Karachi: *City Press*, 1999

The present book is an eclectic, perhaps seemingly eccentric, collection of short fictional pieces and assorted essays -- the latter mostly in a polemical mode. To my mind at least, they have one thing in common. They all emerged out of my various struggles -- some willed, and others forced -- to gain some understanding of myself, both as a Muslim in post-1947 India and as an Indian and a Muslim in the United States where I have lived since 1957, initially by chance but finally by choice.

The stories were "written" in Chicago three decades ago, one each year from 1961 to 1965, a tumultuous period for me personally. I cannot truly claim to have written them, for each story was as if a gift from my daemon, written in one frenzied sitting in a burst of effort that was for me nothing less than a moment of liberation. Each story, without doubt, helped me see through its metaphors and ambiguities the contradictions in my own lived life, particularly the contradictions imbedded in questions of private and public identity and responsibility. Hence I do not hesitate to include them here, though I grant that their inclsuion may not seem so obvious to everyone. In any case, the aims of this publication are modest; they amount to nothing more than the ordinary human desire to share with others an important part of my self. I'm not out to convince or convert anyone.

The polemics are here because they came after the fictions stopped. I perhaps took the easy way out, for polemics, by nature, are easier than fictions. They have a raw quality about them; they are also usually cluttered with "facts," giving them an aura of being more real and accessible. Fictions, on the other hand, are like "essences"; to be affective they must be reduced to an intensity that can be volatile in every sense of that word. For me the polemics too had a kind of therapeutic quality and function -- they let me get things "off my chest." But I had no illusions about them; published or rejected, most of them ended up in a file I have titled "Tilting at Windmills."

These pieces, slightly revised in many instances, are now coming out together in a volume only because my young friend Ajmal Kamal decided that they should. I am pleased and grateful. I also feel honoured by the company I find myself in thanks to his effort.

C. M. Naim


In preparing the contents of the book for the internet I took the liberty of making a few corrections and additions. These  are placed within square brackets and dated 2005.

C. M. Naim, June 2005


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