Monday, 26 August 2013

BOOK REVIEW : The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam

The Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam 

"The Blind Man's Garden" - the title was what made me read the synopsis of this book and place an order for it. And from here a new literary journey began. As expected I was counting the days till l had this book in hand. I got this book delivered two weeks back and since then we have been inseparable. But this book was unlike others in the sense that I could not connect with it from the very first page. The first 100 pages or so were an ordeal and I had almost given up on it. But slowly and skilfully like a magician this book put a spell on me. It is primarily a love story told amidst the ruins of humanity, a sad but true outcome caused by greed, an intense hunger for power and lack of tolerance towards fellow beings.
The story is set in Heer, a small town in Pakistan. Rohan, a retired school headmaster lives in a beautiful house named the Ardent Spirit with his son Jeo and daughter in law, Naheed. The story is set in the present times where the Americans are in Afghanistan trying to hunt down Al-Qaeda post 9/11,with the support of the Pakistani government and how the civilians are caught between the pro-government and the anti- government establishments. This book emphasises on the extreme difficulties faced by the common man in his very existence both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Aslam takes the readers right in the middle of the war affected zone, when Jeo and his foster brother go to Afghanistan to look after the wounded civilians. The moment they enter Afghanistan, they get kidnapped by the local warlords. The twists and turns in the lives of these two men from the lush greens of Heer, to the hide outs of the Al-Qaeda in the hilly terrains of Afghanistan to the  prisons in America is very harsh but real at the same time. It is very scary and chilling to read how a few powerful men are exploiting the common citizens either to extract money from the Americans or to weaken the partnerships between the local government and the Americans in their fight against Al-Qaeda.
Aslam is a compelling author who weaves a beautiful but hard hitting tale which catches you in its web quite effortlessly. The way he describes the Ardent Spirit is so magically beautiful that it makes me want to live in such a aesthetically pleasing house. Aslam's love for the nature with its lush greenery, sweet smelling flowers, the ripe juicy fruits and the colorful insects abound is evident from the many descriptions. At the same time he doesn't hesitate to write about the cold and heart wrenching reality of the war zone.
As with all love stories this book also ends on a positive note. It stresses on the one thing which inspires man to move ahead in life - Love and Hope. There is a line from one of Wamaq Saleem's poems that Aslam uses in his story which sums up the book. It says, " Love is not consolation, it is light" .

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