What do you expect when you come across a political historical fiction? First: A character which is not known to many, has always intrigued the curious minds like me. Second: Blending fiction with facts and figures in such a way that the story doesn’t deviate the reader from the main character, in this case, Jinnah. Jinnah Often Came To Our House by Kiran Doshi is about the lives of upper-class Muslims in Bombay at the turn of the 19th century, when India was fighting for its freedom under the leadership of two extraordinary gentlemen, Gandhi and Jinnah.
And how Jinnah deviated from Gandhi and his ideology slowly and gradually, forming a separate nation. The story begins with Sultan Kowaishi, a young Barrister arriving from Britain after studies and meeting his famous senior who is not a typical Mussalman. A pork eating, non-Urdu speaking, indifferent to religion, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a Shia Lawyer. After the meeting, you get a deep insight into Sultan’s life and family, Bari Phuppi, the head of the family, a shopaholic mother, opportunist sisters and a loving father who has done everything right for his children. And ultimately his marriage to the love of his life, Rehana. After establishing a life with Rehana and Sultan’s practice taking off as a professional and famous lawyer in Bombay, this part of the novel gradually trickles down to Rehana and Sultan’s establishing Ekta School where girls from all communities received equal treatment and education, their separation, years later Sultan realizing his grave mistake and going in search of his children and grandchild, ultimately meeting the divine end.
The other part of the story revolves around Jinnah and his life and his career as a politician, his intimacy with Rehana that could have turned into something else. His troublesome marriage to Ruttie and his cranky and obnoxious sister Fatima. You also come across a different Jinnah, who initially supported Gandhi through and through, but now is gradually drifting away from Gandhi and his confused politics, ultimately leading to Jinnah’s demand for a separate state, Pakistan.
Sultan Kowaishi’s story acts like a foreground to the political backdrop of Jinnah joining the Indian National Congress. Some well-known characters of history also play an important role in this novel; Gandhi, Tilak, Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, and many fictional ones: Dhondav, Griffiths, Pandey, Tehmina, Miriam, Firoz, and many others whose lives change with the political landscape. In between, the writer has also included important chapters from the struggle of Independence of India.
The partition of Bengal, revocation of partition of Bengal, Tilak being exiled (an incident with huge impact in the times), Morley-Minto Reforms, birth of Muslim League, the Rowlatt Act, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, Simon Commission and its opposition, the two World Wars and how the British involved India with the lure of freedom to use our people as cannon fodder, the Provincial Elections, and Constituent Assembly, and finally the Independence and partition of India.
Now mixing so many incidents and important instances from history along with a fictional story running in the background is not an easy task. And I must say I am deeply impressed with Kiran Doshi’s skill of managing not to leave any loose ends in Jinnah Often Came To Our House. Each of the characters, whether fictional or political, has an important role to play in the story. Initially, when I started reading the book I thought that maybe it’s a completely fictional account, I may not be able to know Jinnah through this book.
But as I progressed along with the pages, I got so addicted that I wasn’t able to keep the book down. Both Sultan’s and Jinnah’s lives are intertwined in a such a deliciously complicated way, that it made Jinnah Often Came to Our House one of the great books of 2017 for me! Honestly, I don’t have any negative thoughts about Jinnah Often Came To Our House, may be because I was reading about Jinnah for the first time.
But this book by Kiran Doshi has opened a new window in my mind to pursue this really important character who played a significant role in the creation of our nation and Pakistan. People still believe that he was the reason behind the murder and mayhem that happened during the partition, but I never thought so. And Jinnah Often Came To Our House confirmed my beliefs in Jinnah even more.
All in all, Jinnah Often Came To Our House by Kiran Doshi is an absolutely addictive and brilliant book that you should definitely pick up.