Friday, 3 June 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Sea Lies Ahead by Intizar Husain


In 1947 young Jawad Hassan gives up his ancestral home in India and his fiancee Maimuna for a dream country founded by Jinnah. And even though the newly created state of Pakistan is thronged by a huge number of zealous Muslims, ready to lead from the front, the rapid breakdown of law and order in Karachi makes many, like Jawad, retreat into reminiscence of their past in undivided India. It nudges them to probe the larger history of 'migration' and the rise and fall of ancient cities and civilizations. The second in Intizar Husain's acclaimed trilogy, The Sea Lies Ahead takes up the story of Pakistan where the first novel Basti (1979) ended: poised on the verge of breaking off from its eastern arm. Its title is a nod to the callous remark made by General Ayub Khan who - when asked what would happen to the Urdu-speaking muhajirs who had come from India and had, in a sense, burnt their boats - allegedly said, 'Aage samandar hai', the sea lies ahead. This is a novel about those muhajirs, among them the author himself, who went to the promised Land of the Pure, and were met with mistrust, prejudice and apathy.

Equally, it is a rich portrait of the new culture of urban Pakistan fostered by people who came from the countless towns and hamlets in and around Lucknow, Meerut and Delhi. Bringing alive unforgettable characters with its sparkling prose, this novel is a powerful exploration of Islamic history and the story of Pakistan's great disillusionment.

Another gem from the legendary Intizar Husain,The Sea Lies Ahead picks up the story of Pakistan where the author's first novel, Basti (1979) left off.Young Jawad Hassan leaves his ancestral home in India and his financee' Maimuna for Pakistan at the time of partition,with a zeal to lead Jinnah's dream from the front- only to become a reluctant witness to the rapid breakdown of law and order in Karachi and the following separation of Bangladesh from west Pakistan.

The book spans Jawad's journey of emotions,from passion through disillusionment to catharsis,as he and the other  muhajirs try to make sense of the chaos in Karachi and retreat into nostalgia of their past in undivided India.The second in the celebrated Pakistan Urdu writer's acclaimed Partition trilogy,The Sea Lies Ahead has been translated by literary  historian Rakhshanda Jalil.

The novel is outstanding in its acount of the finely etched characters who went to the promised Land of the Pune,only to met with prejudice,mistrust and apathy.It also talks about rise and fall of civilizations against the backdrop of the larger history of migration.

I would give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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