Little Maryam – Hamid Baig
The thing about book mails- they are like surprise gifts and while opening them you always have the eagerness and zeal like that of a child. Indeed, it was a surprise, more so because it was a romance tragedy novel. I thought I would give it a try with an open mind without any inhibitions, and who knows, just like fantasy is my new found love this year, romance could be too.
The story is about Saadiq and his little Maryam, childhood friends, close knit, growing up to fall in love only to be faced by multiple tragedies not in the favour of their unison. And here he is, reminiscing the past sitting on a plane to see his little Maryam for one last time, narrating the odds that were against the two, to a journalist Anne who is all ears to what Dr. Saadiq Haider has to say about his tragic bygone years which is loaded with bitter sweet memories. As a child Saadiq was a brilliant chap, intelligent enough to build things out of junk. But, what was never in his favour was his tongue. He never learnt to shy back from saying the truth with a hint of sarcasm. During one such event when he is being awarded for his excellence in school, he opens his mouth only to realise what a ditch he has created for himself, giving a tongue in cheek remark to one of the politicians. This incident changed his whole life ahead, he was accused of a murder he says he didn’t commit to rot in prison for 5 years. He was capable of something more, something remarkable in his life than being in the prison and fighting the sickness and dinginess. What you read ahead is a journey from prison to a noble prize laureate. Does Maryam believe Saadiq to be innocent of the crime imposed on him? Does she wait for Saadiq to come out of prison and settle as happily married? Is she there by Saadiq’s side when he receives his noble prize? A lot of questions, and all answers to be found in the book.
Besides being a romance tragedy novella, it is also a mystery thriller. True to its genre, it does explore mystery in patches throughout the book, which are more appealing than the romance and tragedy portions. Or, I would rather put it, the thrill holds the book together and spikes up the interest of the reader, I enjoyed reading those segments. The characters which are of interest are Saadiq’s and Anne’s rather than Maryam’s. Some of the punches made by Saadiq during their conversation on the plane are interesting and witty. His grief of all the years after getting separated from Maryam have been defined aptly, the change in his nature with his new stature in the society complement each other. And, Dr. Saadiq Haider’s journey from rags to riches inspires a tad bit too. The thought process of Anne, the journalist makes for a nice read, and the bond the two form as friends is fascinating to know. The aforementioned worked for me in the book.
What I did not like were the emotional and romance sections, which fell flat a couple of times and look bizarre if the intention was to portray a matured love story which starts at childhood. I am not a tear shedding romance fanatic, but had I been so too, the story fails to tug at the heart. At the end you only feel sympathetic for Dr. Saadiq for going through so much to attain success, and yet his loss is unmeasured. The parts where Maryam is amnesic appear false over genuine, a sudden character change of Dr. Saadiq Haider when he meets Maryam for the second time, is immaturely put. The story is full of twists and turns with too many elements, so much so that some screws look unrealistic. The writing doesn’t stand out except for some portions which are sprinkled with wit, and fails to connect with the reader.
For the romance enthusiasts, this book might be a little refreshing because it has more to it than just getting wet eyed and feeling sympathetic for the protagonists. A new take on romance which we thought only Ravinder Singh had the copyright to. Pick up ‘Little Maryam’ if you want to experiment and are looking for a change in terms of storytelling.