Of Pandemic Monologues And Other Griefs

Of Pandemic Monologues And Other Griefs
The year 2020 began with new hope, for every New Year is meant for more new resolutions. But the sooner it turned into an unpredictable gloom while the Covid-19 pandemic spread worldwide—and badly affected humanity globally due to constant lockdowns, which brought the world to a standstill.

That was collective suffering as it affected all humankind in each nook and corner of the world. The whole human race was helpless and became prisoners in their own homes. That situational irony faced the most intelligent creation of a God—humans who rules the roost faced the biggest ignominy ever—shutting themselves indoors and being forced to go incommunicado.

The Urdu novel Zindaan (cage, prison or jail) is a monologue narration of a few families that are part of the novel's plot—but speaks out the story of entire humankind that were forced to conceal themselves for survival. The mustering role of the novelist deserves applause because although she is not a person with an Urdu background, she has done ample justice to the plot in her Urdu novel. The linguistic tone emphatically showcases the work by a novice, but its deep-rooted and insightful narration is exemplary—towering creativity showcased in plots and narration.

Tomb at Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India

There is creative maturity in the plot's reincarnation, giving ample justice to every character, as if all conversations in the novel are evolved to happen somewhere before everyone makes this otherwise universal story post-Covid-19 an exemplary one—creatively distinct.

Zindaan is an absolute fiction projecting realities—a caveat and a lesson for humanity in the two contexts of the world's unpreparedness for the pandemic. It sheds light on the changing hues of societies clamoured in communal disharmony. In showcasing cultural diversity and lifestyle variances of the cities of Allahabad and Delhi's densely Muslim-populated Okhla areas, it raises numerous questions on the current political chutzpah plaguing otherwise unsuspected peace-loving Hindus and Muslims. There is planned political vendetta venom, which is spreading communal hatred.

The novel's plot meticulously showcases emotional appeal, cultural diversities, and situational ironies besides revealing histories. With the projection of impromptu events taking the story to the next level of maturity, the prejudiced prelude of extravagance due to anguish and hatred is food for thought. The conflicts developed in the respective societies towards two communities are scary scenes, damaging India's cultural and religious diversity. There is a projection of the chauvinist ilk of masses in India who blindly support certain political ideologies to buttress hatemongers in every community. They, as a result, force societies to face their doom.

Through the protagonist characters as victims of a situational irony affected by a random Covid-19 lockdown and forced to stay with an unsuspecting family in Delhi upon their arrival to a new place from their hometown in Allahabad, the novel projects a tumultuous situation that was enough to bring communal disharmony. The book justifies narrating cultures compared in terms of two social trends—rural and urban setups – in portraying rustic Allahabad to vibrant Delhi, conservative Muslim societies in Delhi suburbs to Allahabad villages to societies forced for hate-mongering.

Firdous Azmat Siddiqui

But the novel's progression in the events makes the narrative enlivened depiction, as if scenes occur before one's eyes. At the same juncture, it justifies the ray of hope through respect for humanity that is beyond religious bifurcations.

The characters from a Muslim household in Delhi otherwise support their unsuspecting distant relative from Allahabad and “his so-called wife—although she was not," and she a non-Muslim friend of his accompanying intending to be escorted until she meets her lover in Delhi. The plot crosses several milestones in paving the way for cultural diversities with robust communal harmony's emergence as a winner. Its balanced conclusion breaks the myth that neither Hindus nor Muslims are warmongers. They are rather peace-loving humans for whom human sentiments and humanity are beyond religious ergonomics.

Discussed in the current context of social harmony, Zindaan is a seminal novel. It urges every reader what if the story could be a reality—and perhaps is a reality somewhere. The Covid-19 pandemic brought many agonies, bringing new hope and preparing us to face new challenges.

Suppose one presumes the novel's plot is a reality in which a devoted non-Muslim young girl from a conservative society, firm in her faith and having grown up in that culture is forced to stay far off, finds herself concealed as if in prison due to the pandemic, hiding her identity to be a Muslim in a household that fully believes in Islamic ideals and adheres to that with dedication.

The outcome of one quickly planned modus operandi based on untruth due to pandemic lockdown forces her to stay with her male Muslim friend in a household “disguised as a newly married couple and still keep herself pure with the loads of untruths they are forced to showcase.” The plot speaks much about how months of her forced caged life in a strange place with people of another faith breaks the myths of a girl who was otherwise groomed to hate that religion, but she perceived that in a different context after her experience.

This book is a must-read to comprehend cultural diversity and communal harmony. It should be translated into vernacular and English languages so that this voice reaches millions of unsuspecting masses keen on understanding their lives in a new perception of finding strengths of their faiths and religious ideologies while also respecting others in a similar prism.

The novelist deserves applause for penning such a remarkable story: one that is a reality in our societies.