REVIEW: ‘BROKEN VERSES’ BY KAMILA SHAMSIE

30 years old Aasmani has had a very strange childhood, being brought up by four parents- mum; dad; her dad’s wife Beema and her mother’s beloved, The Poet.

Growing up with the Poet’s recurrent visits to the prison and in exile, and her mother running around the world to wherever the Poet is; Aasmani could not forgive her mother for choosing the Poet before her daughter; though her love for both her mother and the Poet has always been unwavering.

After the Poet’s unresolved murder and her mother’s disappearance, 16 year old Aasmani became hyper aware of everything in her universe and paranoid with a suspicion that is all a plot with ‘Celestial Revolution’, Aasmani Inqalab in the centre.

With her recurrently changing jobs, Aasmani landed on to a TV channel, setting questions for a quiz show with her never ending knowledge of facts. Coincidentally or according to the plot of Aasmani’s universe; Shehnaz Saed, her mother’s closest friend makes her comeback in television through the same TV channel’s ‘Boond’.

Shehnaz invites Aasmani for lunch to convey her thanks for helping in her script and to tell her how much she resembles her mother- from the colour of her eyes to her shooting tongue.

When Shehnaz recieves a letter written in an unknown code, she passes it to Aasmani knowing how Samina and the Poet used to converse in codes and maybe Aasmani would be aware of the same.

Our ‘Celestial Revolution’ is convinced that the letters are from the Poet and that he’s being held hostage for all these years. Aasmani becomes determined to rescue the Poet wherein crosswords, dictionaries, poems and fairy tales become utterly significant in her ever swelling semantic universe. She strongly believes that her mother would definitely return upon hearing the Poet’s reappearance.

Aasmani Inqalab proves to be an extremely captivating narrator, be it her relationship with her stepsister or her scantillating love life with Shehnaz’s son.

30 years of Pakistani politics is enough for keeping the reader busy with just one more chapter. From thunderous applause in the activist Samina’s debates to burning down the revolutionist Poet’s house; the 12 year old Aasmani had seen the whole Karachi bowing down to her mother and her beloved. The screened presence of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Zia-Ul-Haq has been an important part in making the story engaging.

Published in 2005 by Bloomsbury, Kamila Shamsie’s ‘Broken Verses’ is extremely enthralling with a broken yet expanding family, non commuting love, several non relenting governments, and the consequent activism and feminism. Swallowing the truths hesitantly, and with noticeable efforts; and the consistent existence of mystery makes it all the more alluring.

The story is most engaging when the truth and the believed starts cohabiting – “When the sky splits asunder, and reddens like a rose or stained leather- which of your Lord’s blessings would you deny?”

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