However I will restrict my opinions to only two books as I don’t want to drag you in my amateur analysis.
The first book is from India, titled “Five Point Someone”. Now for a book to appeal to its readers, not only it has to be well written, but the content should be interesting and properly researched. FPS is a story of three friends ‘stuck’ in an Engineering University, somewhere in India. How many times have we thought that the purpose of our studies is to get admitted in the best university and …..and ….. let the university take care of the rest. Well the problem is that getting in a good university does not guarantee lucrative jobs, big checks, lavish office and a beautiful life partner. On the contrary, it’s just the start of a big mess, you can get yourself into. The three characters try to screw with the system only to be screwed back. The novel tale is so delightfully narrated that you start feeling like one of the characters. Ok, at times it is a quite exaggerating but then that’s the magic of fiction. This book is a mockery of Indian educational system (much similar to what we have here) which leaves no stone unturned in churning out muggers and not identifying the real talent. This light-hearted work is highly recommended for all those who have ever been associated with an engineering university and maybe also for non-engineering university students to draw comparisons. The book is penned down by Chetan Bhagat , former engineering student and though he tells it in the eyes of Hari, the story is very much believed to be of his own life as a student in IIT. Lastly, it inspired ‘3 idiots’, but the book makes for a much more entertaining version.
The second book happens to be from Pakistan, A Case of Exploding Mangoes. This book, like its predecessor, happens to be a little old as well. My mere justification for not reading it then has more to do with its boring title. Forgive my senses, but I REALLY thought of it to be a detailed research on the king of fruits. On being enlightened that it covered the plane crash of Gen Zia, and I slated it as some boring inquiry on political history. It was only when the book made headlines and won praises from various circles that I decided to go through with the boring adventure of politics expected to churn out from this offering. Gladly, I was mistaken ONCE AGAIN. Yes it does discuss the plane crash but not the political boring style. Instead, the book is basically a work of fiction focusing on a cadet officer Ali Shigri. It starts from his parade days in PAF academy, leading up to the demise of Gen Zia. Far from coming to a conclusion about the cause of his death, the book happily thickens the stew of conspiracy theories, introducing at least six other possible suspects, including a blind woman under sentence of death, a Marxist-Maoist street cleaner, a snake, a crow, an army of tapeworms and Ali Shigri. Inspite of witty humour, good concept and well written content, the book fails to impress me. Seriously, I don’t know what all the hype is about. Firstly, our writers need to get out of the Zia era, there have been too many books written, articles penned down and cries echoed on the comparison of pre-Zia and post-Zia era. Books, fiction that is, are supposed to be either optimistic or truthful. What’s a false pessimist version doing out there, completely baffles and disappoints me. Academies are meant to inculcate not only military values but also moral ethics and social values, where lying, cheating and stealing are considered as acts liable to be withdrawn. Instead a sheer false and negative idea has been portrayed here with the protagonist is involved in all illicit activities within the dimension of academy. Another wrong perception that the writer holds is regarding the instructors in academy to be incompetent officers. Only the best and highly trained staff is sent to the academy, these officers are the first we see of a military life. And their impeccable behavior has long made sure they end up retiring on high posts. Our then Army chief has been depicted as a confused and scared man , just because he tries to find the answers of daily life in Quran, prays five times a day and wants everyone to live their life as per the pattern of Islam. At the same time the hero is involved in drinking; intimate relationships and someone who is totally goof to the art of praying. The institution of Army has been portrayed as greedy, power craving, evil genius bent on destroying the nation. The story only caters to the selected civilian lot who may find Army as a threat to their existence or are jealous of the army and the authority she enjoys in Pakistan. Muhammad Hanif had the potential to come up with a thought provoking, sensibly written novel instead he comes out as a man of jealousy, personal grudge and full of biasness. Read it only if you think Army is responsible for all the mess in the country, otherwise don’t bother.