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Typically Tanya: A plethora of emotions

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Muhammad Omar Iftikhar : The writer is a columnist, author, speaker and currently working at a business management institute in Karachi. He can be reached at: omariftikhar@hotmail.com

A male author exploring the life of a female protagonist with all its aspects is a challenge indeed. Taha Kehar went ahead to create Tanya Shaukat – the lead protagonist of his novel, Typically Tanya. First published by HarperCollins, India (2018), the book was published in Pakistan by Liberty Publishing (2021).
Taha has created Tanya, not as an ordinary girl residing in Karachi. She is a journalist, knows her boundaries, and can go with the flow – in short – she can conjure her strength to take on the world. She is witty and pays no heed to others’ opinions. Interestingly, Taha’s narration does not seem to be male-dominated given the fact that he may have to induce his opinion into the story. Tanya’s life is explained in detail – with all aspects of the character taken into consideration. Indeed, the author’s writing style makes or breaks the character and its journey.
Taha opens the book with these lines, “I sink my elbow into the sofa cushion, heave a long sigh and ransack my bag in a frantic search for my cell phone. My hand scoops up a slim eye pencil and an empty bottle of lip gloss. I plunge them back into the bag – it’s one of those cavernous carpet ones from Khaadi – and continue rummaging, unwilling to accept defeat.” It is a smooth narration blended with a touch of realism.
Taha has also elucidated upon the insecurities that girls – especially working women face in our society. These include workplace harassment, meetups with strangers, going to public places among others. Tanya’s character has to observe such red marks of the society as she treads her way across the city and through her office at the Daily Image. She works there as a sub-editor. Her job, too, has to become a part of the story. After all, she has to edit pieces regarding politics about Pakistan and abroad. Taha has mentioned her professional details without making them blow out of proportion. This is Tanya’s story and nothing else must be greater than her life – a wise decision by the author.
The element of ‘show, don’t tell’ is evident in the story. This reveals Taha’s storytelling dexterity. Instead of telling about Tanya, he shows it. He narrates Tanya’s neighborhood and the ‘E Street’ in Karachi where she lives – the information that is self-explanatory about Tanya’s elite family. Tanya may be a normal Karachiite trying to earn success in her profession, she does possess and exhibit emotions. Through her emotions, Taha shows us Tanya’s close friends. She enjoys the company of her office colleagues, Hassan, Adam, and Sonia. Tanya openly shares everything with her friend Tabassum or Topsy – a thirty-something friend who is a lawyer. Living with a single parent – her mother whom she calls mummy – Tanya is close to her but does not open the pandora box for all the right reasons.
The novel is about Tanya and also touches upon the life of her friend, Sonia. Her marriage was called off a day before she was supposed to tie the knot. Tanya and Sonia’s friendship experiences a setback when Sonia finds out that Tanya had a close relationship with Sonia’s would-be husband. The reason is for the readers to find out.
Through her mistakes, worries, and apprehensions, Taha explains how and why Tanya must get the hang of her life and regain the trust she lost while rebuilding her relationships. While the character itself moves the story forward, Taha has mentioned places of Karachi in the narrative that will surely appeal to the readers who have a connection with this city.
Moreover, Taha’s writing style is crisp yet simple, expressive yet not too in-your-face. He reveals characters, their journey, intentions, and anxieties as and when he feels it is right. This creates a balance between the plot’s progression and the characters’ evolution. Furthermore, Taha’s observation when it comes to social paradoxes and human infirmities must be applauded. He has explained human nature from a woman’s perspective and has proven that there is a little bit of Tanya in all of us.