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Probably this book is just my initiation into the world of Pakistani writers; who write less of a story and more about their views on the story itself. I might not be as poetic as them in my writing, but I like to believe that I am poetic enough to admire their prose and that the beauty that they string into each line is not lost on me.

The story is indeed poignant, as a friend of mine described it to me. However, what really enthralled me was the fact that each of Hamid’s sentences spoke an entire story in itself. In particular, I was struck by the link he draws between mortality and procreation at some point in the story. It would seem to an ordinary person, like an inconsequential detail that stands in between the reader and the entire storyline, but to me his analogies and philosophies that are scattered throughout the book seemed like the different tangs of the same story that is life; not very unlike the feeling you get as you savour the tea you get in the markets of Old Anarkali (I presume!), where the protagonist recounts his life-story.

The story follows the narrator through the course of his education in Princeton to his work in Underwood Samson and his eventual return to his motherland, even as it talks about his love for an American woman. It is simultaneously showing the progress of the the narrator’s political awareness and his misadventures at capturing the heart of the woman he loves. Perhaps the love story balances out the character in a story that might otherwise seem too caught-up in a person’s political consciousness.

Couple of things that really caught me was the vicious cycle of unrequited love that follows Erica (in the form of a dead boyfriend she can’t seem to be able to get over) and later Changez (our narrator remains smitten by Erica to the very end, even when he is unsure if she is even alive!). Also (SPOILER ALERT!), I loved the way the book ended without ever clearly stating whether the American tourist to whom the story is being narrated to, is a friend or an enemy in the form of an American soldier undercover. Mostly though, I just really appreciate the narrators criticism about America’s ‘War on Terror’ and his views about civilian deaths and collateral damage. Although, not explicitly condemning the US of A, the author indirectly manages to attack their idea of war which is more of their bravado in response to the 9/11 attacks that shook their feeling of safety and security within their country.

You could grab your copy here (flipkart), or here (Amazon)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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