Reflections of an Uncommon Man, Aminuddin Khan, Rupa & Co., Pp 201, Rs 195.00
THE author, a descendant of the Asaf Jahi dynasty of Hyderabad, has written three other novels apart from this fourth one where he tries to revive a lost world though his writing about an upper-class world where the Indian royalty crosses with British upbringing and manners. All the characters in the novel seem to be searching for a meaning of truth in their lives, often coming to the same conclusion but in different ways.
Beginning with the life of his father, Tilawath Ali Khan, who was born in 1880 into an aristocratic family and was blessed with good manners and social propriety. The book describes his life at Rahmatabad, where he is tutored essentially at home and after a short period of formal schooling takes a degree from Madras University. He then proceeds to secure his medical credentials from England and Germany.
Subsequently he returns to India to set up his practice and gets married. But after his wife’s death who leaves behind no child, he marries again. Even this young wife dies, leaving behind a son Afsar Ali Khan, who is brought up by the father with the help of a British governess called Miss de Winter, whom the young child addresses as Fee. Afsar Ali is sent to Bombay University after his schooling and he comes back with a degree. But when he reaches 21 years of age, his father dies. The governess feels that her services are no longer required and suggests leaving for England, but Afsar Ali persuades her to stay on to look after the house.
Days later, she expresses to Afsar her desire to visit London together with him as she wants to show him the places of interest, knowing how keen he is to know about the rulers and the ruled of India. In London, Afsar discovers that he has a brother named Simon who has been adopted by a British family.
Then parallel to Afsar’s own life runs the life of Noor Ahmed, a man in search of his origins.
This book combines philosophy and history and is interspersed with anecdotes from the Nizam’s family, particularly about one of the Nizam’s wives, who looks suspiciously at every female, right from a young girl to an old maid, as she fears her to be having an affair with her husband, the Nizam.
It seems the purpose of the book is to make us realise the importance of the present while letting go of the past.
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