Umera Ahmed, a prolific writer was, in my opinion, having some of her best writing days when she penned this masterpiece.
Peer-e-Kamil her previous work is a novel that is loved and adored by almost anyone and everyone who can get their hands on it.
But, with Mann o Salwa, Umera Ahmed gave the readers a chance to develop a love-hate relationship.
I remember starting the novel at 11 p.m. and then I couldn’t sleep the whole night. I just could not put it down. That is the kind of strength of the plot of this book.
It is one of my favorites but I still get angry, sad and really emotional when I talk about it or even think of it. It broke my heart just too many times, it just would not give a moment of peace to breathe and relax. It was tense, it was dramatic, it was heart wrenching but it was brilliant.
I know this is a huge comparison to make and I might be a little biased when I say this: but nefore this only Khalid Hosseini’s “Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” emotionally drained and paralyzed me for more than two weeks.
The way Umera Ahmed has portrayed grief and struggle and bitterness in this world; I was kind of paralyzed the same way. If you can pen down pain and suffering anywhere near to the way Khalid Hosseini has done I think you have done complete justice to the portrayal of anguish.
The novel follows the story of Zainab; her family, the upheavals her life went through. The complete change in her life from an honest, diligent but a poor man’s daughter to a powerful, corrupt and devious film actress. The people who made her miserable and the way she avenged herself.
Zainab’s father once told her: “When Allah withholds something from you, don’t go begging for the same thing from human beings Zaini; or else you will suffer a lot.”
It follows the story of Karam Ali, one of the kindest, nicest characters I have come across in a book.
But this novel has so many faces, so many stories, and so many lives building and destroying simultaneously. Umera Ahmed has to be credited for creating such a flow in her words and in her story line and narration that the reader never gets confused despite so much going at the same time.
She has handled multiple characters, their pain, their growth, their progress and their downfall so dexterously that even after you are done with the gigantic book; you still crave reading more.
When we cannot get over the betrayal and pain that someone we have loved dearly gives us; it can destroy our stability. This element has been described skillfully. But something that we all forget is that sometimes; planning, executing and even taking the perfect revenge from someone may not give us the peace we are looking for.
Sometimes we just need to let go and find that peace within us because revenge does not harm the person we target as much it wrecks us.
One of the lead characters: Zainab, could not let go. She could not forgive and forget; and planned her whole life around retribution. But she lost a lot more than she gained in this chase.
And Karam Ali; the always forgiving, always optimistic person: with his character we learnt that it is absolutely necessary sometimes to detach ourselves from those who harm us. Sometimes too much forgiveness and too much kindness can backlash. The world is a hard selfish place; and if we won’t stand up for ourselves, nobody else might either.
Some of my favorite lines from the novel were:
“Sometimes you don’t need faces. You just need voices. A voice which has sympathy; which cuts away all the ulcers from your being and then sews up each of the wounds with love and kindness.”
I can never really do justice in describing just how good the book is. Umera Ahmed’s unmatched ability is that writes novels in simple yet riveting words; so that even those with not a great grasp of the language can understand and relate. So I would recommend that if you haven’t read urdu novels before, this would be a great place to start.
A drama serial based on this novel was later featured on Hum Tv. It was an interesting watch but I still felt the story in the novel was a lot better in many ways than the drama portrayed. The OST of the drama is really beautiful so I guess you can enjoy that while you read the book.
I would rate this book a solid 4/5 stars.