it would be a gross mis-statement to call Murky Waters a Muslim novel. It is essentially an Indian novel for it is the story of numerous individuals belonging to two families that could exist only in the Indian ethos. But perhaps to call it only an Indian novel would also be an error. The story of the crumbling and disintegration of three generations could be a story from any part of the world. The author brings a unique understanding and sympathy to his characters and their milieu. Seldom does he indulge in sentimentalism or self-pity but presides over the narration with a wry compassion and an almost totally neutral control. What results is not a partisan, sociological study of the plight of Muslims in India, but a vivid, moving portrayal of the human condition in any corner of the earth.
Shaani is the nom-de-plume or a sort of acronym of Gulsher Khan Shaani. Descendent of a proud Muslim Pathan family, Shaani was born in Bastar, the most tribal of all the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh. He began writing in 1953 at the age of 20 and has so far published 10 collections of short-stories, 4 novels and a socio-anthropological travelogue on Bastar. His novel Kala Jal, published here as 'Murky Waters' in English translation, has also been translated into Russian and Lithuanian. Shaani is a recipient of the Shikhar Samman (the Apex Honour for Literature) from the Govern-ment of Madhya Pradesh. Delhi and edits Samakaleena Bharatiya Sahitya, the Hindi journal devoted to Contemporary Indian Literature, published by Sahitya Academi, the National Academy of Letters in India. He expired on february 11, 1995 at Delhi.
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