Partition, Independence, democracy—near simultaneous events that changed India irrevocably. My Temples, Too—Qurratulain Hyder’s transcreation of her masterly early novel Mere Bhi Sanamkhane—examines the promise and disillusionment that came with the birth of two new nations, through the lives and deaths of the young citizens of the fabled city of Lucknow. Set in the 1940s, it tells the story of Rakshanda and her brother Peechu—children of privilege—and their friends Kiran, Vimal, Salim, Christabel. They are the ‘Gang’ of Lucknow; idealistic, nationalistic, liberal and rational. They meet in coffee houses, run a progressive magazine, fall in love, and dream of building a brave new world. But with the turbulence of Partition and Independence, the quiet rhythm of their lives is brutally disrupted. New animosities replace old loyalties, and the merry ‘Gang’ is torn apart as the old order begins to fragment.
The song of the boatman on the Padma, a green haze of rice fields turning to gold in the light of the setting sun, the romance of Bengal caught and held in the silvery net of a fisherman. Ambitious, subtle and intricately structured, Fireflies in the Mist—Hyder’s transcreation of her Urdu novel Akhir-e-Shab ke Humsafar—spans nearly four decades of East Bengal’s history, from the dawn of nationalism in the 1930s to the restless aftermath of the bloody struggle for an independent Bangladesh. At the centre of the novel is Deepali Sarkar, a young Hindu attracted to the extreme left wing of the nationalist movement, and Rehan Ahmed, a Muslim radical of Marxist inclinations who introduces her to the life of the rural deprived. Their common political engagement draws them into a quietly doomed love affair. Through their relationship, Hyder explores the growth of tension between Bengal’s Hindus and Muslims—who had once shared a culture and a history—as they try to come to terms with Bengal’s and India’s shifting fortunes.