This book has attitude.
First, gasp! A Pakistani woman who smokes, drinks, does drugs and has a secret identity, all with the acceptance of her husband and right under her father-in-law’s nose! Where are the Moral Police? Now that she’s broken the stereotype, let me say, ‘Mumtaz, whatte woman’.
Daru isn’t black and white or grey. He is the colour of colourless mud. Frustrating. You feel no sympathy towards him, except maybe when he loses his mother due to lack of air conditioning; air conditioning being an important character in the book. He sweats it out in the darkness, swatting moths, slapping servants, selling drugs, getting beaten up, robbing boutiques. And yet he doesn’t want to take on a job that pays tenthousand or work in a car dealership. And on top of all that, he has an affair with his best friend’s wife without an iota of guilt. Frustrating.
I didn’t quite get the connection between the Mughals and the characters that are named after them. But the connection between Daru and Ozi and the nuclear tests that form the subtle background to the story, I did. Or am I reading too much into it? India was not specifically spelled out in the book, but it was there. Right there, mocking Pakistan with its nuclear tests, looking all arrogant and cool. Pakistan’s insecurity, (what if our bombs don’t work) , the underlying jealousy, the hurried rush to equal India and the smugness when they also do it reflected Daru and Aurangazeb. Again, in Daru’s sense of being given a raw deal, is perceived superiority, his urgency to catch up with the rest of them, and in his unscrupulous and unapologetic foray into crime just to get even with Aurangazeb, I saw the two countries. And Aurangazeb’s next move? Well, I can’t draw parallels to that. Maybe (hopefully) not just yet.
Once you start reading this, you won’t put it down until you’ve read the last chapter and said your final ‘what the…’