There is no dearth of exquisitely rendered and gripping novels in Urdu. Still, hardly any Urdu novelist has attempted to bring about an engrossing critique of a society where android appliances produce ever-increasing interest in the users generated content and entertainment.
The perils of a world where history is not more than data which needs constant updating can only be depicted through a dystopian novel that, as opposed to a utopia, sews up a multilayered narrative of an imagined world where all our frightening dreams come true.
It sets up Animal Farm, 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 and The Handmaids Tale. In line with awe-inspiring novels, the celebrated and prolific Urdu novelist Musharraf Alam Zauqi maps a new terrain of his creativity by producing perhaps the first dystopian novel in Urdu, Marge Anboh (Mass Death) that has been creating waves in the subcontinent.
Modelled on the Orwellian structure, Zauqis latest novel manifests a nuanced sense of bewilderment caused by living in a country that knows nothing more than buying and selling, It is a technology-driven society where people long for physical pleasures and sensual gratification. The widespread acceptance of the Orwellian adage, All animals are equals, but some are more equal than others, which results in rampant discrimination and injustice prompts immensely popular novelist to understand how a much- talked about the effort to usher in better days causes unbearable miseries and disastrous decline at all levels.
Skilfully divided into five chapters, the novel explains the deeper meaning of the much-touted nationalism. It begins with reproducing Serveshwar Dayal Saxenas poem that says, Country is not a map drawn on the paper/ murder of a boy, Death of a women/the body of a man riddled with gunshots/ Not only for the government, but it is also dangerous for the whole country/ if this land does not run like fire in your blood/ you must realise that you have become infertile/ you have no right to breathe here. At the outset, Zauqi refers to Steve Jobs for whom the most significant invention of life was death to embrace all the contradictions that develop a unique philosophy of the new generation.
A 20-year-old student Pasha Mirza, a proud resident of Youngistan, revels in sexually driven and self-righteous life. The painful decimation of values and the loss of individuality and constant reliance on technology take the children to a place not habituated by fairies and goblins but where lethal toys and life-threatening mischiefs abound.
Here everyone is reduced to a consumer good like toothpaste, cricket bat, football, instant noodles, and pizza and dangers of conformity writ large.
Pasha Mirza and his friend Raymond feel attracted to the Illuminati who draw power from the evil spirit. For them, death is the most enthralling fantasy, and Blue Whale games provide an exhilarating experience to them. Pasha, Raymond, Gracey, Puneet, Sara Jahangir, and Puneet don't blurt out guilt-ridden confessions. Still, their utterances and actions string together a multi-linear narrative of angst, stress, discrimination, chaos, hope, and despair that stirs rage and pity and thrills and torments us simultaneously. Many seek their life in ruins, and long estrangements with their parents and family hardly rack them.
Zauqi, who won the prestigious Majlis-e Farogh-e Urdu Adab Award, Doha has brought about a scathing critique as a response to the regime that is dehumanising, frightening and savagely oppressive. Mob lynching is hardly reckoned more than a delinquency.
The subsequent chapters, Jahangir Mirzas diary, Facing Death, Marge Anboh and Walking in Sleep (the last part of Pasha Mirzas story) delve deeply into the everyday life of the society where fascism and capitalism created the all-powerful spectre of jingoism. The heart -wrenching tales of a community show Zauqis commitment to the silenced and the dispossessed all over the world.
The author astutely lumped together poignant stories that depict a sense of belonging and a sense of alienation tersely. For the author, the contemporary political discourse set in motion by the omnipresent magician is a many-tiered affair, which has the potential to be a roller coaster of emotional experience. It is about carved wounds that are not still healed.
Delineating the theme of the novel Zauqi remarks, Marge Anboh revolves around a son and his father. It is about the generation gap, serious acrimonies overwhelmed the small grudges. Villain turned hero, innocent became criminals. Do only Orhan Pamuk and Arundhati Roy have the licence to zero in on this political play? No, Zauqi too is gifted with a marked sense of resourceful inventiveness and that enabled him to bring forward such a pulsating and intriguing dystopian novel which is destined to blaze a new trail in Urdu fiction.