It is a proud moment for Lucknow as Attia Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column makes it to the list of the literary celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s record breaking reign, that began in 1952.

To coincide with the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth’s reign which is the longest in British history, a list of 70 titles from across the Commonwealth is compiled, including Sunlight on a Broken Column from 1962.

Sunlight on a Broken Column by Lucknow born Attia Hosain is a semi-autobiographical novel told by a fictional character called Laila. The story unfolds against the tragic background of the partition of the subcontinent into India and two Pakistans.

The division of the country and the tearing apart of communities had devastated Hosain.

“We belong to a generation that has lived with our hearts in pieces,” she said.

After Partition, she chose to live neither in Lucknow, nor in Lahore but made a home in London.

Later in life she wrote:

Here I am, I have chosen to live in this country which has given me so much; but I cannot get out of my blood the fact that I had the blood of my ancestors for 800 years in another country.

Born in 1913 into the Kidwai family of landlords in the Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh, Hosain married Ali Bahadur Habibullah a first cousin. She lived for a while in the family home of her in-laws in Hazratganj where she developed a keen interest in politics during the thick and thin of the freedom struggle. She was the first woman in her family to graduate from Lucknow University after having studied at La Martinière School and at Lucknow’s Isabella Thoburn College.

In 1933, Hosain attended the All India Women’s Conference with Sarojini Naidu and reported:

I had been very influenced by the political thoughts of the Left in the Progressive Writers' Movement, through my friends Mulk Raj Anand, Sajjad Zaheer and Sahibzada Mahmuduzaffar.

While in Lucknow, editor Desmond Young asked her to write for The Pioneer. In the 1940s she moved to London where her home became a lakhnawi adda, attracting many writers and filmmakers also from south Asia. In post war London, the stories of Hosain kept alive memories of the wondrous world of Lucknow for those in the diaspora like herself who could not get over their exile.

Till her dying day in 1998, Hosain nursed a healthy political consciousness and remained scornful of hypocrisy, extremism and sectarianism. She struggled to create harmony whether between different languages, cultures or beliefs. It was humanism, and the enlightened interpretation of Islam that guided Hosain, and inspired her writing throughout her gloriously glamorous life.

Akhilesh Yadav

Samajwadi party chief Akhilesh is trying to unite the majority population of the state that is illiterate, disemployed and impoverished in his own way.

However, Akhilesh is no Mulayam Singh Yadav. When his father Mulayam Singh came into politics, members of the Yadav community were mostly a cluster of Low to Middle class agriculturalists and pastoral castes. After over three decades of practice of the reservation policy of the central government, the Yadavs have emerged as a significant political force in UP and Bihar. The challenge before the SP today is different. Founded in 1922, today the party no longer represents just farmers. Its members include small entrepreneurs and businessmen as well.

Even the octogenarian Mulayam Singh seems at a loss as to the direction the SP should take in these troubled times. Part of the popularity of Mulayam Singh in the past was his persona of an ordinary man from a modest background who had earned personal success. He continues to be a role model for all those still struggling to gain economic and social recognition.

But those who enjoy even modest success in society and have different aspirations are in search of something different. There is admiration for the youthful, Australian educated Akhilesh. Those who do not believe in the politics of hate expect an alternative way of winning elections to be shown by the SP. Well-wishers of the SP chief wait for him to redefine the way politics should be played at the grassroots.

The fuss over SP strongman Azam Khan who is in jail is seen as a waste of time. This is a moment to find out what the need of the Pasmanda or lowered caste Muslims is. That is the section of society that is disprivileged and supports the SP in large numbers, much more than the raised-caste members of the Muslim community. The SP should recognise that it wins elections with the support of two principal social categories: of poor Muslims belonging to castes like butchers, weavers and bishti or water carriers, and amongst the Other Backward Classes the Yadavs, the largest group followed by Kurmi, Lodhi and Saini.

The problem with Akhilesh is that he is unable to differentiate friends from his foes. He is loved by the majority population that does not believe in hateful politics. He is popular with the media. Female voters swarm around him as well but in his confusion and perhaps disappointment at the recent state hustings he seems incapable of recognising those who are the strength of his constituency.

‘When Akhilesh Yadav doesn’t meet his supporters, when he snaps back at questions posed to him by the media and when he is not seen at the grassroots for months then this crowdpuller of a politician seems to hand over everything that is in his favour to his political opponents,’ an ardent admirer of the SP told The Citizen.

Just like Mayawati

Mayawati had everything going for her till she made the mistake of seeming less concerned for the plight of the poor majority in her constituency. When her loyal constituency saw her cosy up to the Upper castes, voters turned their back on Mayawati.

Women had looked up to Mayawati. Members of the majority Dalit communities respected her highly as did that progressive section of the population that feels it is high time the political, economic and social chasm between the haves and don’t-haves is bridged in society.

By withdrawing in recent times into a four walled world of her own, and leaving the political field empty for communal nationalist politics to take over, Mayawati has disappointed loyalists.

At a time when the politics of the Congress party that had ruled for decades mostly with the help of the dominant castes should have ideally been replaced by Dalits and Backward Class communities, the early 1990s saw the BJP emerge as an alternative.

The thrill is in the wait and watch, of the kind of alternative that will eventually emerge to the politics of the day.