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This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

October 19, 2009

A case of exploding mangoes

The scene is set among the final days of General Zia and his set of cronies protecting him from what they believe are a bunch of his own aging military generals waiting in the wings out to get him. He comes across vividly as a guy in some sort of dementia (what the author describes as a man self marinating in paranoia). Gen Zia believes he has become a prisoner in own Army house, a 5 mile security cover surrounding him is not enough, there is a fear that someone might be digging a tunnel underground to reach him! And even the itching in his back, which the doctor ascribes to intestinal worms tunneling out reminds him of his forlorn fate. Zia’s portrait as a shrewd but bumbling character is captured vividly and makes for interesting read but that appears only in alternate chapters, in the rest the author meanders listlessly among other unrelated topics (Blind Zainab, Underground cell in Lahore fort, American jaunts in Pak etc).

Characters like General Akthar, Chief of staff Beg, Major Kiyani ( i thought it was the current chief of Army but this guy goes down with the plane), Brigadier TM all appear to be some characters straight out of a typical Pakistan bashing Hindi movie that we are familiar with (the ones Ajay Devgan or Sunny Deol have wrestled with). There is no dearth of similar perception of India/Indians there....Land of Lentil eaters where Gandhi is described as banya while Nehru is a Fornicator, even Lata & Asha are not spared (fat ugly Indian sisters who sing like sex kitten); its all quid-pro-quo feeling across the border reflecting in the book.

Zia-ul-haq is the central theme of the book & he doesn’t disappoint, sample this ..
Without his uniform & presidential paraphernalia General Zia seemed to have shrunk. His moustache always waxed & twirled, drooped over his upper lip . His hair always oiled & parred down the middle was in a state of disarray, like a paraded squad on tea break.

General Zia’s eyes normally crossed, the right one looking in one direction while the left one wandered away to take in something else were for once focused in the same direction on the same objects (the chest of foreign correspondent Joanne herring). The angle of his stare was so obvious that if she drew two lines with a pencil, they would connect the iris of his eye straight to the two white spheres pushed up & pulled together.

He had almost made up his mind to reverse the crescent on the national flag after an Islamic scholar pointed out that it was a descending moon and not an ascending one, but then his advisers reminded him that the flag had been around for 40 years & since nobody actually had any problem with the direction of the crescent, it was better to leave the flag alone.

Mohammed Hanif’s novel exposes the bigotry & intrigue within Pak’s most powerful establishment with his heavily influenced westernized English language .
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