‘Through Orphaned Eyes’ written by Ajay Singh and published by Pentagon Press is a historical novel that tells the story of India and Pakistan; their birth, their lovehate relationship, their battles with each other and the conflicts within the respective nations. The story is seen through the eyes of two main charactersbrothers divided in the trauma of partition, like the two nations. One, the hero (who remains nameless throughout, since he could be any ordinary middle class Indian) comes to India on 15 August 1947, in the communal madness of partition. The other is his brother who is born on 14 August 1947, left behind and adopted by a Pakistani Army officer. He eventually goes on to become the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Through their eyes the story of the two nations emerge. We see the trauma of partition and the effect on the psyche of both nations. We see the wars the two nations have waged with each other, 1947, 1965, 1971 and the Kargil War. We also see the conflict within the nations. In India, the dark years of the Emergency come hauntingly alive, as does the attack on the Golden Temple in 1984, the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi and the anti- Sikh riots that followed. We trace the path of the nation right till 2015, see its years of economic success and decline and witness some of its most epochal moments.
The story of Pakistan similarly emerges, through its Army coups, its dismemberment in 1971, its involvement with the Mujahideen groups in Afghanistan and their use to foment insurgency in Kashmir. How the groups then turned against Pakistan, and then engaged the same forces that once cultivated them is also dramatically developed. Pakistan’s dangerous war within itself, and the slow realisation that “the enemy was not India whom we had been fighting all these years – the enemy lay within”.
The interplay of the lives of the two heroes is the central theme of the plot and forms a fascinating story line which is grippingly narrated. This fast-paced novel takes us from 1947 to 2015, bringing alive the psyche of the two nations, capturing their history and even exploring their cricketing rivalry and culture. In one of the most powerful chapters the hero’s daughter performs a dance recital at a ‘Festival of Peace’ between the two nations, while the Pakistani hero’s wife sings the score for the dance – all this while the planning for the 2008 Mumbai attacks are underway. The book takes us deep in to the emotions of the people and the frustration that both sides have with their political leadership. In fact, the author says the book has been titled ‘Through Orphaned Eyes’ not so much because the two principle characters are orphans, but in reference to two nations orphaned by their leaders.
It is a gripping and enthralling novel replete with historical fact and symbolism and takes us on a sweep of the sub-continent in 278 fast-paced pages. A definite ‘mustread’ by all.