Review: Jimmy the terrorist

Jimmy the Terrorist by Omair Ahmad

Published by Hamish Hamilton

In Moazzamabad, Uttar Pradesh—a place that is too large to be a town and too backward to be a city—a young man stabs a police inspector and is beaten to death. The last words he speaks are, “My name is Jimmy the Terrorist.” Journalists descend on the town, ‘like shrill birds’, and a long-time resident decides to tell a story that none of them will know.

Jimmy was once Jamaal, son of Rafiq Ansari of Rasoolpur Mohalla, a Muslim neighbourhood in a Hindu town. His story goes back a long way: to the time when Moazzamabad was named, after Aurangzeb’s son; when Rafiq was seduced by the wealth and refinements of Shabbir Manzil and married Shaista; when the Hanuman temple grew 10 storeys high and the head priest was elected mayor; when Shaista died, a mosque was brought down in Ayodhya and Rafiq became a mullah. As Jamaal grows up, watching both his father and his neighbourhood change and curfew reach Moazzamabad, he is changed himself. He becomes Jimmy, one among the countless marginalised, trying to find a place in the world, dimly aware that the choices that shape their lives are being made in distant places, where they have no influence.

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The Confessions of Sultana Daku by Sujit Saraf


The book cover

Book Review: An Excerpt

First Published in Helter Skelter

The story begins when Sultana is waiting in cell for a British officer, Lt. Col. Samuel Pearce. Under the influence of charas a day before he is to be executed, he wants to lay bare the story of his life to the British officer so that it can be read later by Sultana’s son. Sultana misses his son dearly and hopes for a better life for him.

Through the night, Sultana gets nostalgic about his past while talking about his grandfather, a man who could open any lock and burgle any house under different disguises. He narrates how he learns the trade from his grandfather, their life in the camp, where the bhantu community, seen by the British as thieving, low class criminals, were confined and the Muktifauj taught from the ‘Shepherd’s’ book. The story builds up with his friends, Bhurey, Gajendar, and others he makes at the camp, and their discontentment with their confined surroundings. They escape after Bhurey kills Adjunct Anand—this is where the pace accelerates. The rest of the story is about how Sultana builds a band of men and loots baniyas and other communities in surrounding villages while taking shelter in nearby forests. The police is often hot on their trail, but thanks to a mix of ingenuity and good luck, Sultana and his boys manage to get away. At one point, even Jim Corbett (Carpet Sahib) joins the police in hunting Sultana down.

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Review by: Ahmed Faiyaz, a book lover, who wishes to spend most of his time sipping chai and taking long walks in quiet hill stations alternating it with lying in a hammock and reading all day. He is the author of the bestselling, Love, life & all that jazz… and Another Chance. His stories have appeared in Urban Shots, published by Grey Oak Publishers. He is also a guest reviewer of books for Asian Age/ Deccan Chronicle, Helter Skelter India and The Tossed Salad.