The myriad of feelings portrayed, spanning generations, is a sign of Ali Sethi’s maturity as an author. The novel opens on a note of hopefulness and engulfs you right into the heart of contemporary Karachi.
The plot deals with modern day Karachi, which is battling conservatism and modernism, like the present day second tier cities in our country. The story has various sub-plots which delve into the psyche, as well as, the past of various characters, which can turn a tad drab when you’re nearing the end.
The protagonist Zaki, who is a student in the United States of America, post 09/11, returns to his homeland to attend the wedding of his relative, Samar appi. For the better part of the book Samar appi is the character who has been given a lot of attention. The homecoming is a nostalgic one, considering Zaki had never been outside his homeland for that long a period of time, and thus he takes a trip downmemory lane. He describes various experiences which a young boy goes through, the little adventures, the curiosity, all of which makes the book a very idyllic read. It elucidates the thoughts running through the mind of young boys, the discovery of adulthood and coming to terms with whatever life doles out to you and not giving up without a fight. The various sub-plots shower some light on the way a character has those certain idiosyncrasies by moving into their life, ultimately, one feels acquainted with not only the protagonist but also the other characters, like Zakia and Zaki’s grandmother.
The book is a mÃ©lange, of sorts, for it has a dash of everything, the aloofness of the citizens of a country in turmoil and how living normally became tedious over the years, the politics of the nation is discussed in various innuendos, the changes in the cultural facade of the country, the rebellion of children against authority; the fascinating feature in this book is how it shows the chasm in the perspective of different generations but as the author discretely points out, all of them had done something of the same sort as their children while they were young. The growth of Pakistan, as a nation is fairly elaborate and a person who is from the sub-continent would be able to identify with all the events that are transpiring, on the other hand, somebody who is not familiar with Orient would find tiny details very fascinating.
I bought this book hoping to catch a glimpse into the lives of contemporary citizens of Pakistan, for there are many books about the oppression in the middle-east but there are very few books that deal with this particular backdrop; I can’t say that I’ve been left disappointed in any way. The book is a good read but is a little too long which kind of takes away the charm and also a little heavy on the pocket (the paperback edition is not out, yet), but all in all, a decent read.