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Dust of the Caravan

Nominated | Book Awards 2021 | English Non-fiction

Dust of the Caravan (Ghubar e Karwaan)

Dust of the Caravan is a selection of writings by Anis Kidwai sketching the personal and political journey of a Muslim woman through the first eight decades of the 20th century. In Kidwai’s often humorous and always incisive and compassionate telling of the travels that took her from a birth and upbringing in rural Awadh into the maelstrom of Partition and its aftermath, lies a rich tapestry of tales. Simultaneously a social history of life in rural Awadh in the early 20th century and the birth of the national movement in the region as well as an account of the traditions of mutual respect and understanding between different faiths in a shared culture and the rupture of those very traditions during Partition, this book is also the story of a woman’s journey from the home into the world and from ‘family values’ towards autonomous beliefs, friendships, and activism. In addition to its value as a literary work, Dust of the Caravan is an important resource in the fields of history, sociology, and gender studies.

Full Title: Dust of the Caravan

Author: Anis Kidwai
Publisher: Zubaan
Translator: Ayesha Kidwai
Original Language: Urdu

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

Dust of the Caravan is a selection of writings by Anis Kidwai sketching the personal and political journey of a Muslim woman through the first eight decades of the 20th century. In Kidwai’s often humorous and always incisive and compassionate telling of the travels that took her from a birth and upbringing in rural Awadh into the maelstrom of Partition and its aftermath, lies a rich tapestry of tales. Simultaneously a social history of life in rural Awadh in the early 20th century and the birth of the national movement in the region as well as an account of the traditions of mutual respect and understanding between different faiths in a shared culture and the rupture of those very traditions during Partition, this book is also the story of a woman’s journey from the home into the world and from ‘family values’ towards autonomous beliefs, friendships, and activism. In addition to its value as a literary work, Dust of the Caravan is an important resource in the fields of history, sociology, and gender studies.


About the Author: 

Born in 1906 in Barabanki, Anis Kidwai was a member of the Rajya Sabha (1956-68) and a social activist, committed to secularism and the rights of minorities and women. Kidwai had a six-decade long literary career as an essayist, and is perhaps best known for her two collections of essays—Nazre Khush Guzre (1975) and Ab Jin ke Dekhne Ko (1978), as well as her sombre Urdu memoir of Delhi during Partition, Āzādi Ki Chhaon Mein. A prolific contributor to Urdu women’s journals and literary periodicals, Anis Kidwai perfected a highly individual style in which wit and sarcasm combined with perspicacious observation, literary allusion, and a progressive politics. In 1981, she was awarded the Sahitya Kala Parishad Award. She passed away on 16 July 1982.

Ayesha Kidwai teaches linguistics at Jawaharlal Nehru University and is Anis Kidwai’s granddaughter. She is also the translator of Āzādi Ki Chhaon Mein, which appeared as In Freedom’s Shade in 2011.


Excerpt: 

Amongst the dream-like memories there is also one of an evening in which my Buā has my younger brother in her arms and I am walking alongside them. At a short distance from the house, I see a dirty bundle of clothes lying on the road and I give it a kick. The bundle groans loudly, and my Buā exclaims, ‘Hai! What are you doing?! You don’t kick a human child, do you?’ She sits down besides it and starts speaking to it. In response, the bundle of rags unjumbles. At first, two pairs of arms and legs, burning hot, appear, and soon we are on our way home, a dirty young girl tottering along with us.


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