People and emotions make stories significant


The essence of literature stems from culture. Authors have an innate tendency to use cultural manifestations and translate them into words. These words echo of our cultural past and represent our current state. They reflect our social norms while delving into our traditions. They also touch upon religion, socio-economic fabric, and the collective thought process of a society.
Authors, through prose, also depict the societal mindset. They use characters as a representation of the prevailing belief system. Saadat Hasan Manto’s short story, Naya Qanoon, (New Constitution), is one such example. His character, Mangoo, a tonga driver, illustrates the common man’s perception of how the new constitution will bring prosperity for all. Manto was referring to the implementation of the Government of India Act 1935 that gave provincial autonomy to the Indians. Manto, through Mangoo, showed the concerns and hopes of the common man of his time who were confident that the new constitution will bring great changes.
Bapsi Sidwa portrays the archetypal characters of the Parsees in her novel The Crow Eaters (1978). She conceives of a character, Freddy Junglewalla, who moves to Lahore with his family. He aspires to earn a fortune, which he does. With humor and by showing the Parsee lifestyle, Sidwa illustrates the life and people of her community with brilliance. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) follows the tale of Changez as he goes into deep introspection following the September 11 attacks. Changez’s political trajectory changes considerably as he becomes an anti-American. Hamid, through Changez, shows the behavioural changes Pakistanis – or some of them – had adopted following these attacks.
Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (2009) highlights the life of K.K. Harouni, a patriarchal landlord living in Punjab. He runs the land that his family has owned for over a century. Mueenuddin, through K.K. Harouni, shows the concerns of the feudal landlords as they face industrialism during the 1970s and 1980s. The social hierarchy as presented in the book, which is, in fact, a collection of intertwined stories, shows the rural culture of Pakistan. Mohammed Hanif’s depiction of a Christian nurse in Our Lady of Alice Bhatti (2011) shows the plight of the religious minority in Pakistan. Through the character of Alice Bhatti, Hanif shows the other side of Pakistan where minorities do not receive relief in their life or profession. It is again a depiction of our society.
Recently, authors such as Sara Naveed, Faiqa Mansab, Nadya AR, Sana Munir, Shazaf Fatima Haider, Taha Kehar, Anjum Hasan, and Awais Khan have portrayed in their unique ways the lives of ordinary characters in their novels. Sara Naveed has shown her characters’ love, life, and loss in her three novels. Zarish in Undying Affinity (2014), Sarmad in Our Story Ends Here (2017), Rehaan and Zynah in All of My Heart (2018) portray emotions that bind them with the readers. Faiqa in This House of Clay and Water (2017) shows a distinctive bond between Bhanggi, a transgender living at a Dargah in Lahore and Nida, the story’s key character.
Nadya, in her novel, Invisible Ties (2017), talks about Noor Kamal’s life. Nadya shows Noor’s evolution amid the character’s personal and marital challenges. Sana in Unfettered Wings (2018) writes short stories discussing her female characters and their fortitude. Shazaf in The Firefly in the Dark (2018) give us Sharmeen, a girl who has a close relationship with her maternal grandmother, Nani, and mother. She also develops a friendship with jinn, Jugnoo. Taha, with her protagonist, Tanya Shaukat in Typically Tanya (2018), reveals the life of a journalist as she manages her life, relationships, and workplace harassment. Anjum, through her collection of short stories, A Day in the Life (2018), presents diverse stories that are a blend of various emotions.
Awais highlights the life of Mona – the protagonist in his novel, In the Company of Strangers (2019). Mona has every luxury at his fingertip yet she wants freedom while living in this repressed society. It is heartening to see that relatable characters are still being developed by authors to portray the peculiarities of our society. After all, a novel must have people with emotions and thoughts. It connects the readers to these characters. It unites authors with readers around the world.