Saturday, November 20, 2004

Comments on Maps for Lost Lovers

Nadeem Aslam takes us to a Pakistani and Indian community named Dasht-e-Tanhai, somewhere in the middle of England. Two lovers, Chanda and Jugnu are missing, and everyone in the community is adjusting to the supposed murder, or worst yet, their running away. Discontent with their surroundings in Dasht-e-Tanhai, the racism they have faced, the clash of values that they have always had with their surroundings, and how it has shaped them, are beautifully rendered in prose.
The strong undercurrents of religious belief, the induced hypocrisy, the anti-feminism (bordering on anti-humanism) that is induced by the popularized notions in Islam, all show their ugly head, and the characters are hostages to their own beleifs. And indeed, it is the same artifacts of their previous lives - these religious dogmas that they hold on to, engraved in their psyche and cherished, because it is the only link to their past, Pakistan and India.
A woman chooses to use a man, so she can go back to her child in Pakistan, a child who lives in Pakistan with his drunkard, wife-beating father, who has divorced this woman while drunk (and now wants her back). And the man chooses to use the woman, to feed on her zest, to be free of the compromises that surround his own life, and that of the community.
It is a grand project, but it suffers in a few places, where the characters manage to gross themselves out(and also the readers), metaphors that should criticize, tend to disgust. If that was the effect sought, it works wonderfuly well.