Book Review of ‘This house of clay and water’

“Reason is powerless in the expression of Love.”

This famous quote by the revered Rumi might just be that one line to sum up this wonderful book I just read. Love has always been unreasonable. Beyond the shackles of physical attraction, there lies a strange, powerful force that pulls two hearts together, oblivious of shape, size, gender or color. ‘This House of Clay and water’ deals with a story that proves it.

But, before I embark on this poetically alluring journey of unusual love, I want to know the kind of reader you are. Are you a romantic? or lovelorn? Do you lose yourself into deep, poetic thoughts penned by Rumi and Keats? If yes, you would love this 300 paged compilation, all replete with about a million words soaked in pure love. Love, that has an old world charm to it. Pure, true, untouched, incomprehensible and unusual.

Nida, a rich begum, wife of an affluent politician in Lahore has almost everything a woman would love to possess. Diamonds, cars, money and time. And yet, there is a gaping hole in her heart, to fill which, she flocks from one shrine to another, seeking solace, peace and distance from the miling crowd. She is so tired of life that she prefers the company of the dead in the graveyard to the alive. Nida seeks for something unnatural, which could help fill the void in her.

Bhanggi is a Qualandar in the Data Sahib shrine in Lahore. People come to him with their problems, and prayers which are unheard and unanswered. They come to him with a hope that God would definitely listen to those prayers if passed on through this pure soul who has bagged the position of a God man. Little, do they know that nobody but God is pure. Bhanggi belongs to a different world which he has severed his ties with. His prayers are as unanswered and unheard as the rest. In fact, he has a lot of questions for God, whose answers he seeks everyday.

Sasha is a woman bestowed with everything required to lead a decent life. Beauty, a good husband and two lovely daughters. But, she is ambitious. Her greed for money belittles the treasures she has. She yearns for more. Her longing for a rich life is so strong that, she lives a dual life to fulfill her desires. She is a housewife by the day and a guilt free call girl by the night, who goes about sleeping with her husband’s friends secretly for money.

The story starts with a peep into Nida’s life. Married into one of the Richest of rich families in Lahore, Nida leads a royal life, except that her personal life is not that royal. Her childhood is stained with her mother’s taunts reminding how she is nothing but a liability. After getting married in a rich family, all she is expected to do is bow down to the orders of her inlaws and an authoritarian husband who thinks her only duty is to obey his parents. Burdened with the loss of her crippled child, a depressed Nida is attracted more towards graveyards and shrine than normal people and places. Bhanggi is an enuch. That is the truth he has to deal with since his birth. His quest to figure out the reason of his existence is what turns him into a qalandar or God-man in a shrine. Nida visits Data Sahib shrine regularly to soothe her pain. Two souls soaked in pain meet each other and connect instantly. His heart. Her soul. No questions, inhibitions or reasons of being in two different bodies, two different kinds of bodies. Nida’s attraction towards Bhanggi was much beyond the shackles of physical being or understanding of the society. The essence of love shared by both of them in equal measures proves just how deep in love, they fall in. But, in this world of hatred, survival of such love,no matter how pure it is, is often next to impossible. Then, there is Sasha, who befriends Nida at the shrine. A childless Nida plays a key role in Sasha’s daughter’s life, which forms a point of reform for Sasha. The story explores the nuances of relationships. Friendship, motherhood, love, a kind of love, unheard and incomprehensible. A word of praise for the author here. Her description of the bond between Nida and Bhanggi is so apt, that the question of a woman falling in love with an eunuch arising in the reader’s mind disappears after a few pages of powerful reading. Faiqa’s writing style is impactful and fluid. The alleys and people of Lahore are penned down with such details, you actually live them. The seamless integration between the lives of Sasha, Nida and Bhanggi is beautiful and urges the reader to keep turning pages. 

So, on days when you crave literature, when it rains and you get dreamy, when you are tired and want to get away from the world for a few hours, make yourself some hot coffee and grab this book. Soak in some literature, feel some love. One of its kind.

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