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Tamas drove the point home that ordinary people want to live in peace’ The Guardian
Set in a small-town frontier province in 1947, just before Partition, Tamas tells the story of a sweeper named Nathu who is bribed and deceived by a local Muslim politician to kill a pig, ostensibly for a veterinarian. The following morning, the carcass is discovered on the steps of the mosque and the town, already tension-ridden, erupts. Enraged Muslims massacre scores of Hindus and Sikhs, who, in turn, kill every Muslim they can find. Finally, the area’s British administrators call out the army to prevent further violence. The killings stop but nothing can erase the awful memories from the minds of the survivors, nor will the various communities ever trust one another again.
The events described in Tamas are based on true accounts of the riots of 1947 that Sahni was a witness to in Rawalpindi, and this new and sensitive novel by the author himself resurrects chilling memories of the consequences of communalism which are of immense relevance even today.
About the Author
Bhisham Sahni (1915–2003) was born into a devout Arya Samaj family in Rawalpindi. He earned a master’s degree in English literature from Government College, Lahore. Upon his return to Rawalpindi, he joined his father’s import business and also began teaching, staging plays, writing stories and becoming involved in the activities of the IndianNational Congress. He later earned a PhD from Punjab University. After Partition, he and his family settled in Delhi, where he was a lecturer at a Delhi University college and took to writing more earnestly. His first collection of short stories, Bhagya Rekha (Line of Fate), was published in 1953. In 1957 Sahni moved to Moscow, during which time he translated several Russian books into Hindi, notably some works of Leo Tolstoy.
He returned to Delhi in 1963 to resume teaching. He edited the literary journal Nai Kahaniyan from 1965 to 1967. Sahni was a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel Tamas in 1976. He also received the Distinguished Writer Award of the Punjab government, the Lotus Award from the Afro-Asian Writers’ Association and the Sovietland Nehru Award. His writings include seven novels, nine collections of short stories, six plays and a biography of his brother, the actor and writer Balraj Sahni. Many of his books have been translated into numerous foreign and most major Indian languages. In 1998 he was conferred an honorary doctorate by the Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad and the Padma Bhushan. In 1999 he received the Shlaka Award, the highest literary award from the Delhi government, And In 1975 he wins the Sahitya Akademi Award for Tamas.