A Moment Comes is about three teenagers: Tariq, a young Muslim who wants to study in Oxford. Anupreet, a young Sikh woman who has already been touched by violence. Margaret, daughter of one of the Englishmen who is mapping the line between India and Pakistan.
Many things divide these three teenagers: religion, race, privilege, economics. What will they do when the moment comes to test who they are? To know what the “right” thing is?
The Good: A Moment Comes uses three separate voices to look at the partition of India and Pakistan.
Tariq doesn’t want to be involved; he just wants to escape to Oxford. The unlikeliness of this happening gradually becomes apparent. It’s not that Tariq doesn’t have the ambition. It’s that his family is, well, average, with neither money nor connections. He takes a job with Margaret’s father, in hopes that will somehow help him get to England. However, the violence is something he cannot escape, especially since some of his school mates are very involved.
Anupreet has already been touched by the escalating religious violence in her country (soon to be two countries). Her face is scarred. Her family is afraid to let her out alone. In truth, as time passes, it’s not even safe for her to be accompanied by her brother. Working in the household of Margaret’s family is a way for her to escape the prison and sadness of her home. As a Sikh, Anupreet’s experience offers a counterpart to Tariq’s. Both teens, and their families, suffer from what is going on.
And then there is Margaret, the outsider. She was involved in a bit of a scandal back home, which explains why she is now in India with her parents. Margaret offers the outsider view, to complement the two insider views of Tariq and Anu. Part of what I appreciated about A Moment Comes is how clearly the privilege of Margaret and her parents is shown, and yet at the same time I could sympathize with Margaret. I could both cringe at her ignorance or privilege, and feel for her own sense of displacement and loneliness.
Another thing I really liked about A Moment Comes? What it did not do. Tariq and Anu are working for Margaret’s family, and that divide is always present, just as the divide between Sikh and Muslim is there. Margaret may have a crush on the handsome Tariq, and be jealous of the beautiful Anu, but it’s not “that type” of book. Sorry to be a bit “spoilery,” but Tariq’s concern is getting into Oxford. While he may think Anu pretty, isn’t being nice to Margaret a better way to achieve his goals? But then — it’s not that type of book. It’s much more subtle, and not a soap opera. Rather, it’s three distinct people whose lives overlap but the don’t really intertwine until the end.
And, when they do intertwine — and this is at the end — it’s as much about putting aside individual ego for what is best for others. It’s about figuring out the right thing to do when there is no one “right” thing.
One more thing: by concentrating on the handful of months leading up to the partition, after violence has already started (and the level of violence stunned me), A Moment Comes is focused. This is not about why partition, because partition is coming. It’s a fact that Anu and Tariq and their friends and families must live with. The violence has already started, so this is also not a book about why that is happening. Instead, as with partition, it’s a fact that had to be lived with.