In the forward of the book Pavan K. Verma questions that why should the number of pages determine a literary work's impact and expression? Who decides how long a book or any other literary work should be? But the most compelling question I found in the foreword was- when should a story end? Should it end when the reader is yearning it to continue or should it last till the reader begins to wonder it will end?
When I started reading the novel I came across a very simple answer to these questions and the answer was that all these questions are just critical limitations to a literary work. And Gulzar sahaab with his class, impactful and expressive writing defies all these limitations and creates a story which makes reader yearn for more and at the same time gives a sense of satisfactory ending. It is the first time that Gulzar sahaab has explored the genre of novel (and I hope and wish that he will continue writing novels in future) but the book is not just a novel. The maestro has painted the canvas of a novel with beautiful poetic prose and elements of a perfect screenplay.
The book starts when India was at the verge of independence and also at the verge of the greatest catastrophe the Indian history has ever witnessed. The venomous "true" rumors of partation were in the air and the intensity and momentum of the air was increasing with every passing moment. People are at the brink of loosing their sanity completely. The only way to keep their already tattered sanity here was by defying the "true" rumors, despite knowing that partition is inevitable. Gulzar sahaab has written all these scenes so convincing and realistically that the reader can feel everything the character is going through and the situation building is so tight that the reader can feel the gravitas of the situation.
Finally the fateful time arrives and creates an unhealable wound, a wound having deepness which can not be measured even after all these decades and it may never be healed or measured. With time it gets deeper, darker and uglier.
The book covers the lives of all those "unimportant" people who were crushed by the audicious storm created by history. The book covers the life story of all those Muslims and Hindus for whom there was no difference between Lahore and Amritsar. It is a devastating story of those who were turned into dust and history doesn't even remember them. History and history books just remember the names of those who created this catastrophe. The book made me think that did the leaders really think about these unimportant people? I think they didn't. Partition was like a blind political assassin where the leaders allotted swords in both hands and set them free to behead all those "unimportant" people.
Though the novel consists many characters, it is the magic of Gulzar sahaab's quill that each and every character is very well built and more importantly I liked the way narration unfolds the story and towards the end subtly hints the legacy of unending madness of the partition. The ending was like silent cries of the people whose tongues were cut but their silent cries will haunt till time immemorial, in different ways and in different forms.