Book Review: ‘Azadi’ by Chaman Nahal

A timeless novel of undying agony

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Book Title: Azadi
Author: Chaman Nahal
Publisher: Hachette India
Number of Pages: 360
ISBN: 978-9393701862
Date Published: Jan. 01, 2023
Price: INR 447

Azadi by Chaman Nahal Book Review

Book Review

Azadi”, a novel by Chaman Nahal, is considered one of the Gandhi Quartet’s most significant works. Nahal, an English professor at Delhi University, wrote eight novels, including four of the Gandhi Quartet. “Azadi”, one of his four, won the Sahitya Academy Award and the Federation of Indian Publishers Award in 1977. The novel tells the story of the terrors and holocaust caused by partition, focusing on the impact on those living in Sialkot during the partition.

Nahal’s work “Azadi” graphically depicts the tragedies of partition and its aftermath on the Indian subcontinent. Nahal wrote authentically as a refugee, focusing on the dawn of freedom, the horrors of partition, mass migration, atrocities, and the arrival of refugees in India and Pakistan. The actual focus of the story is on man’s hopes, worries, loves, and hatred, as well as the perpetual tug of God and the Devil inside him.

The novel, “Azadi”, is divided into three sections: Lull, Storm, and Aftermath, detailing the aftermath of partition in India. It tells the story of the suffering of thousands of victims and their families, focusing on the Muslim-majority city of Sialkot. Nahal enlists the help of seven families to tell the story. At the same time, “Azadi” is a broad-based narrative about the 1947 partition of India, focusing on a grain dealer family in West Punjab.

In the story, Lala Kanshi Ram, a respected Hindu citizen, is a victim of British Angrez hatred. The shooting of a dog by an English soldier is a prelude to riots, looting, and slaughter. The partition will further carnage between Muslims and Hindus, leaving Lala and his family alone. The family is forced to leave the hamlet for refugee camps and settle in New Delhi. Arun, Ram’s son, must marry Chandni, a lower-caste woman kidnapped by Muslims, causing further turmoil.

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Chaman Nahal’s “Azadi” depicts a tragic incident in 1947, immediately after India’s independence, which is remembered as a red letter day. The following partition was a period of shame, cruelty, and destruction. Nahal highlights the optimistic dawn of Indian independence and the selfish politicians’ actions that destroyed families and killed half a million innocent people. The unfulfilled love tales of Arun-Nur and Arun-Chandni highlight the division’s impact on peaceful cooperation and personal ties.

Overall, “Azadi’s” work presents sorrow and slaughter as a precursor to the emergence of a new humanity and new connections.

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