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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Pages 184.
Hamish Hamilton.
March 2007.

This is possibly the longest I've waited from the time I've read a book I loved to the time I've written about it. Since its a day to go before the month changes to March, thought the wait should end. This was after all a brilliant read, and the fingers have been itching to punch out those words and say it aloud.

The story begins at a cafe table in Lahore. Here Changez , a Pakistani man narrates the tale that's led to his fateful meeting with an American stranger. The strains of unease are apparent as Changez starts talking about his life which was in every sense of the term an immigrant's dream of America.

A student at Princeton, he lands a dream job with an elite firm specialising in the valuation of companies. It is the kind of job where you whip your visiting card and you can awe an audience with not your name, rather that of the company. The kind that comes complete with the joy of business class travel, five star hotels and a few shattered dreams that only can the discerning can see. It is typically the kind of job that thrives on the energy of New York. It is here that Changez believes he has found himself and the love of his life.

"Looking back now, I see there was a certain symmetry to the situation: I felt I was entering in New York the very same social class that my family was falling out of in Lahore. Perhaps this accounted for a good part of the comfort and satisfaction I found in my new environment. But an even greater part of my happiness in those days was due to being in the regular company of Erica."

Nothing seems to stop Changez's rise to the top, not even thoughts of home. The power of love gives him that imagined sense of invincibility. Something that has the power to change in an instant. That moment comes in the form of September 11. No, there are no descriptions of the familiar rubble, the cries for help. As you turn page after riveting page, the changes work subtly but more powerfully.

Our worlds get transformed. Author Mohsin Hamid knows. Post 9/11, he has been held in questioning rooms at JFK Airport. While things never got nasty, it did make him feel unwelcome.

It is perhaps that sense of unease that makes 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' take the tone he does in the second half of the book:
"As a society, you were unwilling to reflect upon the shared pain that united you with those that attacked you. You retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority."

It is such an America that Changez and his creator want to change. With that Hamid brings the clash between the East and the West to the fore in a book that like the name of its creator is all about change - subtle, imagined, nuanced.

No surprise that 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' was the talk of the London Book Fair and went on to get the UK, US, Dutch, Italian, Norwegian and Dutch deals simultaneously. It is Hamid's second novel and looks all set to add to the track record he set with his debut - 'Moth Smoke'. Published in 10 languages, Moth Smoke won a Betty Trask Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Clearly, Hamid's is a voice to watch.

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