Book Review: Lahore re-created

Have you watched Syed Asghar Wajahat’s play Jin Ne Lahore Nahin Dekhya? Must see if you have not yet seen. Lahore becomes a metaphor for all that's exciting in life through this brilliant play.

Maverick Anglo-Bengali writer Nirad Chandra Chaudhury stated in his wonderful memoirs, Autobiography of an Unknown Indian that there are four magnificent cities in the world, all beginning with the letter ‘L’.

These cities are London, Las Vegas, Lucknow and Lahore. Pity that the Indians hardly get to visit the neighbouring country and its fantastic cities, spearheaded by Lahore.

But a wonderful Pakistani English writer Awais Khan’s In the Company of Strangers brings Lahore to your drawing room and re-enacts the fading images of a great city for those craving to visit, but unable because of political reasons. Khan’s maiden creative endeavour doesn't let you down because of a gripping narrative and intriguing plot.

Lahore, London and Las Vegas are also called ‘the cities of parties and pizzazz’ (not to be confounded with pizza!). This nomenclature aptly sums up these cities.

People of India might think of Pakistan as a regressive and conservative country that frowns upon joie de vivre and pleasures of senses. I’m afraid, they are quite mistaken.

At times, the boisterous bohemianism of Lahore eclipses the scotch-flowing orgies and parties of Delhi and Bombay. Debauchery is not haram (prohibited) to the creme de la creme of Pakistan, sampled by the protagonist Mona.

Introduced to a life of glitter, glamour and gratification, she falls for a man, younger to her by several years. The cougar-cub relationship is well etched out and brilliantly laid out by the novelist.

Human desires and spirit can't be confined to a particular community or group. Emotions are universal. What a man desires at North Pole is often similarly desired by someone at the South Pole.

Awais Khan has highlighted the universality of emotions and similarity of longings, incarcerated in every heart regardless of the man-made boundaries.

While reading the book, one can feel how things get debauched and ambitions spiral out of one’s reach and control. This book arrests a reader’s attention till the end. There is hardly a dull moment in Awais Khan’s In the Company of Strangers. Read it. You may want to send a ‘thank you’ note to the novelist.