The blurb to Musharaf Ali Farooqui’s Between Clay and Dust prepared me for a twilight zone, set in an akhara and a kotha and peopled with the likes of a pahalwan and a courtesan with a glorious past. But nothing warned me about its perfect sepia tones guaranteed by the time frame, setting and the craft of storytelling used in the book.
It is mostly set in a world far removed from the world we know – perhaps something we know only from yesteryear movies. Yet, this world is not a story-book fantasy creation. It is a place which could exist in any of those unexplored alleys of a town in the Indian sub-continent, inhabited by many characters, in hues galore, frozen into a time warp. One only needs to close one’s eyes and let the mind float, to imagine the kotha and the akhara, and the immense wasted buildings looking to crumble down at a sigh. Maybe it is for this reason that we hold our breath and let the dream go on uninterrupted.