Book Review: Karachi You’re Killing Me!

“It’s Karachi. It’s where life and love come to die. It has nothing.”

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Photo by Author

The above line is an excerpt of Saba Imtiaz’s novel ‘Karachi You’re Killing Me’ which showcases a different world of Karachi. I remember that this novel was published in 2014 but I didn’t get the chance to read at that time. Recently it caught my attention when it was announced that Sonakshi Sinha’s next film Noor is based on Imtiaz novel. I just thought to give it a read.

Ayesha is a 28-year-old journalist with the gift of finding herself in absurd, often mind-boggling, situations. She lives in Karachi with her father and an arrogant cat who behaves like a sibling to her. She has a snobbish boss (Kamran) and her job becomes nightmarish as she struggles to keep up with her boss’s grueling schedule and demeaning demands (it kind of reminds me Miranda Priestly in Lauren Weisberger’s Devil Wears Prada). The only surviving factor which keeps her going in her gruesome job is lots of booze, cigarettes, and of course her 3 a.m. friends (Zara and Saad), who she could look up to for everything.

From interviewing designers, freed Guantanamo detainee to reporting on gang-wars, her brief is to cover almost everything that happens in Karachi.  Being a journalist is not easy in this conflicted area. Running from pillars to post, she stumbles upon many adversities which include the gunmen, near miss from death, starlets, and elite teenagers and who’s who of Karachi.

The book had a very Moni Mohsin’s ‘The Diary of a Social Butterfly’ and Helen Fielding’s ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary ‘ feel to it, filled with humour and a protagonist who you often found ranting about a city she loved and wanted to escape at the same time. It was inked with words that Pakistanis, especially Karachiites will understand instantly and conversations that simply leapt of the page because they honestly felt so real.

I have lived a major chunk of my life in Karachi and living here is nothing but a roller coaster ride. One will see a phenomenal diversity in this city which I don’t think one can find in other city. The city with its exuberance has a tendency to embrace every wanderer and seeking soul in its arms. It gives hopes and dreams to all those seekers who traveled to this place in hope to make it big in their lives.

Despite its vivacity, the city is a difficult place to live in especially for journalists. Interesting part of Imtiaz novel was her wittiness that enables readers to stomach out the horrendous details without grimacing.

“People tend to think living amid bombs and blood is inspiring. It isn’t. It just makes me feel exhausted with the sheer pressure of either trying to shrug it off like nothing happened or having to write about it-how many new ways can one come up with to write about blood and gore? A couple odd one-liners in the book cracked me up bad. This is not a story of terrorism or a mishap faced by the city but a feisty girl’s everyday story which is a concoction of lies, deceit, love, passion, hate, friendship, misfortunes and trust.” (Excerpt from Novel) 

The downside of the novel was having no real plot and a predictable story. At maximum, it appears like Ayesha’s memoirs on display and while they are interesting, one wonders if this would be all in the book which had an interesting enough premise to lead into a much bigger show. Nevertheless one does not lose interest, the sway appeal that one expected, especially with such a powerful title, isn’t quite there.

P.S. After reading this novel, I just wonder how Sonakshi would justify with the character of this novel.I am not optimist about Sinha playing Ayesha’s character as the novel has a tongue-in-cheek humour which I doubt Sinha would be able to pull it off.. For now let’s just wait till the cat comes out of the bag ( 2017 it is!)

 

Book Review: The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

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Whenever you pick a book you never know exactly what are you going to get. Same happened to me with ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’.

Background of buying Bastard of Istanbul: I would not have read this novel if the author was not Elif Shafak. My love for Shafak started after reading Forty Rules of Love (FROL). It was a story about a desperate housewife who was not happy in her married life. She worked at a literary agency where she was given a book to review name as Sweet Blasphemy written by Aziz Zahra. The book is about a wandering dervish Shams of Tarbaiz who is a mystic Sufi and he sees the vision of his death and he need to find someone to whom he can deliver his knowledge to. For this purpose, Shams travelled to Konya where he met Jalaluddin Rumi, a famous Islamic scholar and a Sufi. After meeting Shams, a drastic change was observed in Rumi due to which people including Rumi’s family start hating him.

I know I have deviated from my review but the reason to include synopsis of FROL was to make you people understand my preference for this novel🙂

I remembered I bought this book during last year’s book fair that held at Expo Center, Karachi. Before this fair, I had already finished FROL so when I reached liberty book stall and start searching for some good novels, I got hold of this novel ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’. I only saw the spine of the novel as it was in between other novels on the rack. Reading Shafak’s name raised my guard and as soon as I took it out I was just in love with the cover of the paperback. I decided instantly to buy this novel.

For one whole year I thought to read but due to job and so many other books in my reading list, it took me a while to start with this novel (and probably that’s why I am dragging it over here too) Jokes apart…

Précis: Let me trudge through the story which showcases three cultures in one story-Turkey, Aremina and America. The story is set in the United States and Turkey, concerns two families-one Turkish, living one in Istanbul and other is Armenian, living between Arizona and San Francisco

A young girl Armanoush, an Armenian- American, had a split family as her parents were divorced. Her mother married to a Turkish man, Mustafa whereas his father who was an Armenian, never remarried.  Armanoush decided to go to Turkey and stay with her step-father’s family.

Mustafa’s family based in Istanbul is a house of five women where Asya Kazanci is the youngest of all. Asya’s beautiful and a rebellious mother, Zeliha run a tattoo parlor. Asya never got to know about his father and her mother never mentioned to her of course at the end of the story.

Both Armanoush and Asya were young and didn’t know much about their past however, the former who came for a search of her identity, the latter didn’t even attempt to find about her father. According to Asiya, “Memories are too much of a burden” whereas Armanoush had different opinion and following lines might be easy to understand her perception. “Despite all the grief that it embodies, history is what keeps us alive and united.”

Review: I was really shocked when I got to know that Shafak was prisoned for three years for writing this novel. The story talks about Armenian genocide that happened in 1915. Shafak kept a neutral approach for this genocide. Armanoush tried to reason with her cousin Asya about Armenian genocide as she was appalled to find a city and a country in denial about the genocide, and she attempted to make her cousin understand how much the past conditioned the present.

What I found troubling is Mustafa’s character, whose actions are central to the plot, remains an enigma. It was quite a revelation when I got to know that Asya’ on whom the title is based, was a daughter of her uncle Mustafa and he was the culprit who raped his own sister. I think nothing justifies rape and putting on the complexities in the past is not enough reason to do such horrendous act. But then the brought up of the family do matter in the development of the personality.

Overall there’s plenty of plot in this novel however, there is no doubt that the book is clever, thick with ideas, themes and politics. But then reading through the pages I realized that it would be more interesting with fewer characters and rather less quirky description.

On the positive side, the highlight of the novel is some of the beautiful lines which really hook you to the novel till the end. Some of the lines I am sharing below in this post.

Excerpts from the Novel

Life is coincidence, though sometimes it takes djinni to fathom that.

-Language was only a reeking carcass of hollow words long rotten inside

-Literature needs freedom to thrive. For Asya, fiction was her main connection with the entire world

-Mourning is like virginity, Aunty Zeliha heaved a sigh. You should give it to the one who deserves it most.

-When women survive an awful marriage or love affair, and all that, they generally avoid another relationship for quite some time. With men, however, it’s just the opposite, the moment they finish a catastrophe they start looking for another one. Men are incapable of being alone.

-Family stories intermingle in such ways that what happened generation ago can have an impact on seemingly irrelevant developments of the present day. The past is anything but by gone. If Levent Kazanci hadn’t grown up to be such a bitter and abusive man, would his only son, Mustafa, have ended up being a different person? If generations ago in 1915 Shushan hadn’t been left an orphan, would Asya today still be a bastard

-“All these rich people! Huh! They stockpile money all through their life, what for? How foolish! Do shrouds have pockets? It’s a cotton shroud that we are all going to wear in the end. That’s it. No chic clothes. No jewelry. Can you wear a tuxedo to the grave or a ball gown? Who holds the skies for the people?”

-Imagination was a dangerously captivating magic for those compelled to be realistic in life and words could be poisonous for those destined always to be silenced.

-For the Armenians, time was a cycle in which the past incarnated in the present and the present birthed the future. For the Turks, time was a multi-hypenated line, where the past ended at some definite point and the present started anew from scratch, and there was nothing but rupture in between

-Collectivities are capable of manipulating their individual members’ beliefs, thoughts, and even bodily reactions. You keep hearing a certain story over and over again, and the next thing you know you have internalized the narrative. From that moment on it ceases to be someone else’s story. It is not even a story anymore, but reality, your reality!

Happy Reading Everyone!

 

Book Review: Diary of Social Butterfly

“And he said, ‘Go on, then, name one book you know well.’ And cool as a cucumber, I said, ‘Cheque book!”

 You probably would be laughing your head off after reading above-mentioned line, and must be wondering which novel is this!

moni mohsin 2So, the line is an extract from Moni Mohsin’s novel ‘The Diary of Social Butterfly’. The story revolves around Butterfly who is a socialite and main protagonist. She lives in  Lahore with her husband Janoo and her only son Kulchoo. No kidding these are the names of the characters.

The main attraction of this novel is Butterfly who is a typical wannabe socialite with her horrible English language. I remember I was reading in my office and I had to close down the book because I could not stop my frequent burst of laughter at her incorrect English.

According to Butterfly, she is the most well-educated, well-mannered and most generous person on earth. No one is like her.She lives in her own sweet world, surrounded by her like-minded friends. She just loves parties, fashion and gossips.

The novel covers the turmoil in Pakistan including militarization, 9/11, emergency, terrorist attacks, Benazir assassination and fundamental policies. However, Butterfly has no concern whatsoever.  Her interest in politics or literature is next to nothing.

Butterfly’s use of the English language is really interesting and throws up quite a few innuendos. The most hilarious one I found consists of Butterfly describing her mother-in-law’s (The Old bag’s) angina attack as vagina attack. Then to her husband’s (Janoo) metaphorically, she understands as stratospheric.

The novel is incredibly witty and hilarious but on the flip side, there is no plot or story and at times, the misspelling and bad grammar, really breaks the pace of the reading for the reader.

Caution: If you are a literature aficionado  so this is not for you.

I will rate this book 3 out of 5

Happy Reading everyone!

Book Review: Dance Upon the Air-a tale of love, friendship and mysterious ways!

dance upon the airLove story isn’t my cup of tea and Nora Roberts is famous for writing love stories. I remembered buying her novel in last year’s book fair where I accidentally bought this one.

Dance Upon the Air is the first ever novel which I read out of her so many novels and I must say she knows how to grasp the reader’s attention. This novel is a treat for all those readers who are into romance.

Helen Remington is the main protagonist of this novel who died so she could live. She was married to the media mogul Evan Remington. On the outside they both looked a regular happy couple but nobody knew that this was just a facade to conceal the physical torture which Helen was going through in her marriage. Evan was a control freak person who used to abuse his wife, Helen for everything. She eventually realized that if she wanted to survive she had to leave, however, as easy as it seem; it was not easy for her to leave this man. Not because she had an affection for him but because he was an influential person and could twist situation easily in his favor. Hence she had to stage up her death to escape away from her psychotic husband.

After her fake death, she changed her identity and became Nell. She reached to Three Sisters Island where she met Mia who owned a cafe in this small island and on that day her chef left the job.  So fortunately Nell got a job as a chef and also a place to stay.

Living in this island was a dream come true for Nell. She also discovered that she was a witch with the help of Mia. She also learnt that she is part of an ancestry of the three witches who formed the island as a hideout from the Salem witch trials three hundred years ago. Now, with impending doom, the three witches alive must do what their ancestors couldn’t. Ripley Todd, the deputy sheriff also lived in this island who is the third witch in this scenario.

During her stay, Nell got close to Ripley’s brother, Sheriff Zackary Todd but when he proposed her she was not ready to get married only because she hadn’t got divorced from her abusive husband.

Evan got to about Helen when his sister told him about her acquaintance who assumed to see Helen’s lookalike in the Island. He knew at the moment that his wife tricked him and he got furious. He is not only now an abusive man, but he is also being possessed by the evil spirit bent on destroying Nell.

Meanwhile,  Nell finds the courage to trust Zack, and contact authorities that would protect her from her psychotic husband. Nevertheless, a week after  Zack and Nell engagement, Evan lands on the Island, and starts searching for his wife. He did find her and went to her cottage with the intention of murder.

In the end, Nell with the help of her witch sisters Mia and Ripley saved herself and Zack who got wounded by Evan’s violent stab.

Dance Upon the Air reads more like the journey of a damaged woman who tried to run away from abusive relationship. The mark of such relationship leaves an acerbic impact on victim’s life. Just like for Nell, it took a year for her to regain her self-esteem. She realized after coming to this Island that this is the life which she thought she should have lived.

The novel is the first series of the trilogy which are followed by other two series, Heaven and Earth and Face the Fire.

Happy Reading Everyone!

Details:

Genre: Fiction

Publishing Date: June 2001

Pages: 386  

Paperback

 

Time to Speak Out and Break the Taboo

 

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Need of the Time

Menstruation, also known as Periods is a regular natural cycle that occurs in the female reproductive system but girls particularly in Pakistan dread getting their periods. Unfortunately in Pakistan, menstruation is a hushed matter due to cultural constraints. Therefore, many girls face a lot of obstacles when it comes to sanitation.

According to UNICEF report, only 20 percent of girls have access to sanitary napkins in school whereas most of the girls reported that they can’t go to schools if they can’t find pads to wear or a toilet in which to change them in the school premises.  Girls also reported a lack of adequate facilities in school bathrooms while some schools don’t have running water so that girls can keep their hands and bodies clean while menstruating. There is a dire need to break the silence on this topic, so that millions of young girls every year don’t see their period as a disability, but a natural, normal part of their lives.

In a bid to break the stereotype associated with menstruation, the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) campaign was launched by the MHM working group to increase awareness about sanitation and menstruation hygiene environment.

The day is observed on May 28 every year across the world aims at creating awareness to break taboos and myths around menstruation and to encourage women to overcome their hesitation about menses.

Every year, the theme is different and this year, the global theme of the day is “Menstruation Matters for Everyone, Everywhere.”

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Time to Speak Out

In Pakistan, a panel discussion was held which focused on how the health, education, and sanitation of adolescent girls are impacted by lack of proper MHM was organized. Panelists included government representatives from across the country that explored the much-needed solutions to tackle the taboo and associated problems that females’ especially young adolescent girls face.  The event was organized by the MHM Working Group, a coalition of humanitarian organizations working to champion menstrual hygiene rights in Pakistan.

Menstrual Hygiene Management remains a taboo in Pakistan which affects a woman’s self-esteem, health and education.

Young girls in Pakistan bare most of this brunt as they lack the knowledge and services to manage menstruation which in turn affects their learning experiences. Research reveals that marginalized girls can miss up to two to four consecutive days of schools every four weeks due to their periods. This of course has serious implications on their learning.

Women are the bringer of new life into the world, and periods are a part of that process. This is an attitude that we need to bring back into our conversations, but also our attitudes, towards all matters related to sexual and reproductive health. It is time that all sectors come together to break the silence around MHM by supporting strong policy implementation across all state levels.