Karachi Backwaters, “My Love Affair with Boats and Other Adventures”
– Wayne Crowning
Karachi Backwaters is the story of a young boy and his love affair with boats, it is a story of hope and failures, of his adventures, it is a story about dreams and their realization, of friendships and parting of friends, of adolescent infatuations, it is a story about the city of Karachi, of boating, fishing and crabbing, of sweet memories, dinners, outings and good food, of stolen cigarettes and veiled puffs amid laughter and fun, it is a story that leaves the reader mesmerized, while in between the lines one can read the nostalgia the author has experienced while writing this book.
Khushwant Singh’s novel “Train to Pakistan” is the reason he shot to fame. It was written in 1956. Since I had not read this book so I wanted to order one. I normally buy books from Liberty Books, mostly online. It gives me the convenience of ordering books from my home, over the Internet. The book are delivered to my home I make the payment on delivery. So I logged on and searched their website to find the new version of “Train to Pakistan” with pics depicting the partition. The pictures are real and have been snapped by a US photo journalist Margaret Bourke-White who at that time happened to be on an assignment, for Life magazine in this region. The editors have very nicely synchronized the photos with text describing the various scenes. The photos lend a very realistic look to the story and some of them are as really touching, although some of the images may seem disturbing since they show dead people and animals some in advanced stage of decay.
“Racey, pacey and laugh-out-loud funny. A Murree-beer-soaked love letter to Karachi and journalism”, says Muhammed Hanif about this book, “Karachi you’re killing me”. Written in a daily diary style this treatise which starts on December 31, 2011 and ends on May 11, 2012, encompassing over 260 pages, is treat to read. Written in a casual, hip style, it is funny, somewhat raunchy with lots of information packed in between. Well don’t you think fiction is knowledge free, it certainly added to my rather sparse vocabulary about things unprintable and all. The “Starfish” for example, which I always thought to be a fish that is shaped like a star, but heck no, its much more than that. Made me laugh out load as I recalled the Starfish I have encountered in my life. So what would be the antonym of Starfish? A Jellyfish no, an Octopus I guess. Lol.
With over two million copies cold, Paulo Coelho’s novel The Alchemist is still going strong and changing the lives of people around the world. Just recently I was sent a complimentary copy of the The Alchemist (Graphic Version), by a bookseller. This book was finished in three days, well excuse me I am not in to speed reading and with a job, three kids and a wife, this is the best I can manage. But I can tell you, this novel is absolutely amazing. Its like reading a comic book. My 11 year old son finished it in one go and loved reading it. Next up was my daughter. The wife has missed it since she’s not in to books, and I feel sorry for this. Both my kids loved it. The son, told me in a most animated and stimulated way how Santiago finally discovers the treasure and has to travel all the way back to the old and destroyed Church.
I was introduced to Khaushwant Singh by my dear friend Hamid Gondal whom I lovingly call as “the Solicitor”, and for this I am deeply indebted to him. Since that one book (Truth, love and a little malice) I have bought and read about ten of his books, with Delhi topping the list. Khushwantnama is Khushwant Singh’s latest and last book. The maestro has now retired from writing, rightly so, what else can one expect form a man of his age (99)?
Sahibs Who Loved India is a collection of articles compiled and edited by Khushwant Singh. The articles have been written by people who have been associated with India from 1930’s to 1970’s. Their infatuation, love, likes (mostly) and dislikes about India have been discussed in a (sometimes) witty and at other times in a serious manner. As the book is based on theme, “What India means to them (the authors)”, it is interesting to read the views of Shaibs and Memsahibs who have lived in India and worked there in various capacities. This includes military men, barristers, judges, school masters, news reporters, editors and bureaucrats.
The Sunset Club by Khushwant Singh is about three friends, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh. They are all octogenarians and know each other since last forty years. The scene is set in Delhi around Lodhi Gardens where the three friends meet on evenings almost everyday. They sit on a bench, now called as the “Borra Binch” (named after them as all three old fellows occupy this bench) and chat about things personal, the latest happenings, life, religion, sex, India, Pakistan, God and almost everything that comes to their minds. All three love to drink, they like to reminisce and tease each other. In between this Khushwant Singh the master storyteller conveys strong messages about the subjects that matter to us, as is evident from their (the three friend’s) talk.
I am Malala is the story of a girl who stood up for her right to education in Swat at a time when the Taliban were destroying schools and killing people. Her father hailed from a impoverished village but wanted to get education and to do that he spent a very difficult life. After getting educated he dreamed of opening up a school in Swat, which he ultimately did. In this book Malala tells of the hard times faced by her father and later by her family in establishing the school. She talks of a Maulana harassing her father since the school had both male as well as female pupils and teachers. It is a story very different from the ones you get to hear and read. Malala was different in that she refused to keep quiet and preferred not to cow down. In this effort she was rightly supported by her father, different organizations and the people around her. I am sure she is not alone in the valley, there are other Malalas out there.
This book by Khushwant Singh could also be titled as “My Musings”. More malicious Gossip is about the guru’s point of view about so many things in one place. The book has three trenchant parts each dealing with a separate subjects. The 280 pager is full of interesting stories, gossips, ideas and personalities.