Of Mudslinging And Other Tales

Of Mudslinging And Other Tales
There are books for which you invent a reaction for obvious reasons and thus they are boring and leaden, and then there are books that prompt a spontaneous reaction and definitely carry tendencies to hook you – and here was the latter type of book.

The first glance at the cover consumed all my attention and I started interpreting it. I decided that once I am done with all the 11 short stories, I would relate them all with this stupendous design. In fact, I would go so far as to share with the reader my interpretation of it.

Let’s start with a brief description of a few stories that stirred me:

The first story and also one of my favourites – “Pani Agaya” – is thought-provoking. I fell in love with the interlocutor of the narrator - how courteously it instils in him the importance of what he takes for granted. Not to mention that the contrast that is drawn between humans and plants is mind-blowing. Being a gardener, I am quite cognisant of the powerful working of nature - how it helps me when I find myself on the verge of collapse – a magical impact.

"Mudslinging," on which the name of the book is predicated, is a section that comprises a few shortest stories that revolve around the theme of corruption. Moreover, it vividly describes the futility of our institutions which are being tarnished in the blame game and used for settling a score.

The story “Rishwat Khor” made me utter ‘tch tch’ at his helplessness. What else could one do in desperate times, other than resorting to debased means when left with no choice? The blood, sweat and tears that he so earnestly invests in his project slip through his fingers when he encounters imminent danger. However, he consequently avoids the looming humiliation, albeit his heart is filled with guilt.

“SMS love” was a silly delight, it brought a smile to my face after reading an intense story about bribery.

“The Lonely Man” had me in tears; the father’s unconditional love for his son remains unrequited and his son’s utter indifference — oh, it was heart-wrenching. Caveat: keep a tissue box beside and thank me later.

“Tharki Uncle” – ah, it was a bittersweet tale of repressed desires, wishes and dreams that transported me to psychoanalysis lectures. I enjoyed applying the principles of psychoanalysis theory to it. I like this story for its depth, and latent content, which is depicted in a befitting way.

The sectarian strains embedded in the story “Musalman hoon mein” are riveting. And it was hard to imagine the lingering torment that a person goes through once they fall prey to the ignorant ones. When the embers of sectarianism are stoked, the repercussions are stark.

“Peela Peela” really was as the name suggests: despondent and somewhat boring as well. There is a vivid portrayal of a Sarkari office and the dreary daily drills. A man in this story awaits his approval to pension claims upon which his entire wish list, nay, his essentials, are dependent. He waits and waits until he goes lunatic. It contains comical hints, too.

In “Kutta Kahani,” I took great delight in the story of a shrewd dog – one which nicely raises questions about the double standards of the best creatures. I enjoyed the gossip about his master’s unfaithfulness. At the end of it, I blurted, “Awww! Cute.” It was amusing indeed.

Almost all the stories somehow delineate how we use religion to satiate our impulses and thus our seeming uprightness is laid bare outright. A concoction of debauchery, indifference, unfaithfulness, selfishness, bribery and abuse of religion stirs you to the core. There is something very special in each one of them. It will certainly make you ponder. Nearly all of them are thoroughly relatable.

The tone is non-judgmental. The language flows effortlessly like a brook. It is simple and sophisticated. I found the employment of the vernacular amusing, which highlights the significance of the subject matter.

Now coming back to the cover design – as right off the bat, I had mentioned that I would let the reader know about my interpretation of it; each story has a moral to inculcate and makes one look inward, just like the inward spiral depicted on the cover. This is an emblem of spiritual development, and it can only be accomplished by exercising the art of looking inward. I highly recommend this book: 5 stars.

Syeda Laluna is a freelance writer, literature enthusiast, and gardener based in Islamabad. Her artistic work can be viewed on instagram: @syedalaluna