A dearer feeling is shared with countries far abroad, but rarely with our neighbours, especially when the neighbour is Pakistan! Be it cricket matches, or Kashmir controversy every encounter between the two seems like a war, and Shakespeare’s “All’s fair in love and war” has been taken very seriously by our neighbour only excluding the ‘love’ from the phrase!
When Ambassador Prabhu Dayal had been in Karachi, he had observed the country and their authorities well enough to describe events in details; his active involvement and friendly nature only gave it a boost. Karachi Halwa is a personal yet a widely researched account of Pakistan in the 1980s during his stay. Prabhu Dayal has utilised his intellectual abilities and wit to bring out a wonderful result in his first book. It is a non-fiction, but incessantly holds the storyline with a thread of continuity and humour. Very few readers are interested in political history of India, leave aside the same of other countries, this book not only feeds one with numerous information, otherwise unknown to many, but also succeeds in being a real page-turner at a very reasonable price. With 25 small chapters,
Pakistan will seem to float right in front of your eyes in the words of Prabhu Dayal.
It may seem that being an Indian his views may be biased, but the author has managed to study the other side of the coin in order to escape that complain. The book has a plethora of information based on relevant facts, yet it does not burden one with the load. Serious issues like that of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) that eventually succeeded in reopening the Khokhrapur - Munabao crossing with the Thar Express in 2006, and the reason for which the UN Security Council Resolution practically became null and void have been stated very meticulously throughout.
Karachi Halwa is neither a light read nor is very preachy or boring, but is a perfect amalgamation of facts, incidents, anecdotes and a brilliant sense of humour. The book not only informs one well of the Martial Law during Zia ul Haq but also elaborates the involvement of the US in the creation of the present day situation in Afghanistan. The book has several jokes on Zia ul Haq that the author had come across during his stay in Karachi from his Pakistani acquaintances. Not only had the mighty dictator been portrayed exactly the way he deserved it, but also some of the weird facts and beliefs of Pakistanis had been held up. Such as, the incident when an Islamic mullah lectured on TV to ban cricket in the country as it made the Pakistanis ignore their religious obligations!
The film Gandhi released in 1982, did gather loads of awards and appreciation worldwide, but Pakistan was angered as they thought that Jinnah was portrayed as a villain in the film and by the fact that Alyque Padamsee was cast in Jinnah’s character. To prove Jinnah as a much greater leader than Gandhi, the Pakistan authorities commissioned to create a film titled Stand up from the Dust, which never released due to poor quality. But later the film that did release on Jinnah had Christopher Lee, famous for being Dracula in several Hollywood films, playing Jinnah’s character!
Books on the same genre had been there in the market since decades, but this is a one-of-its-kind book. Nobody could have ever thought of juggling international relations and humour together and succeeding in reaching out to the larger public. There are very few typographical mistakes and just one controversial spelling of Baluchistan/ Balochistan in the book, which is almost negligible. With a simple and lucid flow in English, the book is an easy read for all age groups. Strutting every now and then between sentences to decipher large words has never been an appreciated task to me, as it disrupts the continuity of the book, therefore Karachi Halwa’s simplicity proves to be quite attractive and delightful. To add on to the niceness of the book, there are pretty cute illustrations for every chapter by Chandini Dayal. Even though the content of the book may not attract children, the illustrations will. This intelligent task of accompanying the chapters with pictures just pulls your attention more towards the book. Smithereens of Pakistani jokes, Zia ul Haq facts and personal hilarious encounters make Karachi Halwa a perfectly well cooked digestible dessert
suitable for all palates.