Mahmud and Ayaz


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Using the legendary love story of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni and his Turkish slave-cum-lover Ayaz as the backdrop, Mahmud and Ayaz, set in contemporary Mumbai, tells the story of a young, casually radicalized Muslim man, Mahmud Fakhar, who has failed to qualify for the IAS—where he had hoped to make a lot of money, but also to weaken the system from within—and has barely managed a temporary teaching job in a second-rate college. At a loose end after his entire family dies in the 2015 Hajj stampede, he runs into a homeless Hindu lad, the illegitimate son of a tamasha dancer, hires him as his domestic servant, converts him to Islam, re-names him Ayaz, and begins an affair with him.

It is the start of an unusual life together, and a series of journeys. Their travels take them to Somnath in the great Sultan’s footsteps, and then to Kashmir, as they are drawn into a life of petty and not-so-petty crime and, almost, of militancy. After some odd adventures, the wheel comes full circle when their wayward life ends again in Mumbai, in the neighbourhood of Mahmud’s birth, even as AIDS afflicts one of them.

Narrated with irreverent, deadpan humour, R. Raj Rao’s new novel is funny, subversive, provocative and wonderfully rude. It is unlike any love story—gay or straight—that Indian readers would expect.

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ImprintSpeaking Tiger


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