Like many aspiring writers in their mid-20s, Aatish Taseer had a failed novel in his drawer and was struggling with another—a fictional version of his own dramatic life story. Briefly, the story is this: a short, intense relationship between a Pakistani politician, Salmaan Taseer, and an Indian journalist,
Tavleen Singh, produces a child. As the relationship founders, the father (by his son's account) abandons the mother and infant in London. They move to Delhi, where the boy, Aatish, grows up in an elite Sikh family but with an awareness of being 'different' because of his Muslim and Pakistani ancestry. Twice in his childhood, he makes long-distance overtures to his father, but is rebuffed.
Dad Pak Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, Mom journalist Tavleen Singh
In 2002, at the age of 21, he tries again, by simply landing up in Lahore, and meets with greater success. Salmaan's political career has waned—the military rules; his party's boss, Benazir Bhutto, is in exile—but he is, by now, a wealthy businessman and a media tycoon with an elegant third wife and other six children. Relatives and family friends, who have known about Aatish for years, help him find a way into Salmaan's life. So begins a father-son relationship that is by no means easy. And so dies a novel. "There is this extraordinary story, but what does it mean? It's not everybody else's," Aatish says, looking back on his struggles five years ago to write that novel.
Then came a turning point. In 2005, Aatish, now a journalist living in London, wrote for a UK magazine on the radicalisation of second-generation British Pakistanis, making the unexceptionable liberal argument that it was linked to failures of identity on...