Ali Sethi is a young writer albeit an experienced one. Of course in my opinion, some writers have inborn talent and the remaining few manage to reach desired levels after years of cultivation of the habit. It’s difficult to compartmentalize Sethi in such specific divisions but he has the sparks of talent.
The protagonist Zaki Shirazi is perhaps the only male character in spotlight and in the entire duration of story telling, he even appears dwarfed by the female characters around him; his mother Zakia, Daadi (paternal grandmother), cousin Samar Api and servant Naseem.
People usually have this wrong notion that working women are the only ones who exert their personality and housewives are an example of docility. None of Zaki’s women, who are housewives (except for his mother) really rebel against tradition but they are firm in asserting their own rights wherever required. Whether it is Daadi refusing to stay with her wily mother-in-law, Samar exerting herself in her relationship or the servant Naseem who manages to buy a wagon for her son or wangle a trip to
, these women refuses to be bullied by
life. However, Zaki’s mother is the real heroine. And as according to the
author’s extracted quotation of the Prophet, Mecca Paradise lies at the feet of the mother.
Taking difficult decisions on her own, bringing up Zaki as a single parent, and running a progressive women’s magazine, she might also be expected to impart a similar liveliness to her son as well. And this is probably where Sethi disappoints. Zaki doesn’t seem to have a definite personality as expected from a protagonist. Instead he absorbs life’s nuances as they come upon him, unlike his female relatives who fight their way out. This might also be an extension of Sethi’s view of preferred male behaviour where according to Zaki’s Urdu poetry spouting teacher, the men should know their place and observe modesty just as the women should. And this tone runs throughout the entire story.
Another peculiarity of The Wish Maker is that Sethi mentions a lot of big events – the India-Pakistan partition, different elections and regimes in
just touches upon them. One can know little of the impact of these life-changing
events on the story’s characters because even they comment very little on them.
The best part of the book is the way different time-periods are interspersed
and almost glide towards completing the whole story ; and of course the
climactic last line ” ..your Amitabh has
Overall it is a nice read but somehow I still feel I didn’t learn much about the Pakistani culture, or is it my biased mindset which expects a whale of differences between the two countries that probably are still as similar as they were before the night of 15 August 1947.