26 September, 2020

Parallel Lives

This overtly gentle story hides, as do the histories within it, a subterranean violence, and its denouement plays this out to the full.

Parallel Lives
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Shahbano Bilgrami’s debut novel tells the story of two lives at different ends of Pakistan’s social spectrum. That of Haroon, son of a wealthy, privileged family, but dealing with a history of terrible violence within the home, and of Abdul, the servant boy, essential to the workings of the kitchen, but otherwise a shadowy, elusive presence who watches everything from the sidelines. Bilgrami delicately sketches the parallel lives of these two young men, each holding up an inverse mirror to the other. Class and privilege are never absent from the story, and yet the violence in both lives provides a telling comment on the different ways in which these play themselves out.

This overtly gentle story hides, as do the histories within it, a subterranean violence, and its denouement plays this out to the full. There are some evocative moments, such as Abdul’s first encounter with the sea. Having asked himself what could be so special about water—after all, it is for bathing and cooking—Abdul is transfixed when he sees "a corrugated sheet of...

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