I was halfway through “A case of exploding mangoes” when I got the chance to attend a reading by the writer Muhammed Hanif. He turned out to be a breath of fresh air. He read really well and did justice to his words. For a story teller and reporter who has an understated but sharp wit and knows how to put it in words, he was humble, self effacing and very matter of fact about the fact that he is the author of a book that is selling like hot cakes (Ok, I have no official sales figures of the book, but my friends in UK, US and Canada are also reading it and no, not all of them are desis). After the reading, he answered a few questions. Variations of one question that was asked many times was if he faced any threats from the all knowing agencies of Pakistan (The novel mentions ISI and war in Afghanistan, General Zia graces the cover and the version that is being sold in Pakistan is published by Indian publishers). Unlike any two bit journalist in
By the way, I went to the reading to get my copy signed by the writer, but those who know me know how terribly spaced out I am, and forgot to take my copy of the book and it remains unsigned lying on my book shelf.
Here is a small excerpt from the first chapter about what affect does a typical maan behen session has on the main protagonist. Its a gem.
There is something about these bloody squadron leaders that makes them think that if they lock you up in a cell, put their stinking mouth to your ear and shout something about your mother, they will find all the answers …
Does he really think that fuck-your-fucking mother, even when delivered at strength 5, still has any meaning when you are weeks away from becoming a commissioned officer …
I mean when they say that thing about your mother, they have absolutely no intention – and I am certain no desire either – to do what they said they want to do with your mother. They say it because it comes out rapid-fire and sounds cool and requires absolutely no imagination.
Indian and Pakistani Cover (I had taken the jacket off because seeing Gen Zia’s face every time I put the book down was just not worth the irritation)
Original British Cover
North American Cover