The title is an invitation, so is the book cover and what more to catch my interest – the blurb said it’s about two friends, their journey from the cradle (not to the grave yet)… but well into their adult years… the story of Raheen (Ra) and Kareem (Cream) and their families: the relationships between fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, between best friends, a group of friends, not-so friends and acquaintance.
The novel is about maps, mapping a city, finding the different streets, the little known or unknown.. remembering a city by the maps we have in our mind from long ago and then make a profession out of if – Cartography with K is all about life in Karachi. I remember a conversation with a blog friend, about how she and her sister residing in different cities now, sometimes, map the streets they grew up in as a fancy, a passtime, an exercise of memory, a nostalgia of an earlier life 🙂
However, Kartography primarily maps the turmoil of an elite set of families as they grapple with their identities – identity of being a Muslim born and brought up in Karachi as opposed to a Muhajir (an immigrant Muslim) born and brought again in the same city, but whose parents made Karachi home at the time of Partition as opposed to being a Bengali Muslim (speaking Bangla and Muslim again but from Bangladesh) in Karachi at the time of the 1971 civil war and thereafter. The ghost of the Partition of 1947 looms large in the background.
May be it’s all about being a South Indian and not so much part of Northern India geographically that 15 August 1947 was always about Independence for me and a bunch of my friends. The Partition angle was lost somewhere in the pages of history to be never remembered actively until now. How many us think about the Partition in a way it is thought about in parts of say Punjab and Bengal the places which were affected by it : there are families with memories of a life elsewhere during pre-partition, a longing, some with bitter memories of the riots and the damage that occurred during the displacement… being part or being just located in that geography. Reading this book was therefore an eye-opener.
I came across the word Muhajir for the first time in the film Sarfarosh when the Pakistani High Commissioner in the film referred to Naseeruddin Shah as a Muhajir. The conversation thereafter replays the bitterness of Shah’s character and a feeling of homelessness in spite of being in the country of his own kind. Reading the book foregrounds similar politics of that film in a large way. Or it is all about who is a Karachiwala or a Karachiite!
I wouldn’t write a book review if I hated the book 😛 Loved it! and Recommended. Kartography for most part is about the childhood of a group of 4 kids, (whose parents are also friends and business partners,) their school lives and their fun, their remorse at being separated, their reunion and the problems when love creeps in among the group. Best of all, there is the creativity of the kids in making anagrams of every thing… 🙂 Anagrams like in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code 😉
Recommended and readable…
Kartography |Fiction | Author: Kamila Shamsie |2002| Harcourt, Bloomsbury| ISBN: 0-15-101010-2| Karachi, Partition, Separation, Immigrants, Friendship, Children, Migration, Pakistan|