Book : Twin Tales from Kutcch
Author: Saeed Ibrahim.
Imagine walking through the sands of time in Gujarat and Mumbai during colonial times – a period well known for thriving businesses, flourishing European architectures, antique shipping and trade, traditional mouth watering cuisines, struggle and gradual transformation of lifestyle. Often, the past is forgotten in some corner of our memory. In this context, Saeed Ibrahim’s book “Twin Tales From Kutcch” provides one perfect recipe for us to revisit the gates of nostalgia.
The author has undergone a great deal of research while penning down this novel, and its evident enough in the first few pages (Needless to say, as we read further, the entire novel proves to be a testimony for the same). The detailing has been exemplary. Authors who are keen to begin their writing career with a flight, should surely check out the impeccable manner in which Saeed Ibrahim has worked on his debut with regards to research and detailing. The plot revolves around the lives of the two Aisha (s) i.e. Aisha Jan Mohammad and Aisha Usman. The story is built around how their lives are intertwined with each and further intriguing chain of events that unfold one by one. 10 on 10 for the plot!
The flow of the narrative not only manifests itself through its wonderful usage of lucid language but also takes the reader on a seamless, literary voyage and lets him absorb the essence in each of its chapters that reflects the times of late 19th and early 20th centuries. The writing keeps the reader hooked on. I must mention one thing here – though readers of fast paced novels such as thrillers, horror or science fiction might not find such books entertaining as it doesn’t cater to any spurt of adrenaline, the book is a perfect read for those readers who look to gain knowledge about places and people and other factual details. I would give 8 on 10 for the flow of narration.
The characters are a feast to the readers as they organically develop over the pages. While the author describes about the characters and their lifestyles, one can find themselves immersed while reading the details of their habits and occupations, almost in a sluggish, yet tranquil and inebriated manner.
The book is a little pedantic though and as mentioned earlier, such extensive detailing might overwhelm some readers. For example, in the very beginning one might find the sketch of Jan Mohammad (the father of the protagonist Aisha) dealing with common-folk barbers and their psychology in the yesteryear pretty informative. However, one might also root for the story to gain momentum and bypass the information overload.
Again, we also have a stream of characters which makes the novel interesting as it proceeds forward. Cameo characters (such as Mr Stevens) or supporting characters (such as Khattiboo) were an absolute delight. A full 10 for the author to bring such characters to life.
Dialogues in the story were few considering the grandiose detailing. However, there were a few situational lines which were enough to seal the deal as a definite pick for the history enthusiasts. The title of the novel is very apt. A full 5/5 for that.
The cover of the book is pretty ordinary. It has become a fashion amongst publishers to adopt similar themes – yellow, orange & red with certain fonts which are forcibly applied across all themes – from historical fiction to young adults. I believe the cover should have been a bit more interesting. The cover should have reflected aspects from the novel such as an old bazaar or an outline of the woman. Even a woman in a bazaar would have worked instead of two rural women in the desert with their face veiled up. Gone are the days when both authors and publishers felt that a veil signified mystery for the readers. Contrary to what is said (never judge a book by its cover), a book is certainly judged by its cover. This is because, a book has two kinds of readers: core readers and windfall readers. The latter would very well overlook this drab cover and go for a fashion magazine which defeats the purpose of such a stellar novel. First impression is always the best impression and hence, the cover gets a meager 1/5.
Overall, the ratings of this book clocks a decent 41/50 (4.1/5) and it makes a good read. I would recommend it to history lovers, especially those interested in the colonial era.
Here’s the Amazon link to the Book: https://amzn.to/2Zx1G7w