That political journalists are more likely to find themselves on a spiral of cynicism is a truism less acknowledged than the one attributed to ordinary citizenry. And when the journalist is a veteran correspondent with over four decades of reporting on wars, elections, riots and politics, scepticism, even disenchantment, is inevitable. However Saeed Naqvi’s Being the Other is not merely a picture of dark disquiet; it is a relentless documenting of failures on the part of leaders, the state and virtually all of civil society. And such is his bitterness, such is his aversion to the word ‘secular’ (he prefers ‘multiculturalism’) that Naqvi goes so far as to say, “Partition, in a way, was the gift the Congress gave to the Hindu right, which in the fullness of time, is today’s Hindutva.” Sparing none, not even Gandhi, he goes on to declare “...even for Nehru, like all the other leaders, including the Mahatma, the secular project was negotiable”.
The only solace Naqvi finds is in the past, especially his childhood and youth in Awadh, which he holds up as a cradle of all that was once good and nurturing and harmonious. His “remembering eyes” repeatedly fall back upon scenes from the qasbah of Mustafabad, “that crucible of tolerance”, where his ancestral home still survives among the debris of a “vanished syncretic Hindu-Muslim culture”. A clue to Naqvi’s resentment lies in what he experienced at an early age: “The hypocritical silence adopted in the early years of Partition began to putrefy...and turned into closet communalism.”