‘The Infidel Next Door’ by Rajat Mitra is a beautifully written book about the life of a Pundit named Aditya and his struggle to keep his temple safe from regular attempts to destroy it.
Rajat has very adeptly managed to portray the life of Aditya who is stricken by struggles from the time of he is born.
Aditya is a Brahmin born in Benaras (Kashi) to a family of Brahmins. His ancestors had fled to safe havens in order to save themselves being killed under the religious persecution of the Hindus which has been continuing for many centuries under the hands of muslim rulers. Aditya belongs to the clan of Brahmins who were Pundits. Aditya, in an attempt to undo the past makes his way back Kashmir and reclaims his ancestral temple. The book is about his journey.
In ‘The Infidel Next Door’, Aditya’s friendship with a Dom (people who work at funerals) whom he gives refuge to at the temple is very touching. The depth of understanding between the two friends is eloquently woven. Equally touching and moving are the lives of Aditya’s neighbours in Kashmir – Zeba and Anwar.
Rajat has used his extensive experience as a psychologist working with survivors and perpetrators of mass violence and translated those experiences into real living characters with flawed lives. The characters of the book exhibit how the scars of forced conversions that do not heal end up tormenting the soul for generations.
There are layers to this book that one must dig through and comprehend through narrative of its characters. For ‘The Infidel Next Door’, Rajat has also drawn his experience from his work in Kashmiri Hindu Refugee camps.
This book is a must read if you appreciate depth in fiction because long after you have read this book, the characters and their stories will remain fresh in your memory. The book also gives a raw picture of how the Hindu persecution continued in Kashmir by muslims.