01 August 2012

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti

didn't like it it was ok liked it (my current rating) really liked it it was amazing

Witty, racy and dark – riveting writing style of Hanif. I am clueless to the real challenges of a country or a religion and my opinions are coloured by media and literature, so I will limit my review to the writing and the plot – neutralising any references to a religion or country.

anif shows you the underbelly and madness of a country’s political and feudal society. The strong influence of prejudice, power and fundamentalism in all spheres of life where your identity is either of a bigot or a traitor. In times of doubt your honesty and loyalty is judged by taking off your pants.

The author of ‘The Case of Exploding Mangoes’ recreates another novel which doesn’t shy away from calling black as black. The story reminded me the fact that as many civil rules and laws we form, we are still animals living by the jungle law killing for survival and power. Nothing is fair or just if you hold the power and the gun.

The main protagonist is Alice – born into a low caste family, she is bold and brazen in a man’s world. She married a protector but when the protector becomes the hunter then your state is no better than a chicken waiting to be cut and served. Teddy, Noor and other characters form central to the plot each bringing a shade of darkness and hidden secrets and desires in them. One is running behind goons and criminals and delivering its own form of justice, one is strong enough to fight the world but can’t do anything to save his ailing and dying mother, one is the strong administrator who gets sympathetic to the victim, one a low caste cleaner who becomes hand of God trying to cure people with a candle and glass. So in short you will not get a normal character or common man, all of them are shown struggling with their individual demons merging into a shocking climax.

Leaving you with a few lines from the book..

In every man dances a thief, In every man dances a peacock.
The Gentlemen’s squad is a group of like-minded police officers, not really an entity commissioned by any law-enforcing authority. The name of the unit doesn’t exist on any official register, on letterheads or websites. There is no annual audits or medals of bravery; it does not hold press conferences to unveil the criminals it catches or kills, or more often catches and then kills. It is a group of gentlemen who, not given to any flights of literary imagination, have decided to call themselves the Gentlemen’s Squad. It is a crew of reformed rapists (I have got three grown-up daughters now, you know), tortures, (it’s a science, not an art), sharpshooters (monkeys really, as we spend half our lives perched of rooftops and trees) and generally the kind of investigators who can recognise a criminal by looking the way he blows his nose or turns a street corner. They have survived together for such a long time because they believe in giving each other space, they come together for a good cause like they have today, and then disperse to pursue their own personal lives.

‘Don’t be frightened of your own reflection. We all have bad moments in front of the mirror,’ says Noor. ‘You should probably get married. I have heard that a good husband is the only cure for bad dreams. You know why? Because then you are sleeping with your bad dream.’

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