In Good Faith: A Journey in Search of an Unknown India by Saba Naqvi is a journalistic account of the author’s journey through India–from Tamil Nadu in the south to Kashmir in the north, and from Rajasthan in the west to Bengal in the east. Naqvi embarks on this journey in search of an India that is “tolerant and safe for all communities, an India that synthesises identities instead of atomising us all into a Hindu atom here, a Muslim particle there, a Christian molecule some distance way, a Sikh on the periphery.”
India, known for its multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual population, has secularism at its heart. Living in India, we see several examples every day of a peaceful coexistence of religions. This book is likely to strengthen your belief further in this coexistence as Naqvi takes us through the shrines, temples and dargahs of India that symbolise such unity.
Naqvi starts by introducing herself. The former political editor of Outlook is the daughter of a Shia Muslim father and a Protestant Christian mother, and has been married to a Hindu from Bengal. Given her mixed background, her curiosity to peel the layers of the Hindu-Muslim unity could be seen as a personal journey as well.
The book reads like an exploratory film, as the author describes the details of her journey to religious places through India, focusing on the roots of Hindu-Muslim unity existing right from the Mughal period.
The book is an important account of India’s religious fabric across the length and breadth of the country, while also taking you through the pages of history. Religions, places of faith and keen observations is what the book is made of. The author beautifully brings home the message of religious unity or disparity as she talks about shrines being “the focus of dispute or a symbol of happy coexistence.” One such shrine is the Tinthani Mouneshwar in Karnataka’s Gulbarga district, which Hindus consider a temple and Muslims consider a dargah.
While praising the unparalleled quality of India’s united spiritual fabric, the book also demonstrates the flip side to it. The chapter called Give Money, Meet God which talks about the role of money in receiving blessings of God. Be it temples, sufi shrines, or dargahs,”the proximity to God is often determined by the amount of money in one’s wallet.”
All in all, In Good Faith highlights the values of brotherhood and fraternity central to the truly secular society India is. It fills you with a sense of awe and pride towards India–a culture where religions, cultural roots and languages can and do flourish.