The stories of being Muslim in today’s India are beginning to emerge in fiction

Annie Zaidi in

There is nothing solid or pragmatic about happiness, grief, love. A successful business, however, has to be run along sensible lines, and a businessman must be able to count on his employees just as he can count on the food on his plate actually being there. It is at this junction of reason, driven by the evidence of one’s physical senses, and the other, intangible, unbelievable world that Tabish Khair places his new novel.

A slender, brisk narrative, it takes its title, Night Of Happiness, from “Shab-e-baraat”, a festival when some Muslim sects visit graveyards, light incense and consecrate halva in memory of ancestors and other departed family members. Naturally, a reference to the dead suggests a paranormal setting. This is, however, not so much a paranormal tale as it is a story about the struggle to retain one’s sense of reality, to remain centred, and about trust.

The narrator is an “import-export” businessman, Anil Mehrotra, who boasts a company several employees and an international clientele. His right hand man is Ahmed, a man who is both dignified and dependable, reticent and hard-working almost to an extreme. An unhurried, deeply self-respecting man, and therefore also commanding respect. He has unusual linguistic abilities, and is at ease with cultural differences. But he will no more bow to a mullah’s dictates than he will give up on his own faith.

More here.