South Asian fiction based on the Partition of 1947 is generally concerned with specific incidents of trauma and violence. Urdu writer Ali Akbar Natiq’s Naulakhi Kothi, recently translated into English by Naima Rashid, adds a different dimension to the existing ways of narrating fiction. Its story begins several years before the partition and ends several years later, thereby using partition to frame a much longer narrative. 

Post-independence India had a big problem–about 40% of its land wasn’t, well, India. Instead, this land was in the hands of the princely states: Rulers who had signed agreements accepting the rule of the British Empire, while getting a relatively free hand to rule their local jurisdictions. And these weren’t small states. Hyderabad—whose ruler made noises about independence, at least initially—had a larger income than Belgium, and was bigger than all but twenty UN member countries. 

Taha Kehar’s recent novel, which unfolds over a protracted party on a single night, revolves around six estranged friends, family members and a “mystery guest”. In order to fulfill the final request of the titular, but recently-deceased, Nazia, her sister Naureen has invited five people to celebrate her death rather than attend a funeral, as a means to reconcile them to her memory and resolve issues that remained at her demise.

Shah Hussain was a 16th-century Punjabi Sufi poet based in Lahore. His kafis, (mostly) short rhymed poetry with refrains, referring to the relationship between God and devotee with metaphors of lover and Beloved, or Murshid (literally, the master but also a metaphor for God as well) and mureed (disciple), are sung and relished even today as rhapsodic expressions of love, longing, and devotion. Considered scandalous by clerics as well as by people in general for his relationship with Madho, a Brahmin boy who became his devotee, he is today venerated as Madho Lal Hussain at his dargah (tomb) in Lahore with Madho buried by his side. Sarbpreet Singh’s new novel The Sufi’s Nightingale turns to this mystic and his strange love story that challenges gender and religious boundaries erected by the people of his time while redefining what it means to be in love.