Rating: 4/5

Nehru fastidiously rooted a tree of secularism under whose shade politics and religion could breathe an air of sanguinity and tolerance.The edifice now seems to crumble as the central and state polity considers religion and its cultural dimensions a phantasmagoria of fabricated prejudices. The right wing politics of the BJP, tempering as scavengers, has disinterred the ghost of communal deuce, diddling on the already debilitated Muslim psyche.  

Hasn’t the Muslim palaver become a protracted saga scurrilously rabble-roused by the Hindu wing? The ubiquitous pilferage of their belonging has made them secluded birds ensconced in their own cultural nest avoiding the predictable gaze of the mighty hawk. Embittered and disparaged, they are bereft of a national identity of being an ‘Indian’ and stamped only as Muslims.

Kalyani Devaki Menon has pondered and expatiated details of her living on ‘Old Delhi’ among the tired fancy of the Muslims, through relentless in their pursuit to carve a niche for themselves. The assemblage in the book ‘Making Place for Muslims in Contemporary India’ is about the Muslims living with fears and insecurities. 

‘Is it a fear of the intemperate mind or implacable distortions of their culture that has stamped them as ‘others?’

‘The vagaries of the past are a bridled discomfort that has dissuaded their motives to be a part of the economy. The ‘CAA’ is a rabbit out of the hole for the Muslim progeny to envelope themselves in their own roasted identity; as if the nation is not ready to coil your inadequacies.’

A sigh!!

A sad disenchantment!

How things have boiled to scald the skin of the Muslim brethrenis milk that refuses to churn. How a child would feel if his mother disavows to take care of him? Menon, taking ‘Old Delhi’ as a metaphor has detailed the encrypted lives of Muslims. ‘Old Delhi’ – a convenient refuge for the Muslims who find succour and comfort in the imperative study of their tradition and rituals!

An Anthropologist, Menon puts together the conditioning of Muslims social, cultural, gender and religious paraphernalia—a prevalent need of the Muslims to concoct a place for themselves in contemporary India. 

 In India, Muslims today are banter of suspicion and are snowballed in flakes of terrorism. The high-pitched declaration ‘Not every Muslim is a terrorist, and the Quran siphoning against violence and harm to disbelievers’ has become an adamant wax causing deafness to many. Islamophobia is a penchant of the ‘Hindutva’ caravan that doesn’t bat an eyelid to arouse unpalatable emotions to discredit Muslims of their belonging. Today, Old Delhi is a comforting zone, and tomorrow another region may become a prelude to the agonizing staccato of identity crisis.

The book is a story of ‘believers’ who everyday are strengthening their beliefs in their own social and cultural geography. Menon has graciously been a part of their living to extrapolate their definition of identity in a nation that has repeatedly exfoliated them. A ‘Muslim Club’ is the area makes people aware of the fundamental text of Quran and its importance in creating confidence of one’s own identity. Sunnis and Shias eclipsed by the dark horrors of the past rely more on what makes them as ‘one’— Islam becomes their shade rather than dwelling on respective differences.

Women in Islam have become more of a mockery because of the atavistic hijab—Isn’t it the indolent minds speaking gibberish? This is where the book attempts to solve the perplexes of Muslim identity which has been crumpled by the obnoxious right wing reign. Menon has earnestly talked to women in Old Delhi, entangled in the web of economic deprivation—a callous call of the government to not look at their beleaguered silhouettes. Their monthly income is not part of the GDP; the labour is more than their earnings, a toxic reality of a fish out of the water.

Creating their own place is pivotal as it might change how people perceive them. In fact, they feel it’s important to accept differences amongst them to create multiplicity of respectable alliances.


Conscientiously researched, the book is a perceivable understanding of how different cultures and their social patterns is not a prerequisite or a de rigueur for unhealthy bifurcations. An ‘identity’ is an individual expression of one’s character and a way of behaving. It’s important to enlighten one-self with what seems different to flow the river of compassion and sensitivity.

An eye opener to the vagaries of Muslim insecurities and fears…

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