Bengali classic ‘Deshe Bideshe’, which chronicles Afghan history and politics, translated into English

Bengali classic ‘Deshe Bideshe’, which provides an insight into Afghanistan's history and politics, has now been published in a new English translation titled “In a Land Far from Home”.

First penned by Syed Mujtaba Ali in 1948, the memoir is the only published eyewitness account of that tumultuous period by a non-Afghan.

The travelogue chronicles with a keen eye and “a wicked sense of humour” Ali's eventful days in Kabul, a journey from Peshawar to the Khyber Pass, narrated through a colourful cast of characters drawn from varied socio-political backgrounds.

Ali's work provides an 'Indian perspective' brought to life by the contact he enjoyed with a colourful cast of characters – ranging from garrulous Pathan friend Muhammed, the gentle Russian giant Bolshov, his servant Abdur Rahman and his tennis partner and crown prince Enayatullah.

The English translation published by Speaking Tiger Books, a new publishing house, was launched recently in the presence of Shaida Abdali, Ambassador of Afghanistan in India

“The book can be a very good introduction to Afghanistan, its society, people and history,” says Nazes Afroz, the translator and former BBC Executive Editor of South and Central Asia.

Ali, a noted author, academician, scholar and linguist draws on his teaching stint in Kabul from 1927 to 1929 to provide an account of sociological changes taking place in Afghanistan in the 1920s.

The then reformist King Amanullah tried to steer his country towards modernity by encouraging education for girls and giving them the choice of removing the burqa. He was branded a 'kafir'.

The King was overthrown by bandit leader Bacha-e-Saqao. According to the Bengali author, the bandit was backed by the British who wanted to maintain the power play in the region.

“All the modernisation programs, if the Afghan King Amanullah could carry it forward then Afghanistan would have been a different Afghanistan,” says Afroz.

The English translation published by Speaking Tiger Books, a new publishing house, was launched recently in the presence of Shaida Abdali, Ambassador of Afghanistan in India, and Syed Muazzam Ali, Bangladesh High Commissioner, who is also the grand-nephew of the Bengali author.

“The book which has been translated has a great value for us. We are pleased that this book has been translated into English because we need to have more readers,” says Abdali.

“Sayed Mujtaba Ali was a friend of King Amanullah, a cherished king of ours, who brought modernity to Afghanistan. He is so highly remembered in every household for what he did.”

“Ali is a name to reckon with in Bengali literature. And I personally thought it would be very difficult, even impossible to translate 'Deshe Bideshe' into English,” says says Syed Muazzam Ali.

“I was impressed when Nazes Afroz pleasantly surprised me with the translation. Parts of book have also been translated into Russian.”

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