Book Review: ‘The Uncommon Memories of Zeenat Qureishi’ by Veena Nagpalby Chaarvi Badani on May 29, 2014 • 9:07 AM No Comments
Publisher: Tara – India Research Press
Price: INR 299
A book on communal violence is never easy to write. And even more so if it is of a time that is written about a million times, in this case the partition. It is tough to preach love and equality without sounding clichéd and boring. But Veena Nagpal does well in the department of new approaches and surprises. The book is set in the 1990s, but draws its roots from historical events, that have been altered to meet the requirements of the book.
The book revolves around Zeenat Qureishi, a sensitive 20 year old who lives in London with her brother and grandmother. After the London Tube bomings, the pyrotechnophobic Zeenat is plagued by mysterious and recurrent nightmares. Her brother ships her and grandma off to India, due to the harsh measures taken against Muslims at that time. In India, she falls in love with her neighbour, Ajay Mehra. But his family has been accused of brutally murdering Zeenat’s great aunt, uncle and their six year old daughter, Zainab in the post partition riots. She continues the relationship with Ajay, despite vehement protests from her family members. But it all breaks down after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Zeenat is torn between what she sees and what she believes to be true, instinctively. And this becomes too much for her to bear. She begins channelling various memories from her painful past lives into national television. This leads to intense rioting, heated discussion, hatred and finally introspection. The book ends on a lovely note, that leads to ultimate peace.
There are numerous characters in the book, and a few are exceptionally good. The rest seem peripheral. The book manages to remain politically correct, in terms of not being bias or favouring either side too largely. It shows all sides of the argument and is ultimately held together by three characters. The approach is novel and intriguing, but the book is too tedious a read. It unnecessarily complicates the story by adding numerous characters and instances that seem redundant. There are too many plots and sub-plots that leave you exasperated by the end.
I wished the book would have been shorter, and removed some of the peripheral characters and plots. Instead, it should have worked more to explain the process of projection of past life experiences, the most crucial part of the book.
If you find the book interesting, buy from Amazon or Flipkart here: