The Infidel Next Door – Rajat Mitra
“A moving…story about history, hatred, and the never-ending battle between tolerance and bigotry.” – Kirkus Reviews
Aditya is a rebel with a mind of his own which makes him an outcast amongst his fellow priests. But no one understands Hindu scriptures better than him, which is why he is seen as capable of questioning the injustices perpetrated in the name of religion.
When Aditya is asked to go back to a temple in Kashmir where his ancestor was killed for refusing to convert to Islam, he decides he must go. Though the attacks – both on his family and on the temple – occurred three centuries ago, the wounds have yet to heal.
When he arrives, he discovers a mosque has been built next door. A religious fanatic wishes to create an Islamic Kashmir. Aditya is startled to realize that this man wants to convert all Hindus to Islam.
The Infidel Next Door is the harrowing and moving story of one man’s determination to save his people. With passion and virtue, he follows his conscience and even dares to question the very relationship that binds him as a priest.
While those around him lose faith in themselves and no longer seem to care about right from wrong, Aditya refuses to give up on the goodness of humankind.
“What does it mean to be seen as an infidel in the eyes of a Muslim and live next door to one? A young Aditya discovers it to his horror that when he goes to live in a temple next door to a mosque in Kashmir, Anwar, the imam’s son, wants to throw him out so that he doesn’t pollute his land.
A book that could not be more topical than now when the world is facing migration that is dividing people between believers and non believers, the novel takes one straight into the heart of what it means to survive as an infidel in midst of hostility that seems irreconcilable.
Written with uncanny sensitivity about relationships that get formed in the midst of torture and violence in a troubled land, the novel shows how the mind turns radical amidst the struggle of young men who come of age in midst of religious indoctrination. A highly sensitive book full of raw emotions describing human condition in a compassionate language evocative of life frailties.” – MS
Rajat Mitra is a clinical psychologist who has worked with Islamic militants and radicalized youth on one hand and with survivors of religious violence on the other. The numerous narratives he heard over the years gave him psychological insights into two of the most disturbing issues of our times as to how do radicalized youth cope with religious indoctrination and how psychological trauma of survivors gets passed on as narratives to their next generation.
An avid reader of literature, he didn’t realize how and when these different feelings began to take shape and form characters in his mind who began to live and breathe through him telling him a story that he felt was the voice of a people that had become silent and gone unheard.
‘The Infidel Next Door’ is a moving story that he wrote believing it will speak directly to all those people whose conscience has ever been shaken by religious persecution in our times.
Rajat is currently working on a de-radicalization program for youth who were arrested for terrorism. He lives in New Delhi, India, with his wife and daughter. The Infidel Next Door is his first book.
“One needn’t be familiar with Indian society, Hindu or Muslim religions or even with regional Indian social and political forces in order to appreciate this compelling story which draws together disparate lives and cross purposes in an engrossing saga that is hard to put down and especially recommended for any westerner who would better understand the subtler nuances of the Indian society.” – Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Rajat Mitra on The Infidel Next Door
“I was told by an editor that this book may touch the raw nerve of people, both in India and abroad and to be careful. Another one said that it is a book with an idea whose time has come. My book talks about the trauma of Kashmiri society where a secular pluralistic way of life gave away and died because of mass violence and brutality in the name of Islamic rule on earth.
This book writes about one of the deepest fears of modern times of what happens when a land is taken over by Islamic fundamentalism and minorities are either driven out or killed.
The title ‘The infidel next door’ represents the fear of those who stay next door to someone considering them an infidel.
The two characters, Aditya (protagonist) and Anwar (antagonist) live next door to each other and face the core conflicts between two major religions.
Aditya symbolizes the pain of Hindus over the destruction of Hindu temples by Muslim invaders to India while Anwar, a stone pelter, believes in converting every infidel to Islam.
Anwar has been indoctrinated by a fanatic through reciting selected verses of the holy Koran to become a violent stone thrower.
Anwar realizes the path may take him to a struggle between human conscience and bigotry and symbolizes a choice that may alienate him from his community.
The novel defines the Kashmir issue as trying to establish the superiority of Islam over Hinduism and how the world failed to realize it.
The novel is a story of a struggle between nonviolence and unarmed courage of Aditya versus the homicidal fanaticism of Anwar. A spiritual struggle where a strange set of circumstances makes it hard to know who wins and why.
“The Infidel Next Door is the story of genocidal turmoil in a region of the world unfamiliar to most of us, told in intimate terms by someone who is very familiar with the contexts, both historic and cultural. But it is also a sensitive and tragic, romantic tale with overtones of Romeo and Juliet. The pervasive theme is that of religious intolerance and fundamentalism, reminiscent of more current events. Underlying this grim picture of hatred and brutality, the author offers us the hope of spirituality and healing as an ultimate resolution. It is an important book, to remind us of the need for a new domain to approach seemingly irresolvable conflicts.” –
Peter B. Polatin, MD, MPH
Faculty, Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, Cambridge, Ma.
Associate Prof. Global Mental Health, George Washington Univ., Washington DC
Consultant, Refugee Mental Health, international Rescue Committee, Dallas, Tx
Associate Prof, Psychology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Tx