Thursday, March 12, 2009

Daniel Mueenuddin's story review

I've not yet checked if Daniel Mueenuddin's debut story collection has hit my bookstore. But my good friend V. Ramaswamy has sent me by e-mail files of three stories included in the collection for my reading. And of these three stories, I chose A Spoiled Man to taste and test Mueenuddin's writing.

The story is about Rezak, an underdog, who was employed by the American wife of a Pakistani feudal lord, to look after their weekend home garden. Physically deformed, alone, away from his brothers, elderly he had a make-shift home, and made ends meet with some manual job which he didn't get so often. After employment, he had a good and regular pay-packet every month. So he went on to marry a mentally subnormal girl. Rezak took time and patience to tame the girl. But one day she ran away. While he was on a desperate search for his wife, he was taken to the police station by the police on the pretext that he sold away his wife. The police tortured him terribly, apparently to extract a confession. Finally, they set him free, and he returned to his job. He's now in a bad health but crazily got to buy costly marble for his tomb. Rezaq dies soon after.

It was indeed hard for me to believe that Rezak could be the topic of a short story in these times. Who is after all interested in "a small bowlegged man with a lopsided, battered face" in today's world? But Mueenuddin's narrative, though traditional, is gripping, and draws you in with his realistic details and observations. Obviously, he knows about these people intimately. And he knows about Pakistan, his country too. Mueenuddin writes effortlessly, and tells his story like he's chronicling something intently. It's an extra-ordinary tale of a very ordinary and tormented soul representative of any common man anywhere in the world.

Yes, a real writer has arrived at our literary scene after a long time. I'm going to buy his book In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.

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