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A collection of short stories set in contemporary urban and rural Pakistan

A pre-publication review by Soraiya Qadir

Author: Irshad Abdul Qadir

Excellence in originality, concept, language and expression – stories that bring a smile and tear to the discerning reader. A must read for Pakistanis, for those who know Pakistan and for those that wish to know the country; they will appreciate the finer sentiments of ‘Queens Garden’, ‘All in the Family’, ‘Two is an odd Number’, ‘Touch of Humanity’, ‘Clifton Bridge’…and many more.

The characters range from feudal landowners and conscience-stricken Taliban to metropolitan beggars and from frustrated housewives to women defiantly striking out on their own. Themes vary, relating to violence in pastoral surroundings, a providential encounter on the net or in a Victorian food market, the vagaries of an unequal love bond or a rare moment in a Karachi slum. There is a distinctive narrative voice which moves with both vigour and ease through the different milieus it describes. While dexterously structured and controlled, this writing is informed by a raw emotion. The blend is unusual.

A glimpse into some of the short stories

‘Queen’s Garden’
Krishan – a Hindu greengrocer – realises a lifelong dream by acquiring a sales outlet in a Victorian wholesale market dominated by Muslim vegetable vendors. The lives of Krishan and his wife, Savitri, take an unusual turn when he discovers a baby nestling amongst vegetables in his stall. The infant is the outcome of an unforeseen encounter between a Pathan talib and a Catholic girl. Interaction between such diverse protagonists finally determines the child’s fate.

‘All in the Family’
Middle-aged cotton ginner, Daud, father of three, husband to his first cousin, Razia, is enticed into a second marriage by buxom Malika, daughter of a deceased friend. In time, his roving eye falls on a sweet Parsi girl, whom he also plans to marry. Bitter rivals, Razia and Malika are compelled to devise an ingenious scheme for protecting their turf.

‘Two is an Odd Number’ 
The unlikely pairing of Harvard bluestocking, Yasmin and Urdu poet, Talal, starts on a flight between London and Karachi. A painful parting takes place at Georgetown University, Washington. They meet again, by chance, at Covent Garden Opera House along with their new mates. For Yasmin, it’s Stefan, a Swedish-Muslim fundamentalist. Talal’s partner is Sheila Shivdasani, an easy-going Hindu dress designer.

‘Clifton Bridge’
A colonial traffic landmark shelters a family of beggars. Peeru, the adolescent ‘son’, is illiterate and unworldly. He gradually learns to discern good and evil, personified by the mother figure, Rano, a battered peasant widow from rural Sindh, and the paterfamilias, Jumma, who is responsible for having kidnapped the infant Peeru, and profits by criminal schemes centered on the ragamuffin ‘children’ of the family.

‘Touch of Humanity’
Widowed in middle age, with three daughters and limited means, neglected housewife Meherbano, breaks ties with her ultra-conservative family and reinvents herself as an updated single parent career woman. An online encounter develops into a chatting connection which has extraordinary consequences.

‘Through the Lattice’
Chumpa, a teenage maidservant working in a feudal household in rural Punjab, is treated like a family member until reminded by a strange incident of her servile status. On retreating to her peasant homestead, she discovers that certain instincts are common to most men.

About the Author
Irshad Abdul Kadir is a graduate of Cambridge University and a Barrister at Law. He has been practising law for a number of years in Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and England. He is also a lecturer in legal studies specialising in Common Law traditions and reasoning. His collation of notes on the subject are regarded as foundational texts for the LLB programme. Several articles written by him on socio-economics, governance and politics have appeared in newspapers and journals. He is noted too as a theatre critic.
His interest in the civil rights movement in Pakistan has found expression in an organisation called ‘Dialogue Pakistan’ which has been holding monthly public participation seminars on topical issues.
Some of Irshad Abdul Kadir’s excellent short stories have been accepted among others for publishing by UK publisher, Kingslake, and the book will be appearing for sale by the end of this year.

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