Kamari Wala: Book Review

“Kamari Wala” is Ali Akbar Natiq’s second novel; before that, his debut novel “Naulakhi Kothi” was published a few years ago and became an instant success. In addition to these novels, two collections of his short stories and a few books of poetry have also been published and gained popularity among the Urdu readers. In this context, it is not surprising that many expectations were attached to his much-awaited new novel. Now when the novel has been published, there have been torrents of comments and likes from the general readers.  

Having read Natiq’s first novel “Naulakhi Kothi”, I too was eagerly waiting for the publication of “Kamari Wala”. And as soon as it was published, I placed an order with Book Corner Jhelum to get my copy of the novel. Thanks to their efficient order processing system, the book was delivered within a couple of days. The moment I received the novel, I started reading it and finished it over the next few days. My humble views on this novel are summarized as under: 

Story

The story of the novel “Kamari Wala” revolves around its hero Zaman Ali and is narrated by himself. The novel covers the period from the mid-sixties to the mid-nineties approximately. The story of the novel is an evolutionary journey of Zaman Ali from his childhood to boyhood and then to adolescence. During this eventful journey, he comes across many characters who have their own tales and their own sufferings. The story of the novel unfolds with the interplay of these characters.

General Tone of Novel

The general tone of the novel is mournful and melancholic. The sorrows are scattered everywhere while the joys are hard to find by. The female characters, in particular, seem to pass through perennial problems and sufferings – but their courage and perseverance in the face of these pains and problems is admirable. The novel readers not only empathize with these oppressed characters but also fall in love with them as they learn about their trials and tribulations. The characters of Adeela, Zeenat, Dr. Farah, Zaman’s mother and Shiza appear to be real-life characters and inspire the readers in their own particular ways. 

Characterization (Female)

Unlike his first novel “Naulakhi Kothi” in which the portrayal of female characters is rather sketchy, the female characters in “Kamari Wala” have been created with great artistic dexterity. Here Natiq has portrayed lifelike characters with complex multifaceted personalities who undergo great personal development over the course of the story. In Kamari Wala, Natiq appears to have reached the pinnacle of characterization. 

Autobiographical Touches

We can partially call this novel an autobiography as in the role of its hero Zaman Ali, we see certain glimpses of the author here and there. But the author, while maintaining objectivity, neither has tried to impose his personal opinions in the novel nor has he assumed the role of a preacher or a reformer and pontificated on good and evil. On the contrary, he has faithfully described all the events and circumstances that occur in the novel and left it unto the reader to draw any final conclusion(s).

Realism

In terms of its realism, this novel can be dubbed a masterpiece. While reading it, we feel as if all its characters are living beside us and we equally share their pain and pleasure. To create lifelike characters of flesh and blood requires profound observation and extensive research on the part of the writer. Here Natiq appears to have devoted a great deal of time in studying his characters before embarking on the tough journey of writing this beautiful novel. 

 As regards the themes of this novel, the author has dilated upon a wide variety of themes in this novel, and some of these are very sensitive and startling. It is indeed a very difficult task to write about such topics. The novelist however has successfully accomplished this arduous task and has never faltered in describing the indescribable.

Love As The Main Theme

In my humble opinion, “love” is the main theme of this novel as the novel begins and ends with love. And in search of this love, the hero undertakes a long evolutionary journey from his childhood to adolescence. During this cognitive development, his views are formed on his own personality, people and life around him.

Main Motifs Or Themes

Contrary to short stories which usually focus on a single topic, the novel deals with a wide range of topics. The same applies to Kumari Wala which encompasses varied subjects, such as forced recruitment of school children for foreign jihad, foreign funding of madrassas, growing sectarianism and extremism, the filthy lifestyle of comrades following Marxist ideology, post-mortem of feudalism and political system, unprofessional and cruel police system, disgusting and unpatriotic activities of bureaucracy, distasteful and mean habits of the clerks, inhumane treatment of factory workers, bullying and anti-labor behavior of trade unions, violation of journalistic values and ethics in the name of journalism, shady behaviors of the upper middle class and their growing materialism, sex in the guise of showbiz business, sprawling urbanization and deforestation.

Diction And Prose

Ali Akbar Natiq’s prose style is very charming and his diction is very simple and easy to understand. His style of narrating different scenes is so elegant and elaborate that it feels as if we’re not reading a book, but are looking at some of the eye-catching paintings. Especially his nuanced portrayal of the rural environment and the way he cares for the minute details in describing nature is a treat to read. Here is an example:

یہ گاؤں کا ایک چھوٹا سا چوک تھا- یہاں ایک سینکڑوں سال پرانا نیم کا درخت پورے چوک میں چھایا ہوا تھا اور سایہ اتنا گہرا تھا کہ دھوپ کی کسی کرن کا احساس تک نہ تھا- نیم پر چڑیوں اور دوسرے پرندوں کی بہتات نے پورے منظر کو بھر دیا تھا- نیم کے درخت کے نیچے دو چارپائیاں پڑی تھیں- اُن پر دو بُڈھے بیٹھے حقہ پی رہے تھے- کچھ عورتیں بیٹھی کروشیے سے کپڑے پر پھول کاڑھ رہی تھیں- ایک عورت دو بکریوں کو باندھ رہی تھی- کچھ بچے بھی اِدھر اُدھر بھاگ رہے تھے اور گلہریوں کی طرح درختوں کی شاخوں پر اُچھل کُود رہے تھے- یہ ایسی دنیا تھی جہاں زندگی موجود تھی مگر اُس کو بیان کرنے کے فلسفے نہیں تھے

Conclusion

In short, “Kamari Wala” is an immortal novel because of its coherent plot, intriguing story, sublime characterization, diverse themes, simple language, and stark realism.

According to Ali Akbar Natiq, “I had to pick up every word of this novel with the ink of the blood of my heart” and this is not just a claim, but every word of the novel validates this claim.

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