Saturday, February 2, 2013

Talk by John Zubrzycki

I was keen to hear author John Zubrzycki speak because I loved reading his debut book 'The Last Nizam'. That book taught me much about a Hyderabad that I never knew about (and sadly, never cared to know). It is quite possible that several people residing in the city for all these years are unaware of the history of the city too. Apart from academic writing, I found little that could present this part interestingly. 'The Last Nizam' filled that void for me and brilliantly. I had to go and hear this talk at the Maulana Azad Urdu University yesterday, the 1st of February 2013.

So once again I found myself heading to the Maulana Azad Urdu University within the span of a fortnight - the last time I'd been here was for the Hyderabad Literary Fetsival two weeks ago. This time I had Amar with me and I hoped to spot Jayesh Ranjan (who was the one who told me about this event). When we walked in at 1130, the scheduled time for the program to begin, there was hardly anybody in the compact auditorium of the Main Library, save the author and a few others. Soon the audience filled up and after an introduction and welcome address the author spoke, despite a bad throat, about the book and some of his findings and observations in the process. He captured the essence of the book very well and for the non-history reader, a good capsule of Hyderabad's history.

There was not much time for questions and interactions (thankfully) but there was enough time for certain pointed questions and suggetsions about what the author should have mentioned or written about and how. There seemed  to be an air of 'you did okay, but you could have done better'. Or perhaps its just me. I cannot take this cultural superiority business for too long.  I do not subscribe to it especially if it is not demonstrated with good grace and humility.

What struck me rather odd was that I found none who expressed gratitude to the author for writing this wonderful book (and his next) based on Hyderabad. For an Australian to do that and write about Hyderabad is in itself a great achievement and one that is commendable, especially since we do not seem to have the talent here ourselves. And if that talent is there, it is certainly not getting the big stage. John has put it all on the big stage and has done justice to it as well. As he said in his own words '..tried to present both viewpoints as honestly as I could'. Having read his book I think he did that and never succumbed to the lure of trying to make of dramatic or controversial. Seen in this light, I expected a word of praise, a good word, a thank you to someone who does not belong to this land, from the culture bearers of Hyderabad. Culture to me is what we show in our word, thought and deed, and not merely in recounting history.

Fortunately I have no cultural baggage and have no qualms in accepting that I am a philistine. I mobbed John like a totally possessed fan and got his autograph on Harsha's ancient, dog eared copy (which I had the good sense to pick up before I came over). I also handed John a copy of the book review I'd done on 'The Last Nizam' on this blog, which also serves as my main reference when I need to brush up on my history of the Nizams and Hyderabad.

It was a bonus meeting Huma Kidwai, Jayesh Ranjan, Irshad Ali and Asif of A.A. Hussain. I did not know that John had released his second book 'The Mysterious Mr. Jacob' (on the man who tried to sell the 'Jacob's diamond to the sixth Nizam Mahboob Ali Khan) at the Jaipur Literary Festival. I do wish that each time an author is invited to speak one of the book stores is intimated so the books can be sold at the venue. It makes immense sense. Asif of A.A. Husain told me he would have done the job if someone had told him. Just shows how involved publishers and distributors are in the sales process.

I enjoyed the talk and the experience. I loved the fact that i got him to autograph (it's an interesting one). And I do look forward to reading about the Mysterious Mr. Jacob.

1 comment:

Rajendra said...

Very interesting. I might have been there but for a meeting that kept me! Anyway, I shall start with the Last Nizam and then get to the rest of them.