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Urdu BOOK REVIEW: Karachi Halwa Aur Badayun Ke Pairay

Thank you Amra Alam for the book loan

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, August 20, 2011
Published under the title: Back from the Future

Author(s): Imrana Maqsood and Amra Alam
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

The two people present at the book reading session that day are from the small town of Badayun. And they are afraid — afraid that the new generation might find it difficult to relate to their experiences. Or that they might get spooked by the choice of language (Urdu) — or fail to appreciate the underlying message. As the evening commenced, it became increasingly clear — such fears were unjustified.

Though they parted company with India some 50 years ago when their family migrated to Karachi, Pakistan — a part of Imrana Maqsood and Amra Alam stayed behind in their beloved Badayun. The other part grew up to be a successful playwright and an equally successful children’s book author. Karachi Halwa Aur Badayun Ke Pairay is a slim little concoction based on their sweetest childhood memories. That their most treasured effects lie scattered over two sides of a hostile border does not lessen the yearnings. Granted, the world they once knew seems alien, but its precious cargo of cultural values continues to fascinate.

When the cravings return, the sisters take their faded impressions out for a spin in their old hometown and narrate stories of being accosted by obliging ghosts and gracious residents at every turn. Luckily, they got an opportunity to walk down the streets of Badayun one more time, taking away a few lovingly selected fragments of memory for keepsake. Traces of their past selves linger on in the alleyways. As they near the site where they spent their formative years, the present dissolves into the past; faint echoes of their laughter get amplified. A lost era is slowly being brought back to life. The glimpses may be fleeting but their impact is lasting.

When they stop to marvel at places like Maqsood Lodge, time stands still — when they summon those that have become part of history, they are overcome with emotion. In this condensed version of events Badayun appeared to exist in a bubble. The aftermath of a tsunami that swept through the land seemed to pass it by leaving two little girls who go by the handle of Immo (Imrana) and Paro (Amra) free to embark on flights of fantasy uninterrupted.

Though there is a sense of profound grief, which struggles to reach the shore, the writers manage to keep their musings light taking care not to stray too far deep into darker territory. Instead they invite their readers to their old haunts to share the euphoria, to revel in the simplicity of the period and to savour the tranquillity unbroken by the seasonal changes. Delightful little anecdotes about family and friends illuminate their memory lane. The plotting is non-linear — the most remarkable aspect of their journey is perhaps the discovery of how sands of time that eroded trust between the generations have left certain bonds forged all those years ago untouched. Their old neighbourhood remembers them well; strangers leap up to lend a helping hand.

When Badayun began to receive an influx of migrants from Pakistan, it was their father who helped resettle them. Soon winds of change will force this family to head out into the unknown. Karachi — the ‘Promised Land’ in this scenario has a smaller cameo and a curiously weary feel. Here, despite their changed circumstances, the adventure seeking spirit of Immo and her co-conspirator Paro lives on.

Imrana jokes that one cannot turn over a rock without stumbling over either a poet (Shakeel Badayuni was an oft visitor in their household) or a writer. As the title suggests, it is also renowned for its confectionary. Both Amra (Chief Editor SUNTRA magazine/Co-Editor Aye Karachi) — the award winning children’s books author and Imrana with whom she has collaborated on 15 television serials, are far too modest. They deserve a place on Badayun’s wall of fame just as much as those poets/writers hidden under random rocks.

That they are drawn to the places where both have such deep roots is expected; as is the fact that a child’s vantage point shows this home at its best. Karachi Halwa Aur Badayun Ke Pairay, with its special blend of humour and pathos sallies forth to conquer hearts and minds. There is no room for shadows in their idyllic sounding childhood. None will board the Sentiment Express.

Ferozesons Pvt Ltd; Pp 128; Rs 395


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