Friday, May 1, 2009

The Scent of Earth in August

Book Review: “The Scent of earth in August”

Author: Feryal Ali Gauhar

Language: English

Genre: Novel (Fiction)

Pages: 281

Cost: 250 Rs.

Publisher: Penguin Books

First Published: 2002

THIS is a book written by a Pakistani Author. I think Book is set in 1990. As Pakistan is a country which is following a self destruction mode led by Talibanis and other terrorist activities. So I was very much curious about way people in Pakistan living their life in such extreme condition. And that is the reason I picked up this book. Although this book is not at all about terrorist activities and their effects in Pakistan. As book is set in 1990 and I guess Pakistan was more stable country at that time in terms of terrorism.

The book is set in the city of Lahore in Pakistan, in an area called Kucha Miran Shah. It is also called as Tibbi Galli. This is actually a red light area, occupied by prostitutes and courtesans and by the people dependant on them. As city of Lahore is built by Nababs, there are lots of Havelis in this lane. Which seen very rich days once but now collapsing every day and occupied by prostitutes and courtesans who can not afford to pay even the electricity bills. The lane is at its peak only after sunset. It is full of drug addicts. The lane is occupied by many miserable, poor, crushed people.

There is no hero or heroic personality in this novel. All the characters in the book are deeply drown in their misery and sorrow. All have very much dark shades to their characters. I mean none of them are likable. Some of them are just dragging their life along and miserable without love which they could not hold on to. But still hoping for miracle to happen every day. Some of them still are waiting for love, hoping to find it again and again. Some living in past, some in future but present is gloomy for all of them.

Only likeable or rather pitiable character is of a Mute girl Fatimah, who became mute when acid, was thrown in her open mouth. She is most pitiable may be because she is mute, abandon by her mother and raised by three prostitutes. She is a main protagonist of the novel. The book starts with her and ends with her. There are many other pitiable characters. Almost all the women, as they find it hard to survive once they lost their beauties in old age. They have no one to look after them. But most hideous character would be the Moulavi who sexually abuses young boys. And drug addict mother of Fatimah who don’t mind selling her daughters for money.

There are many harsh realities posted in this book, like somewhere in the book author mentioned how boys of age 9–10 are picked up from the mosques and sent to Kashmir. Then the declaration by drug addict mother of Fatimah that "The worst of the Arabs still pay a lot more than our own kind" is shocking. Then the way book describes how rich Arab Sheikhs treatment to these young girls of 13-14 is hideous.

The book is nothing great, no big time dramatic or something. It is miserable, dirty, it is painful. But still people should read it once because I always believe books take you places without even going there. If you want to know how does red light area of Lahore look like, how are the people living there, this is a book for you. As it is well described in this book. This book is based on film Tibbi Gali. So some might prefer watching movie rather than reading books but I will suggest you read book as movies not always able to show all the details. And also take away the fun of visualizing the story by ourselves. If I have to rate the I will give 4 out of 10.

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