The Truth About Neighbours, a book co-authored by award-winning author, historian and journalist Hindol Sengupta and Huma Ijaz Zaman, one of Pakistan’s most high-profile corporate, gender rights and public interest specialist lawyers, will be brought out by Penguin this year.
Written in epistolary form, this book will provide a contemporary understanding of India and Pakistan and their thoughts about one another, written together by an Indian and a Pakistani who both happen to be Chevening scholars. Beginning the discussion with the same set pattern of repeating clichés about a common love for food, cricket and Bollywood, the authors will take the readers beyond what they see as the superficiality of a lot of people-to-people dialogue.
Co-author of the book Huma Ijaz Zaman says, ‘The Truth About Neighbours explores a people-to-people narrative rather than the narrative the governments are putting forward, which clearly has not worked for both nations. It is my belief that both governments should hear what their people say and steer their policy towards a neighbourly cordial approach rather than face being on the brink of war every few years. We thought that where in the past there have been collaborations of journalists, legal forums, actors and film-makers between India and Pakistan, it was time for the authors to collaborate on a book, an endeavour, to make governments think about changing the narrative as the old narrative is clearly not leading to solutions. This book hopefully can influence governments, based on positives, to take into account a different scheme for finding resolutions to decades-old conflict between two old neighbours and at least have a functional relationship.’
Echoing Huma’s point of view, Hindol Sengupta says, ‘This book is a culmination of a decade-long discussion on politics between Huma and me. We always wanted to do a book together that looks at the difficult India–Pakistan relationship beyond platitudes. It often seems that the India–Pakistan conversation is trapped in misplaced advertisement-like exuberance or hate propaganda. We want to break free from this dichotomy in this book and create the atmosphere and knowledge among the public about how a realistic peace can be achieved between the two countries. This is a book not only about what Indians and Pakistanis might love about one another, or hate, but by putting these emotions and information side by side, and neglecting neither, we hope for a sane and sensible relationship between the nuclear-armed neighbours.’
This book is designed to talk about all the things Indians and Pakistanis avoid talking to one another about. It will challenge readers to answer some poignant questions: Can Indians and Pakistanis talk to each other openly and without caution about the difficult, even dangerous, subjects? Can they go beyond the brief outlines of the history textbooks? Can they be honest about their historical icons? What they hate about each other—and not just love? Can they talk about what people-to-people contact can and cannot do? Can they talk honestly about religion and their respective fears about it? As well as talking about what is common, can they talk about what separates them? Can they show each other the mirror?
Milee Ashwarya, Publisher, Ebury Publishing and Vintage Publishing, Penguin Random House India says, ‘The Truth About Neighbours will be a unique book about India and Pakistan written by an Indian and a Pakistani author together and I am proud to have it on our list. Conversational, honest and pragmatic in its approach, I hope it will be a catalyst for more open dialogue between the people of the two countries who have been intertwined by history, geography and geo-politics, and help find a way forward for a better future. I am delighted that Hindol and Huma have chosen to embark on this journey together and I hope the book is read widely by readers both in India and Pakistan.’
Priya Doraswamy from Lotus Lane Literary says, ‘A first-of-its-kind book, written by two brilliant minds, Hindol Sengupta and Huma Ijaz, it is a no-holds-barred political dialogue between two friends, two citizens, from India and Pakistan, discussing how peace can be achieved with “real talk” between contentious neighbours. Steering clear of political soap-boxing and rhetoric, the epistolary book shows how difficult conversations can be successful when written with compassion and with a common goal of peace. I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of this project, and pleased that Milee Ashwarya and the Penguin Random House India team will be publishing worldwide in 2019.’