Published Date: Jun 24, 2012
A class conscious society
Ayesha Salman’s debut novel, Blue
Dust has added some extra points to Pakistani fiction for the year 2012. It is
not an easy one to read. It not only requires time, but emotions, and an
inclination towards poetic writings.
The novel is based in Lahore and the Middle
East. It narrates the dreams, fears, hopes, and relationships of three
generations whose lives share similarities and have differences over rules
defined by society, love, and individuality.
Zaib, the protagonist, is the daughter of a
Muslim man, with a flourishing legal career, and a Christian woman who is a
doctor. Zaib struggles with her insecurities in her relationships with her
father, husband and sister. She views and experiences love in different,
complex forms and this in turn affects her children, and their outlook towards
life. Zaib and her elder daughter Alya share affection towards their “Daddy”,
and have been neglected by their mothers when they needed them most.
Devi, Zaib’s elder sister is another
central character in the story, and unlike Zaib she is emotionally weak, and
relies too much on her sister. She is unable to confront her husband who is a
womaniser, and is helpless about her perplexed son, who from a Muslim fanatic
turns into an atheist. Sonia, Zaib’s younger daughter is the only emotionally
stable character who is courageous enough to question the actions of one’s
Blue Dust is engrossing and its characters
stay with you for a while even when you put the book down, but the world in
which the characters live is magical, and unreal. The acceptance of anti social
behaviour of nearly all the characters by each other makes the reader wonder,
the author it seems has created a magical world to cast an eye on the ignored
abuses, exploitation, infidelity, and lack of acceptance in relationships.
At some instances, however, the flowery
language becomes a bit boring, and breaks the continuity of the book. The story
does not follow a sequence as Ayesha Salman intertwines the lives of Zaib’s
mother, herself, and her daughter. The poetic language quite well explains the
dreams of the characters, and the skill with which it is written is
commendable. The author brings issues such as drug abuse, alcoholism,
depression, male dominance, religious discrimination and many hushed up issues
to the forefront. She has raised issues that we as Muslim majority country are
not supposed to have, and our massive contradictions are touched upon in detail.
Unlike a lot of writers, Salman is upfront
about harassment, criticises Asian family systems, and describes them
explicitly in simple direct language. Blue Dust shows the author’s keen
observation of life around her through lavish description of characters and
incidents. Similarly, the author is vocal about the taboos of a class conscious
society when she narrates the friendship of Zaib with Ghazala, a servant, which
is a central concern for Zaib’s mother.
The book has a philosophical and
psychological tinge to it as Ayesha Salman explores the psyche of individuals,
especially women and how opinions are formed and altered by incidents. On the
lines when psyche are being touched, the issue of mental illness has been deeply
explored. Majority of the characters in the book are mentally ill, unable to
face reality, and in a state of denial.
By Ayesha Salman
Publisher: Roli Books
Price: Rs 250