Breathing life in the everyday settings of Karachi

“On the surface, the book is a simple tale of friendship, but actually it is much more,” writes Ashaar Saeed.

‘Melody of a Tear’ is Haroon Khalid Akhtar’s debut novel. Haroon was born in Lahore, and works as a banker. His father was a distinguished Urdu writer, which ensured Haroon’s house was filled with books during his growing up years, giving Haroon his unique voice and sensibility.

The novel is from the top drawer and certainly one of the best I’ve read in recent times. The purity of story and expression appears like a baby just out of the womb, that steadily grows as the narrative progresses. Soon, a unique story unfolds in the everyday settings of Karachi, and some unusual characters make the city come further alive, thanks to the curious love for it they possess in their hearts. The writer has an effortless knack of breathing life into brick and mortar structures like Cantt Railway Station, among other places.

All the three central characters of the novel, Zara, Zaid and Waris are on a similar journey with a quest that manifests itself in ways as unique as they themselves are. What emerges out of the journeys, is a story of sheer passion that beautifully highlights how certain motives and emotions overpower our behaviour.

All characters are extremely well sketched and described. Zara is suicide-prone who does not fall in the established gender binary. As she is treated like a son by her family, she really struggles and grapples in defining her sexuality. Her pursuit is full of passion and guilt. Zaid is Zara’s college-mate and both share feelings for each other.

The second part of the story is full of twists that leave a reader surprised. We meet Waris, who is strong and well-built, and certainly a real hero to me. He is a writer who leaves a manuscript for Zara to complete after his death. The author beautifully highlights that how certain intentions, rationales and emotions define the way we act. As the story unfolds and we reach the end, we come across choices and options that can stun and shatter any reader.

The writing style of the author is elegant. The characters seem to be brimming with life, such is the power of his words. I also liked the pace of the story, which is neither too fast, nor too slow.  Zara, Zaid and Waris take you on a wonderful, complex and distinct journey, as the writer weaves a multi layered and special tale. Its characters are powerful, and create a pull in the readers urging to explore them further at the turn of every page. Everything fits in masterfully in the end, after a topsy-turvy ride of passion and guilt.

On the surface, it is a simple tale of friendship, but actually it is much more. It is an in-depth study of the various shades and nuances of human behaviour. It is a complex book that deserves all the praise and raving reviews it is getting. The most enjoyable bit for a reader would be the razor sharp satire in the punch lines. They adorn and elaborate the story beautifully. One reading of this absorbing novel might not be enough to make one appreciate it, especially for literature connoisseurs. It is like a delectable cuisine that has to be savoured with patience and excitement at the same time.

(L) – Melody of a Tear; (R) – Haroon Khalid Akhtar

Ashaar Saeed has worked as an HR professional for the last 25 years, and has been associated with large MNCs as well as local business groups. He thrives on books, especially on fiction and poetry.

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