urdu review
Courage strikes back
Amar Nath Wadehra

Samandar Ab Khamosh Hai
by Kashmiri Lal Zakir
Educational Publishing House, Delhi. Pages: 144. Rs 125.

Samandar Ab Khamosh HaiUnpredictable are the ways of destiny. A wise person does not lay store by its benignancy, but relies on his own efforts to overcome perils in life. This is one of the messages that come through in this novel. K. L. Zakir has been writing for more than 50 years, during which, he has won many awards. He has explored myriad aspects of human psyche and situations. In his latest offering, he gives us a quotable quote: "Jahan bajti hai shehnai wahan matam bhi hote hain (mourning and celebrations go hand in hand)."

The prose is crisp and the narrative precise; descriptions are vivid but not verbose, thus the reader stays engrossed till the finish.

The novel breaks new ground, as it is based on a recent natural calamity, tsunami, that devastated the littoral states of South East Asia as well as our southern shores (the latter happens rarely).

Zakir narrates the saga of Abdul Rashid’s family in Madurai facing relentless penury. Rashid moves his entire family (his wife, Anwari Begum, three married daughters and their husbands, and a son) to Kuwait, where the family prospers.

His son, Shakeel Hameed, graduates in software engineering and takes up a job in Kuwait. The family enjoys strong bonds, which helps it overcome all sorts of problems.

Shakeel’s parents begin to search for a suitable bride for him. After a long search, they select a bride, Rizwana, from Madurai.

The marriage is solemnized with fanfare. The couple, Shakeel’s parents, sisters and brothers-in-law go to the seaside to pay homage to a Pir’s tomb there when tsunami strikes and kills several members of the family. Only Shakeel, his two sisters and brothers-in-law survive.

Ironically, the tomb, where the people used to come for seeking protection against all perils, too is washed away. Shakeel, now an emotional wreck, begins to wander in different countries like Sri Lanka and Malaysia and witnesses the aftermath of the tsunami strike.

Pained by his own loss and moved by the post-tsunami human misery, he loses faith in God and His naibs. He declares himself a kafir and returns to Madurai. Later, in Kuwait, he marries a Christian woman, Mary. Gradually, he and the other surviving members of his family rebuild their lives, signifying the triumph of human spirit over the vagaries of nature. The sea is quiet now, but tsunamis may strike unexpectedly, as might other natural disasters. Yet, life shall go on.

Zakir devotes a lot of attention to developing the characters and their thoughts. The author has obviously kept in touch with the post-tsunami events and developments, for he has included real-life details of devastation like the Air Force station being wiped off, miracles like a girl surviving the waves by clinging to a plank, guarded by serpents. Later, a helicopter picks her up.

He has also documented the tale of survival of the daughter of an Air force officer and the survival techniques of the tribesmen of Nicobar, whose demographic and anthropological details have been given accurately.