I had picked out this book with a lot of enthusiasm. Maybe it was the cover that drew me towards the book or maybe it was the news item I had seen on BBC the other day about Pakistani authors that made me buy this. Whatever it was, day three of the 15/15/15 project was dedicated to ' The Gulmohar Tree' by Aamer Hussein.
It's very difficult to describe how I felt after reading it because it aroused no emotion inside me. Thus I tried to analyze this book in a more scientific manner taking help from E.M. Forster's 'Aspects of the Novel'.
One of the things that Forster has mentioned in his book (originally a course of Clark Lectures at Cambridge) is people i.e., how does the novelist deal with the people (characters) in his story. There are, according to Forster, five main facts in human life; birth, food, sleep, love and death.
If we take these five main facts and apply them to Hussein's book, we will find bits and pieces of each. There is birth of the protagonist, of his wife and their children. But it just happened as a matter of fact. The births did not steer the story in any direction except that if the protagonist had not been born, there would be no story. Food and sleep featured, again, as a matter of fact. Death came and went away so swiftly that it just didn't register initially. The reason why it didn't register was because it wasn't adding anything to the story!
Essentially, this book was a love story. The love between the struggling Pakistani writer Usman and his British wife Lydia. The book is set in the years after the partition, but time is not really specified as such. Actually, nothing is really specified as such! Lydia meets Usman in London, is impressed by him, they have a sort of affair for one year and then he leaves her for his homeland. Lydia, two years after Usman's departure, leaves for Karachi having no kind of assurance except a few sentences here and there in their correspondence that Usman does harbor feelings for her. What a woman! The rest of the book is about their marriage, Usman's struggle as a writer, Lydia's routine and a gulmohar tree in their back (or maybe front) yard.
I think this book was like an extended short story and that does not come as a surprise because Hussein has printed five collections of short stories previously. I think he should stick to short stories only and not write novels. But if he does, Forster's book would come in handy.