Musharraf Ali Farooqi said the idea for his latest book, Between Clay and Dust, was born when he explored the relationship between a wrestler, power and control

It took 10 years for Musharraf Ali Farooqi, to write his latest novel “Between Clay and Dust”, one of the first novels to be published by Aleph Publications.

The book revolves around a pehlwan and a courtesan who are faced with difficult choices when their world collapses.

“The idea was born when I started exploring the notion of the relationship between a wrestler and the power and control he must exercise at all times”, said Farooqui who was in town to promote the book. “I began reading up about pehlwans and then I began to see the characters, their lives and relationships.”

The story is set during Partition. “After Partition, the princely states stopped patronising the arts, including wrestling. Naturally, it affected courtesans. In the novel, when this happens, both characters are past their primes and find that their sustenance has suddenly disappeared. In that situation, they begin to question the meaning of their lives and existence.” The book explores the similarity of choices that these characters face and the motivating forces behind their final choices. “Those who are young can afford to make mistakes and survive. Their choices do not threaten their existence. But there are no second choices for the old. And finally in the book, we see that all rules are man made, they can always be changed.”

Farooqi worked on several drafts, over the years until he was finally satisfied with the result. This is Farooqui's third novel. He has also worked on story collections like “The Amazing Moustaches of Moochhander the Iron Man & Other Stories.”His previous novel, “The Story of a Widow” was shortlisted for the DSP Prize for South Asian Literature. “I'm still sampling as a writer. I have a wide variety of interests and I read a number of books in different genres. I like to write about different things.”

But the common thread connecting all his works is the narrative. “I like to focus on storytelling, so I concentrate on writing a good story. In fact, what I like about literature is its exploration of human relationships.”

His next book,“A Heroine After Time”, titled after Mikhail Lermontov's “A Hero of our time” (the book has a role to play), also combines the elements of storytelling and human relationships.

“This book brings together characters from across the world. They are all disparate people who share a common outlook. They come together to do something wonderful, yet none of the characters meet. It is a story about books and the love of books.”

Musharraf is also commended for his translations of Urdu works “Hoshruba”, “The Adventures of Amir Hamza”, contemporary Urdu poet Afzal Ahmed Syed's selected poetry “Rococo and Other Worlds” and Syed Muhammad Ashraf's “The Beast”.

He is also currently working on an online Urdu thesaurus. “Some of the most wonderful contemporary writing can be found in Urdu literature. But it is not hyped by publishers who sometimes focus on English writing because of perceived notions.”

Farooqi believes that some of Urdu's greatest writers are Indians and even though Urdu literature may not be as popular in India, technology can bridge the gap.

“India and Pakistan have a common culture and a long-shared common history. Indians can understand Urdu and Pakistanis can understand Hindi. We don't need a script to understand each other. So new technology like audio books can help breach the barriers.”

Author Musharraf Ali Farooqi's was misspelt earlier. It is corrected now.

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