Karachi Raj by Anis Shivani – A review by Ali Hafeez

‘Karachi Raj is that rare thing: a rollicking read and a great insight into a much reported but little understood place’
-Mohammed Hanif

I believe that Mohammed Hanif, who has written two magnificent novels, very aptly describes what Karachi Raj is all about in a mere sentence that, although, seems short and precise but goes on to say a lot about Anis Shivani’s latest contribution to the literary world. Being an avid reader myself, I never imagined that Karachi could ever be depicted and thought of like this before. Perhaps the constant supply of heart aching news of a wonderful city never gave us the time to think that maybe this coin too has a flip side, a side that shows the sheer brilliance of love, friendship, and family bonds. Shivani does exactly that and weaves magic on paper with his enticing new tale.

Karachi Raj brings to life the intricate and an extremely special relationship between two siblings, Hafiz and Seema, who inhabit a Basti in Karachi. They grow up into well matured beings despite the hardships that life had in store for them. Even in the terror prone city, all they manage to see around themselves is love and goodness. That is the sole reason you simply can’t put this book down. The characters, so beautifully woven into the writing, give you a bird’s eye view of what it is to live in a Basti yet lead a blissful life.

Soon enough Seema receives a scholarship to attend a decent university, but Shivani made it a point to not make that seem too easy. He raised the most disturbing issue of Pakistan – girls’ education! The social stigma attached to this has been presented and dealt with dignity. This is also not the only problem our characters face. There’s Hafiz who’s greatly infatuated with a colleagues wife that evidently kicks off a story of love, friendship and betrayal. And while the people of the Basti struggle to embark on a journey outside of it, there’s an American ingénue who feels that the Basti may have more to offer than it seems.

The author tells his story with grace and poise, which can easily be felt via his sentence structure and the method through which he takes his idea ahead that almost makes you feel like you’re a part of his storytelling process and might as well be in the very same Basti. The novel offers you a once in a lifetime chance to go beyond the constant racket of politics and terrorism and delve deeper into the delicacies of life that also happens to serve as a moral of the story – living your life to the fullest despite adversities. Picking this up from bookstands is a must!

Anis Shivani is better known for his prose and poetry published in leading newspapers and magazines. Karachi Raj is his debut novel and is available at Liberty Books. You can order it online via: http://www.libertybooks.com/bookdetail.aspx?pid=25340

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