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A journey from Lahore to Hyderabad

 Book Review

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227

Many books have been written on India’s partition but here is a first-hand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who went on to become one of the first officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). The autobiography of Narendra Luther, now 85, is a gripping story encompassing heartrending events of partition, the life of a migrant on the Indian side of Punjab, his struggle to fulfill his dream, his experiences as an administrator and his love for Urdu, Hyderabad and humour. 

This is the 14th book in English from the man considered to be an authority on Hyderabad’s history and culture - and a symbol of the city’s “Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb”. He has dedicated the book to his Budha Goraya ancestral village in Sialkot district, now in Pakistan. Born in Hoshiarpur in 1932, Luther recalls how his father Mela Ram, a government teacher, used to translate “ayats” of the Quran and “slokas” from the Gita and explain their contents. Luther did his primary schooling in Dharam Pura, a suburb of Lahore, with Urdu as the medium of instruction. He grew up in the Muslim majority area of Punjab, where people used to live in harmony till relations were strained by heightened political activity in the run-up to India’s freedom. 

The book details the struggle by the young student, who later rose to become the Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh before retiring in 1991. At university, he fell in love with Bindi, also a migrant from Pakistan, and later married her. When Luther was allotted to Andhra Pradesh, a new chapter began as the newly-married couple reached Visakhapatnam. With a lot of anecdotes, the author explains the socio-economic and political environment he experienced in Pakistan, later in Indian Punjab and subsequently in different places in Andhra Pradesh and finally in Hyderabad, where he settled down.

It’s no easy task to be candid while writing about all one has gone through and even more difficult to write about the trauma near and dear ones had suffered. Luther has done all this and much more. He intertwined the description of evolving socio-political environment and administration with life on the personal front. 

In sum, a good read. (IANS)