Amar Jaleel’s Love, Longing And Death: A Review

Amar Jaleel started his career at Radio Pakistan Karachi, before being transferred to Islamabad, where he worked in different positions at radio and educational institutions. Now retired, Jaleel currently resides in Karachi, Sindh, where he spends his leisure time writing articles for various Pakistani newspapers, and is known as a popular columnist for Dawn and The Nation currently working with a private regional Sindhi TV channel as anchor program class room.

His recent book, Love, Longing and Death: is set against the backdrop of the Partition and its social, political and psychological repercussions on the people in India and Pakistan, the stories in Love, Longing and Death take you through the author’s journey through the sixty catastrophic years in history from 1947 to 2008. You feel as you’re own, the agony, pain and trauma of the victims trapped in the holocaust. At times, you sense to have come alive from the horrors of 1947. The book brings you a fresh experience in literature.

Jaleel’s book starts from a boy who has watched the miseries of life from partition, the boy saw his school burning before his eyes. Eleven year boy sung ‘Saray jahan say acha Hindutan hamara’ (Our India is the best in the entire world) when partition was about to begin. Thus the boy instinctively began reciting the anthem and walked towards school which was being swallowed up by the flames. The second story is ‘A train to Karachi’ about an old man named as Chandu who travels from Khkhropar to Karachi means from india to Pakistan.

Unfortunately Chandu was not allowed to enter in Pakistan because he was not having Pakistani passport and was thrown back. Jaleel after scratching harsh realities of partition enters in Pakistan and tells about history that how history was being destroyed by the people. He talks about Karachi Zebunissa Street orginal name was Elphinston Street it was emptied from within, man fulfills his dreams without. There was a skin store at zebunissa street according to Amar the salesman had mesmerized the customers with his articulation and body language.

Jaleel now portrays politicians of Pakistan by indirectly countering them such as one of the politician says I am neither a famous nor an infamous politician; nor am I notorious celebrity surrounded by scandals. I don’t have dubious bank accounts, thus he portrays them as corrupt and inhumane activists. Suddenly the writer now switches towards 21st century and starts with “Diwan Giddumal Mental Hospital” and discusses their hardships with patients.

The writer was surrounded by charyas (fool) people and was demanded to sing a song for them so he instantly sung “tu bhi Pakistan hai, mein bhi Pakistan hoon, ye bhi Pakistan hai, wo bhi Pakistan hai.”

A father and son story now discusses about bomb blasts in Karachi which were very terrifying. The earth trembled and the sky hid behind the mysterious haze. The bomb blast occurred at Marriot hotel in Karachi, and it was father’s day. A person named lala who lost his son Rama in that blast and the father was torn in pieces his son was no more.

What happened to khuda? Is a story which describes about khuda-ki-basti at Karachi. Writer after descriping this now once again moves back to 1947, he again dicusses the misries and hardships of scared and terrified independence. A person named Adam who is now helpless watching at the dead bodies, limbs, blood and dust were scattered all over. Adam was paying for the freedom.

The next story is titled as Mother and Sons, the story starts with a woman whose husband is died, and she was pretty woman. She received many proposals of marriage by worthy and unworthy persons but she rejected all of them. Mother had four sons, but unfortunately she had only son with whom she was living.

Three other sons often visited her after three to four months for ten to fifteen minutes. Thence, she had only son who lived with her and she spent her life in miseries. Food for thought is another which again takes readers to the dilemma of war where few children are searching for food. Children rush towards cave to find food but they saw several limbs and mutilated bodies of men.

The story ends where children were searching for food but they gave up because they were given choice whether they need food or food for thought by a guide. They chose food for thought and in the end they realized that they had overeaten food for thought

Thus writer now concludes with love, longing and death, talks about the Urs (anniversary) of Shah Abdul Bhittai, the Sufi poet of Sindh. Author has covered the Sufi poet’s annual for Urs for several years. He talks about love storiy which took place at the shrine of Bhittai and girl named as Tamana, Tmana whose lover is no more, and was killed by her father. She was killed because she loved. It was her punishement that why did she loved?

The part which I liked the most in Jaleel’s stories is the last part, this part also depicts on freedom. Freedom and love has no boundaries but if love and freedom are not achieved then they become war. Tamana was a girl who was from Sindh, she was living in a country which got its independence in 1947, it means she was living in an independence country but unfortunately she was not enjoying that freedom.

Thus Tamana was killed by her own father because she had no right to go beyond the boundaries, boundaries which were set by her father, boundaries which were set by society; it means she had no freedom to love. Hence, she was bound to live her father’s life because of that her father killed her.

Amar’s stories are woven with mysticism, around forbidden issues in religions, politics, traditions, and the changing human values in the dwindling world. Read him once, and you will read him again. I started reading his books in Sindhi when I was 20. He really portrays the lives of so many like me out there who are aliens in their own homes among their own loved ones (friends & families). This book is also an exceptional piece but not everyone will revere it because it consists of stories of aliens written by an alien.

Excerpt from the book: “‘Why’ more than just a word is. It has an entire world of intrinsic values and behavioral patterns. It is imbued with the strength to question. It cultivates courage and infuses an indomitable desire to know. If it settles in the soul it completely alters your life. You begin to realize that there is an Ultimate Truth beyond each truth. ‘Why’ keeps you absorbed in thinking. You keep pondering on so-called facts that come in conflict with your common sense.

You instinctively refuse to accept the truth on its face value that stirs doubts within you. Perturbed, you strive to go beyond the apparent truth and unearth the actual Truth.” This ‘why’ keeps people like us aliens in our society? We are called ‘Pagal’, ‘Crack’, ‘Chariyo’, ‘Pyshco’, ‘Emo freak’ etc. etc. by our own so-called loved ones who try to mold us in their own way but they fail. Thus, we look for our solitude as our best companion.

Sain rightly mentions this somewhere relating to his life, “With ‘Why’ hooked in his heart the boy grew up with visible signs of his inability to merge with the society and the culture he was breathing in. Gradually he became a loner and a stranger. He went to colleges and universities, earned degrees and diplomas, but remained an alien in his own environs. Instead of mingling with people, he withdrew and preferred solitude. He was looked at suspiciously….”

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