The Scatter Here Is Too Great
Shards of short stories about diverse character lie splintered around a bomb blast in Karachi. A student out on a romantic escapade, an ex-communist and a poet in crass capitalism driven new world, a kid who is bullied at school, a sister making her kid brother’s world brighter by telling him stories… all the characters live different lives in this sprawling metropolis with a bomb blast in Karachi featuring in all of them and their paths sometimes intersecting but not really. After all, The Scatter Here Is Too Great. An ode to the unpredictable maximum city that is Karachi, home to all sorts and inviting more in every day, The Scatter Here Is Too Great is definitely a book to pick up for Karachiites and everyone else who wants to get a feel of what makes this city tick… it’s a question no one has managed to answer yet, but full marks to Bilal Tanweer for how he tried.
Karachi, You’re Killing Me!
If you’re in the mood for humour, wait till end Feb for journalist Saba Imtiaz’s debut novel. The blurb’s enticingly tongue-in-cheek. “Ayesha is a 20-something reporter in one of the world’s most dangerous cities. Her assignments range from showing up at bomb sites and picking her way through scattered body parts to interviewing her boss’ niece, the couture-cupcake designer. In between dicing with death and absurdity, Ayesha despairs over meeting a nice guy. Her choices seem limited to narcissistic, adrenaline-chasing reporters who’ll do anything to get the next story – to the spoilt offspring of Karachi’s elite who’ll do anything to cure their boredom. Her more pressing problem, however, is how to straighten her hair during the chronic power outages.”
Sharp and scathing when it has to be, Saba Imtiaz’s debut promises to be more about laughs than introspection of the more profound variety, but then there is nothing more than surviving in Karachi entails than a great sense of humour.
While you’re waiting for Saba Imtiaz, grab Richa Lakhera’s Garbage Beat which is set on the fringes of Shining India, i.e. their film industry. Hers is the world of entertainment journalists who chase the uber stars of B’wood. “Laila is on the entertainment beat – a world full of vain heroines, egoistic superstars, spirited item girls. Life in the newsroom is a series of deadline-driven bloopers. Adding to the mayhem is a sexy Bollywood journo-turned-item girl Latika; Chiki, the reporter obsessed with a superstar; award-winning super hack Indumati; and their hard-to-please editor Bunny. Caught between her ambition to excel, a boyfriend who feels ignored and a father ashamed of her career choice, Laila realizes the life of an entertainment reporter is not the glamour ride she expected. On the Garbage Beat, reporting is a harrowing, ball-crushing, back-breaking affair.”
A LOL ride through a world we are riveted by this side of the border, Garbage Beat is an irreverent look at the dynamics of Indian media. A must read for anyone aspiring to be a journalist of the most frivolous beat in the world.
By Elif Safak
Or if you have a penchant for a more serious read, then Elif Shafak’s last work Honour is highly recommended. It’s the story of Esma, a young Kurdish woman in London, trying to come to terms with the terrible murder her brother has committed. She tells the story of her family stretching back three generations; back to her grandmother and the births of her mother and aunt in a village on the edge of the Euphrates. They are twins who despite that bond have very different futures ahead of them which will end in tragedy on a street in East London in 1978. Set in a Kurdish village, Istanbul and London, Honour is a work that takes the Muslim tradition of honour killing global and shows how it festers in today’s world.
More hard-hitting than Elif Shafak’s previous work, Honour is a non-judgmental look at a practice that continues with shocking repercussions for the liberal mentality of the new age. That’s the beauty of storytelling… when you pass judgment on your characters, they slip out of your grasp.