The story has many undertones — it’s political, it’s real, it’s moving
LIKE A DIAMOND IN THE SKY: Shazia Omar; Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110017. Rs. 250.
Is Generation Y a lost generation, unclear about its direction, and rather comfortable with it? Is debauchery a matter of certain pride in the affluent layers of the south Asian society? We have had a plethora of books and films, elaborating on this phenomenon.
This debut novel by Shazia Omar examines a diversified layering of society and its intersections. Deen, the 21-year-old heroin addict, is probably the prototype of the lost youth. This and a derision of the state apparatus seem to be the point of concern for the author.
Deen, with a weak will but a big heart, constantly attempts, or rather hopes, to fix his life. He has an acute understanding of human condition but is a victim of his circumstances. AJ, the ‘almost hero’ of the book oozing substantial machismo, is reminiscent of a wronged character of the 1970s Bollywood movies. He dares to defy but fears to love. Then there is a fanatic policeman chasing an ‘immoral’ woman in a basti who sells dope to the rich young kids; various such small and big characters interspersed in the novel appear rather dramatically or disconnectedly at different points of a story that seems never to take off.
There is an immediate connection the reader can make to a somewhat similar novel titled Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid, a Pakistani writer who dealt with characters that were much more powerful in a language that was much more literary.
Influence of cinema
One cannot but notice an unavoidable influence of cinema in much of the writing of today; the scripting of something in motion, a frame of box rather than a landscape painting. While that is not such a bad thing, it does take away the detailing much necessary for good literature.
The story then becomes largely governed by a set of tricks (what might more diplomatically be called technique). It has drama, emotions, action, love, etc. But we know the outcome of these ingredients far too well by now.
There are however some sparks in the novel. Incisive statements that at different points bring you back to the core of the frustration of the ‘lost generation.’ The psychologically disturbed Maria, the object of Deen’s affection, ponders at one point, “It’s not the weight of our fears that keeps our ideas from taking wings and soaring in the sky, it’s concrete reality hitting us like a wall.” Drug abuse is a serious matter, something that is probably ignored, thanks to the new technological era that has its own sets of concerns and values. The novel manages to extract empathy out of the reader for the wayward characters of the novel.
The story has many undertones to it: it’s political, it’s real, it’s moving, and it’s well paced. That in itself is commendable but it leaves the reader a little confused.
We hope to see more by this author who has dared to bring to light (and from a different lens) a part of the world, almost forgotten. A new voice that has the making of a great story-teller, probably even better in some other medium.