Zaki Shirazi and his cousin Samara Ali live with their grandmother whom they address as Daadi. Zaki’s father dies in an air crash when his wife is “heavily pregnant” with Zaki in her womb. Zaki’s mother is a journalist and a strong supporter of Benazir Bhutto. Once she is imprisoned in jail for her writing and when she is released and comes back home, Daadi tells her to leave her house as she cannot tolerate the daughter-in-law coming home at odd hours.
Zaki gets to meet Tara Tanvir. One day Zaki’s mother announces that they have to go to Spain for two weeks. So they fly to Spain and soon the two weeks pass and they return home. Here the story reverts to Pakistan where Samara Ali is living with Daadi. Samara Ali is passing through adolescence and the problems connected with this stage. Her mother Chhoti takes her away to her village. Zaki’s mother has no easy time trying to control her son Zaki who is also giving her a tough time. The difficulties of adolescence are first of the kind. “There is nothing like them in the chanciness of childhood, just as there is nothing, no reason or meaning in the sayings of those who have crossed the waters and speak now exhortingly as from the shore. Words are vacant, adrift, waiting for contact with life, for moments that will come to cause the unmistakable throb of recognition.”
Zaki befriends Kazim in school. One day, Zaki returns home, beaten black and blue by a boy. His mother decides to send him to USA to study and he enjoys the culture and system there. One day he hears from his mother that Chhoti has died leaving behind Samara Ali. Daadi and his mother go for the funeral and bring back Samara Ali with them for whom a proper match is found to get her married off.
This is a very long, tortuous and convoluted story with nothing much to say.
(Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017.)