Monday, December 26, 2011

ठहरा हुआ वक़्त

आज वक़्त ही नही गुज़र रहा…
बाँध रखा है जैसे उसके पैरों पे भार,
     या है शायद उसके अरमानो का वज़न
और धीरे धीरे पैरों को सरकाते
     लम्हों को बदलने की कोशिश कर रहा है वक़्त
टूटती साँसों में थक रहा है वक़्त
     कहीं थम न जाए डर रहा है वक़्त

किसी के इंतज़ार में जैसे जिंदा रहने की कोशिश
जहाँ सासें उम्मीद पे और
     नज़रें ख्वाबों पे टिकी हों
जहाँ सुकून  की दास्ताँ
     किसी की यादों में छुपी हों
जहाँ दरवाज़े से गली की वो झलक
     और आने वाले मौसम की महक हो
वहां अगर वो न आए ख्याल जिसका आँगन को है बसाए
     तो वक़्त क्यूँ न थम जाए

खिड़की से झांकती दोपहर की रौशनी
     अपनी शक्लें दीवार पे बदल रही है
कोने में बैठा गुमसुम सा वक़्त
     अब भी अपने लम्हों में उल्झा हुआ है
बस थोड़ी देर और ये धुप भी अब लौट जाएगी
     पीछे ढल्ती शाम और उसकी तन्हाई छोड़ जाएगी
रह जाएगा तो बस यकीन का एक घोंसला
     जहाँ सोयेंगे हम और रहेगा ये हौंसला
की कल फिर आएगा और शायद उसे लाएगा
     जिसके लिए वक़्त थम गया  था आज
युहीं तमन्ना को हाथों में लिए
     कुछ देर ठहर गया था आज

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sony Walkman, Jagjit Singh and my love for music

It is interesting sometimes to look back and seek a reason for things that you find existing in your life. To search for that whiff, a glimpse, a touch or that tiny moment of inspiration which one catches and registers unknowingly in one’s mind, and when that seed got planted in the vast terrain of our subconscious, blooming later into consciousness - that one might want to wonder about how it all started.

Hence I pondered very recently on how it all began – my love for music.

I don’t come from a family which can lay claim to some gharana in music. So music for me didn’t come along the classical route of training of voice; rather, it was my ears that underwent a sort of training by way of listening to the melodic notes in my mother’s voice – indeed when she speaks her sound seems to fill me in some way making me feel whole – and the amazing music which I came across very early in my childhood.

My family has an ear for good music. This isn’t a peculiarity reserved only by us but it’s the eclectic taste in music which cuts across age in our family that helps me pay that compliment. The kind of music received by us with admiration or loathe is surprisingly so common that sometimes it becomes difficult to recognize that music is such a subjective matter and very private and exclusive too!

And among these commonalities is Jagjit Singh whose voice ushered me into the world of music.

It all started because of a Sony Walkman.

My father had been on an official trip to Europe and among other things which he got for us was a Sony Walkman. An engineering marvel, a beautiful specimen of how man brought his imagination to reality, the Walkman became the apple of our eyes for days to come. It would gently pass from one hand to the other and a slightest hint of imbalance would evoke a collective gasp from our family. The design of the equipment was meant to suit a pair of ears – preferably belonging to the same head – but on umpteen occasions this solemn assumption by the makers of the Walkman was struck down by a creative adjustment of two heads trying to share the wonderment brought by that Walkman.

Father didn’t bring along a cassette with the Walkman, which would have completed our experience of that device, so we used to tinker along with the radio buttons to make out anything useful from the persistent static that it produced. But the wait didn’t prove to be too long, and the first cassette which the Sony Walkman played was Jagjit Singh’s Desires. 

Very soon Jagjit Singh replaced the Walkman with himself on our pedestal of awe and admiration.

I can’t recall how many times I went over the same songs tirelessly listening to them again and again as they carried me into a new world of music. Never before had I listened to music and songs so carefully. The various television programmes that played film songs were at best perfunctory interruptions prior to Jagjit’s welcome intrusion in my life. Now slowly I began to critique music - not really as an expert but surely as someone who knew what he was looking for.

Among the select few indulgences, which our family had, Jagjit gradually climbed up to acquire the highest spot. Our shelf gradually piled up a collection of Jagjit’s albums. Sony Walkman had to give way to a bigger music system thereby eliminating any need for an ingenious arrangement of heads to enjoy music. Jagjit transformed from a chance encounter to become an enjoyable association, and festivals or no festivals he would play making evenings so melodious that it would be a jarring interruption if suddenly a power cut would take place forcing silence to prevail alongside the lingering tune of his song in our minds.

Jagjit’s music has become a part of my life. Somehow I am able to connect to his songs in every mood that reigns me. His voice riding on the notes of his compositions extract such soulful meaning from the lyrics that one feels the poet sigh his emotions right in your ears.

It’s been one steady and harmonious journey with Jagjit’s music. Jagjit is no more – another sudden and jarring interruption from which one cannot recover – but his music lingers on and so shall my love for it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Insidious Jan Lok - II

The demand and debate of public participation in the drafting of the Lokpal bill has seemed to go awry. At many places it seems to veer off the path of rationality altogether. The ‘civil society’ may have fundamental differences and legitimate concerns on points evaded or negated by the government’s panel but it is the nature of the discourse itself that has become so worrisome.

There have been strident demands by the ‘civil society’ to make the discussions of the drafting committee public. Demands have ranged from making the parleys televised to having the audio tapes of the discussions released. The ‘civil society’ group itself has also been making continuous press conferences detailing the proceedings after every meeting that has taken place in a believed attempt to keep things transparent. But the question is how correct it is to make the discussions public when the bill is only in the drafting stage? There are bound to be differences of opinion when discussions happen. People in their entitlement of having different views may choose to disagree but that shouldn’t be construed as criminal, which in all likelihood would, given the popular sentiment fanned by making these details public. The matter would naturally be further compounded with the differences coming out in open as is evident with the constant coverage this issue is getting. It needs to be understood that the public has connected only with the central idea of the movement against corruption and not with the technical issues pertaining to the draft in question. At this stage the draft needs inputs from experts and not demands made out of popular sentiment.

Erroneous arguments are being put forward in order to make the discussions public. Some have cited the televised debates in US as an example. But don’t the debates in US pertain to the election of candidates to senate or Presidency? Where on earth do discussions get televised when only a draft is being prepared? The minutes of the discussions are already on the website, hence out in public, and the draft would be discussed in parliament which is anyways televised live. How more transparent can the proceedings be made?

Let’s imagine for a moment that the discussions are made available to public. A member objecting to a certain point, which later on gets adopted through consensus, would be seen in a poor light even though the person had every right to object in his own assessment of the point in question. It would be a PR disaster particularly so if the member happens to be a government nominee. Since it is very well known that the government panel has differences with the ‘civil society’, this attempt to make the discussions public appear less related to transparency and more to point scoring. Whether the objections are right or wrong, they would eventually be out once the draft gets discussed in the parliament, so is there really a need for this demand?

Some have also questioned the silence adopted by the PM and the UPA chairperson. It is only wise that the two have kept a silence on this matter. The very nature of their positions gives a lot of weight to their say. In this light if the PM were to make a statement on some point in the draft on which the committee members hold a different view then it will become hard for the committee to explain their divergence of opinion. Just as one should abstain from making a comment on a case that is sub judice so should be the case here too and the drafting committee should be allowed to formulate provisions without any external influence so that they can go about their business with all the peace and focus that is required for the job at hand.

The talks between the ‘civil society’ and the government’s panel have hogged the headlines also for the acrimony on display in the past few days. Both sides have failed to exercise restraint to keep the atmosphere conducive for fruitful discussions. The ‘civil society’ seems to be more hot-headed in this regard and sees red at any objection raised by the government. Here it occurs that the context of this agitation is more at play than anything else.

If one were to look back and observe then it would be noted that the entire movement had a streak of confrontation to it. A series of scams had formed the backdrop and a very lame draft of the Lokpal bill had come riding on a purported resolve of the government to fight corruption. So one understands why the ‘civil society’ group decided to confront the government. But what one fails to understand is the continuation of this attitude to confront even during these discussions. Both the sides should come to the table with an open mind to acknowledge suggestions and reservations alike. That the suggestions made by the ‘civil society’ are finally being taken into consideration by the government is a testimony of a failure on the government’s part to have come up with a strong draft in the first place. But it also testifies that the government is more serious than ever and there is a will to go the length to have a strong legislation in place. The very composition of the government’s panel – home minister, finance minister, law minister, hrd minister and minority affairs minister – demonstrates the serious intent of the government. So it’s time now for the ‘civil society’ to stop looking at the government with suspicion and work as a team to come up with a good draft. But the events of past few days have shown anything other than this. Not only the confrontational attitude seems to continue but also at work is a premise that the entire government is corrupt and a bigot. The press statements made by the ‘civil society’ bear ample evidence of this premise and statements to this effect have been made by saying that this government is scared to bring an effective Lokpal in place because more than half of it would then be in jail. This premise is making them see villainy in any objection or reservation made by the government. Just because the government has been put on a backfoot these days doesn’t mean that it has lost its right to disagree.

Another question that is being raised is that of the missing opposition parties from the panel appointed to discuss with the ‘civil society’. Many, including team Anna, believe that the opposition parties should have been made a part of these discussions since it would have then involved the entire political class in the drafting of the bill. But there is a problem in doing so. If the opposition parties are to be made a part of the discussions then the panel must include representation from every party irrespective of the numbers commanded by the same in parliament. Assuming that such a panel does get set up then once a draft is ready what role is left for the parliament to play? Since all the parties are already aligned with the draft, the only job left now for the parliament is to stamp approval on it. This is a dangerous precedent that completely undermines the fundamentals of parliamentary democracy. A bill is supposed to originate within the government, tabled and discussed in the parliament before assuming any finality. Here we have already gone beyond the dictates of fundamentals of our democratic system by engaging with an unelected group to draft a bill. On the question of being ‘unelected’, people have compared team Anna with NAC. But this comparison is flawed. NAC‘s mandate is to give suggestions and inputs and not sit and draft bills with government nominees. A bill still goes through its normal lifecycle and while doing so may also consider any suggestions made by the NAC. So to allude to double standards adopted by the government is not correct. This extra-constitutional space accorded, given the extraordinary circumstances, to the ‘civil society’ therefore must limit to discussions with government and Parliament should be allowed to play its assigned role of discussing the draft before taking it any further.

This din and commotion around the lok pal bill is slowly reducing things to a tamasha. Even fasting is increasingly becoming a gimmick. People in their eagerness to paint an already capitulant government as evil have stopped looking at reason. It remains to be seen what comes out of all this but the tale so far has been a tad disappointing.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


After Anna Hazare, the next star in the horizon seems to be Baba Ramdev. Quite interestingly, Ramdev could’ve been the original hero in this crusade but he was done in by his lack of clarity or maturity, which even Hazare claims to be the case, in how to place himself vis-à-vis the popular sentiment against corruption.

Anna, for all one knows, looked at it as a crusade. But Ramdev looked at it as dip-stick test to find out his reach and to find out if this was the moment to start his career in politics. Ramdev, on several previous occasions, had spoken out against black-money and corruption, and also about his intent to start a political party but he never took his campaign, if there was any, anything further than making statements. He lost the plot to Anna, and realized, only very late in the day, that the mass following he had could have been easily galvanized to give him a greater standing in public. His Ramlila affair seemed a too hastily arranged effort and even there the flip-flops that marked the entire drama reduced everything to a daily soap plot.

When he could've got some mileage, he exposed his naiveté through his list of demands. People came back saying one should focus on the essence of his demands and not in details but any average person on the street has also been making a similar set of demands – then where does it place Ramdev with respect to others? Another opportunity, a rather unfortunate incident in itself, in the form of the government excesses at the Ramlila grounds, was again thrown away by Ramdev when he made statements of building an army to set things in order. Clearly, he has a lot to learn about politics. His joining Anna’s movement would’ve done him more good than what he envisaged by opening another front on the issue of black money. His going on fast wouldn’t redeem him any lost ground as his credibility stands questioned in the face of doubts about the origin of his assets. It’s a botched up affair and Baba, at least for a while, should go back to what he does best.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

भिछ्ड़े हम ...

अनजानी भीड़ में जाना पहचाना कोई छूट गया
हम इतने तन्हा और दिल कितना सूना हो गया
अब ख्याल आया खुद को कैद कर लें हम
अपनी धड़कन को सुने एक ज़माना सा हो गया

मेरे वफ़ा उन्की शिकायतों में सिमट के रह गए
मजबूर तमन्ना कुछ कहते कहते ही रह गए
सजाए थे जिस दामन पे आरज़ू अपने मैंने
वो दामन हाथों से छूटा और तार तार हो गया

वही वादियाँ हैं पर कितने सूने हैं नज़ारे
भीगी हैं यादें मेरे इन अश्कों के सहारे
कैसा ये सैलाब कैसा ये तूफ़ान
भिछ्ड़े वो हंस के जोड़े – एक इस किनारे एक उस किनारे

Friday, April 22, 2011

Insidious Jan Lok

Anna Hazare went on fast and brought the government to its knees. It looks like a good beginning but where does it end? By heeding to Anna’s demands, the government has set a precedent for future demands be they legitimate or otherwise. It’s fine to say it was a Gandhian way to solve a problem but in extending this argument one is obfuscating many questions that arise out of this incident.

Why did Anna Hazare get the kind of attention that he got? Could it be because of rank hypocrisy?

The issue at hand was corruption. Who was, or rather is, suffering the most from this malaise? It’s the middle class Indians, the largest demographic in India, who are soaring with the tides and times of a rising nation. What has made them out of this rapid growth story is a bunch of conceited people who know only how to trample on others to get ahead with the utmost disregard for anything that is unrelated or unprofitable to them. So naturally when someone took the initiative it made all sense for the middle class to join hands, send chain mails, start e-forums, send tweets, share views on Facebook, make public speeches, etc and be seen in this ‘hour of need’ as showing solidarity since the direct beneficiary at the end of this was the middle class, and the success of this movement required automatic precedence over all other daily chores.

There is no denying that corruption ought to be rooted out of the system, but the hypocrisy reeking beneath is also undeniable.

There is a lady in Manipur who goes by the name Irom Chanu Sharmila. While Anna fasted for four days, Irom has been on fast for eleven years. She is demanding the withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special powers) Act from Manipur and the rest of North East. Do we recollect any campaign or mass outpouring on streets for her cause? There have been, allegedly, gross violations in North East but neither celebrities nor cyberspace forums, which usually proliferate at such instances to aid intellectual debates, talk about this. The middle class doesn’t take cognizance of this issue as also it doesn’t relate with the issue of naxalism or violations in Kashmir or suicides of farmers – because at the end of it there is no benefit for the larger middle class. Only a miniscule percentage of Indians may benefit so why waste time? Issues like these merely manage to become topics for discussions over cups of coffee and tea.

The other equally worrisome issue is that what happens to the institutions of democracy if civil society becomes a part of the law making body?

The committee prescribed in the case of Lokpal bill comprises eminent members from the civil society along with government officials and ministers. But however eminent a member is, he or she is still unaccountable, unlike the elected minister, and hence cannot be punished for any act of omission. The case is almost similar to that of the pre-scam Satyam saga where the board had reputed members to oversee company proceedings. However, when the loss was discovered accountability couldn’t be fixed and the most one saw were people stepping down from the board, which hardly amounts to anything. If this experiment in democracy succeeds, which in all likelihood it will, the looming threat of this becoming a practice and not an exception would acquire a concrete shape. Seemingly paradoxical, this attacks at the very roots of democracy. People would quite literally take law in their own hands and democratic institutions would lose their meaning.

Another aspect, which might occur a bit distasteful but still relevant, is that of marketing.

In this age of din and commotion, unless the product is marketed well it fails to get its buyers. The Lokpal movement had two very engaging selling points – Anna Hazare and Jantar Mantar. The movement got its mileage from a prominent social activist in Anna and visibility from Jantar Mantar, a location at the heart of the city. Both the factors came together to give an amazing result which rivaled the hysteria of world cup win. What it re-affirms is that unless one makes a spectacle of an issue (or even a non-issue) one doesn’t stand a chance to be heard. Irom, the lady from Manipur, failed on this account. Her cry for justice took place in Manipur – a region which suffers alienation from ‘mainland’ India. There wasn’t, also, any personality associated with her cause.

But there is an inherent danger with regards to marketing a grievance. When the administration bows down before such demands people get to see a well orchestrated agitation succeed, which can only lead to an assumption that a more spectacular display of one’s resent and protestations will bound to get success. Display of placard and banner rallies have given way to highway blocking, naxalite violence, hostage dramas, twin tower blasts – and all being manifestations of the belief that ‘jinko kam sunayi deta hai, unhe dhamake ki zaroorat hoti hai.’

India does suffer from many diseases and corruption is one of them. But corruption is a two way street. We find corruption because we breed it. If probity of administration is demanded then the same honor has to be reflected by the citizen. India with its size and numbers cannot offer equal opportunity and access to everyone. It is then all the more important for everyone to become honest in their own dealings.

Apna gham leke kahin aur na jaaya jae
Ghar mein bikhri hui cheezon ko sambhala jae
~ Nida Fazli

Saturday, April 2, 2011

आज फिर जीने की तमन्ना है

सुबह सुबह आई रौशनी
मेरे बिस्तर तलक, छलक-छलक
कैसी चंचल कैसी मधुर
मीठी शहद सी दिखी
जब खोली आँखे पलक-पलक
आँगन खेले नन्हा सवेरा 
होंठो पे एक मुस्कान बिखेरा
बोली डाल पे बैठी मैना
ऐ सखी हम खेले आ इधर
देख निकला धुप का मेला
धीरे धीरे नींद है छूटी
हौले हौले अंगड़ाई भी टूटी
गुज़रे कल का अँधेरा वो भागा
मन संभला और दिल फिर थिरका
आज फिर जीने की तमन्ना है -
कहे मन का मोर 
और झूम के दिन यूँ डोला वो डोला

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Quarters

It has taken 15 years, or in world cup time units – 4 world cups – to have all the eight major test playing nations finally getting drawn up in quarter final lineups.

The lineup for 2011 ICC WC has India, Australia, Pakistan, West Indies, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, England and South Africa. No minnows in sight – Zimbabwe has never managed to shrug off that tag.

The earlier editions had ‘super six’ or ‘super eight’ stages before the knockout stages begun. One may look at these ‘super’ matches as a round robin quarter final – basically designed to give hope to the best teams if and when they had a bad day.

But if one were to take a look at the past World Cups, especially since the time the top qualifiers of the ICC Trophy were made a part of the World Cup editions, these minnows have managed to spring a surprise every now and then.

In 2007, the format had the top two teams from each group advancing to form the ‘Super Eights’, which was followed by semis. The Super Eight lineup had - Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh and Ireland.

Again in 2003, where prior to semis we had ‘Super Sixes’, the lineup was - India, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

The 1999 edition too saw one bottom ranked team of Zimbabwe making it to the pre-semi stage. Here the lineup was - Pakistan, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand and Zimbabwe.

It’s only in the 1996 edition that the lineup for quarter-finals, and this was the last time the World Cup saw a knock-out pre-semis and no ‘super’ matches, had all the top nations drawn up against each other. The lineup looked like this - England, Pakistan, Australia, India, Sri Lanka, West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa.

The 1996 edition was played in the sub-continent with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka being the hosts, something that was originally planned for 2011 too. One may also find some other similarities. The one which immediately springs to my mind is that Sachin was the top scorer in the 1996 edition and this time too is looking all set to claim that spot.

Let’s hope the similarities end there (India had a tragic loss in their semis against Sri Lanka) and India lifts the cup at Wankhade.

Monday, February 28, 2011

She loves me, she loves me not

I arrived at the spot and looked at the bench. It was empty as usual. For past several weeks now it was thus. Empty.

This bench, our only rendezvous, had been a witness to some of the most wonderful moments of our lives. We would chat here unaware of the hours passing by and each time, when finally bidding goodbyes, unspoken promises of returning the next weekend would get exchanged in our eyes. Her eyes! Such beautiful eyes sitting in that pretty face that one would want to lose one’s heart in their depths. Enchanting as she was, she looked like an angel when small curls of her hair would kiss her cheeks and with a shy yet striking smile she would keep brushing those mischievous curls aside. Her honeyed voice would keep me hooked onto the sundry discussions we would have and the sweetness getting registered in my heart would help keep the moments alive till the next time we would meet.

But all seemed to have ended abruptly and quite mysteriously. She wouldn’t come anymore to meet me. Where did we lose each other? Lost in my thoughts I sat on the bench and plucked a flower and started working on that avowed method of finding the truth of my love – she loves me, she loves me not. One by one I removed the petals calling alternately the agreement and the denial. I soon reached the last petal. She loves me not. It can’t be. It just can’t be. Horrified, I recalled from memory the many ways she used to look at me. Those mesmerizing eyes spoke what she never would have needed to say. In utter desolation I looked down at the petals that had fallen on my lap. Eight amber colored petals had sealed my fate. Harmless looking eight petals had struck misery in my heart. I wanted to hate them. But I wouldn’t have gained anything. I kept staring at the eight broken pieces of my heart.

Eight…hmm. I figured if I had started the exercise not by the agreement but by the denial then the result would have been in my favor. Eight is an even number, so in the iteration if the agreement first fell on an even number it will recur on all the subsequent even numbers. To confirm I plucked another flower and this time I started by the denial – she loves me not. And sure enough, I ended up immensely satisfied with the proclamation of the agreement - she loves me! Treacherous, as it seemed, this botanical experiment with the application of a little logic could fool the heart. I dusted the petals off my lap and decided to wait for some more time - a routine since past many disappointing weeks.

May be she didn’t love me and that was indeed the truth. May be I had been a fool beguiled by her charms. May be that was the truth and I needed to accept and move on. Else, what could explain her continued absence?

While I was busy searching for answers, a whiff of perfume wafted towards me from across my left. I turned and saw that a girl had planted herself on the vacant seat beside me. I looked at her and we exchanged smiles. Something fluttered within me and I couldn’t check myself from basking in her smile. She had picked up a book and evidently looked alone. May be it wouldn’t be a bad idea to strike a conversation with her. Hardly had this thought occurred when my memory served up a picture, from not too distant past, of a couple on the same bench where the guy looked remarkably similar to me and the girl very familiar. Arrested for a moment by guilt, I checked myself in pursuing my desire to speak to my neighbor.

But why shouldn’t I speak to her? Shouldn’t I allow myself a fresh start when the certainty of an unrequited love is staring at my face?

I looked at my left from the corner of my eyes. What a pretty sight she was! Every now and then she would give a jerk to her head in an effort to put away strands of hair from her eyes. And catching this movement would be her dainty earrings that fetched attention to her beautiful neck the nape of which she would occasionally caress with her long slender fingers. A sigh escaped my lips and I shifted in my seat to prepare to form an introductory remark when suddenly from behind appeared a pair of small arms that stretched ahead to go round the neck of the girl. My neighbor, startled at first, gave into a giggle and pulled a small mass over her shoulder and brought it over to front and looking at me said, “My daughter.”

I politely smiled and regained my earlier posture. In a moment I bent ahead and plucked a flower, affirmed the number of petals – odd – and started, “she loves me … she loves me not …”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A thousand splendid suns...

…that’s the name of the novel I just finished reading. Written by Khaled Hosseini, it’s his second work after The Kite Runner.

The experience has left me with sorrow mixed with vexation and a little disappointment too. Sorrow, understandably, because of the misery that befalls the characters in the story. But it is at the other two emotional investments, which I am myself surprised at (surprised I say because the novel pummels the expectations, entirely justifiable, I had of it), a note is warranted.

A thousand…almost reads like a continuation of his previous work – The Kite Runner. The characters have changed but the plight, owing to the backdrop of a crumbling Afghanistan, seems to be a continuing narrative from his previous work. So what is lacking is a freshness that one would have expected after reading Khaled earlier. It did turn out to be a page turner, but not because I got sucked into the story but more so for a hope that the story would somewhere rise above the predictability it had surrendered to.

The story begins by sketching the childhood of two girls living at a time when Afghanistan’s decline had just begun. Vivid as it unfolds, the initial part of the story becomes a victim of this slow unraveling and threatens to reduce to a drag. As if the author himself realized this, the subsequent events of the story occur at a rapid pace. The author explores the brutality of those times in Afghanistan and the helplessness of those stuck in the crossfire of destiny and rocket shells of the mujahedeen. But it’s here where one would find the author slip off the path of reason. The muteness of Laila, one of the characters, is puzzling. She is shown to be an intelligent girl and gives ample examples of her reasoned approach towards life. But at times when one would expect her to rise to occasion, her deflating and frustrating response befuddles the reader. The author successfully manages to arrest the attention of the reader by delving deep into the pathos of the time; his juxtaposition of a hitherto progressive and peaceful Afghanistan with that of a now unrecognizable, broken, brutal entity that it had become is stark and hits you with the force it intended to begin with, but one can’t miss a deliberate attempt to prolong the misery of the characters in the story.

The story pales in comparison with The Kite Runner.

Both the stories are telling the troubled times of Afghanistan but The Kite Runner is refreshingly subtle. To be fair, the approach of the stories cannot be held as a reason for critique – one chooses subtleness over candor while the other chooses to pull the motif to forefront and is more direct. But it’s the déjà vu that disappoints as one starts to flip through the pages hoping each time something different to show up from the author.

This second novel makes Khaled look so formulaic. The narrative of both of his works follows the same cadence – a slow, descriptive start, which revisits the good old times and lays the foundation for the cruel contrast that is to come later, a rapid declension into the pit of sorrow, and a hopeful, reconciliatory resurface towards the end. But despite this predictable approach, the author walks away with credit for the eloquence in describing the sadness he builds about his characters. So persuasive is he that one waxes and wanes along with the characters.

A thousand…suffers under the weight of a very successful work coming previously from the same author. Also, there is an attendant predicament here, which is that if one was to read A thousand… first and then pick The Kite Runner, one might run the risk of under appreciating a fine work like The Kite Runner. The criticism offered could be same as presented above - that of repetitiveness. Though one does appreciate A thousand… for painting a picture of the utter loss that humanity has suffered in Afghanistan, as a work of literature it would not find a place alongside The Kite Runner.