This house of clay and water – A story of forbidden love in Pakistan
Author – Faiqa Mansab
Publisher – Penguin Random House
Format – Hardcover
Kindleandkompass rating – 4.5/5
That house of clay and water – set in the current day Lahore is a story of three souls who seek love, freedom and identity.
Nida, the intelligent woman married to a politically affluent family, obliged to love her husband unconditionally seeks to be set free from the sacredness of the religion and marriage. She frequents the Datta Sahib Darga to ease her mind and seek solace.
Sasha, the free spirited and rebellious, belonging to a middle-class family, dreams of a luxurious life, uses her sexuality to her advantage and escorts different men to explore luxury and freedom. She ignores her family and leaves them deprived of her love and attention.
Bhangi, the hermaphrodite, is an outcast who chronicles ‘his’ life at the Datta Sahib Darga. After years of gender insult and harassment,’ he’ finds refuge under a banyan tree in the Darga, singing prayers and blessing the visitors.
The three protagonists meet by chance at the Darga. Friendship, love, betrayal pays a visit after which their lives undergo drastic changes.
The narrative style is multi-person point of view with Nida, Sasha,Bhangi narrating in the subsequent chapters.The plot revolves majorly around the three characters and a few other characters step in when required. Mansab’s language is beautiful, but over-wrought in a few places, and soulful when it involves Nida and Bhangi.
Mansab neatly depicts the modern-day Lahore city, its streets, minarets, traffic, festivals, food, customs, believes and patriarchy. A city where there is hypocrisy, power, money and religious beliefs that dictates how one must lead a life. The author’s attempt in addressing social issues like womanhood, poverty, female infanticide, child abuse and religious misconceptions as a part of the plot is commendable. In a style that’s very familiar, she narrates how the protagonists belonging to a conservative society choose to be atypical and how they travel towards an end that is unexpected and will leave you teary eyed.
Bhangi, who lives in the Darga playing a flute and blessing people reminds you of Anjum, the outcast from Arundati Roy’s “Ministry of utmost happiness”, who lives in a graveyard and stands for people who are in seek of love and happiness. But the story takes a complete different form when a love so unconventional blooms between the two protagonists, a love that is matured and considered a taboo in the society.
Though Mansab’s style resembles a bit of Ms.Roy (read flowery) here and there, she makes it interesting with her choice of Lahore as the backdrop.
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