Posted in Book Reviews, Urdu Novels

Haalim Episode 11: وقت کے اس پار – Review


Nemrah Ahmed struck again, this time, with feeling.


I really want to find something to complain about here. About the fact that they went home nice and easy. Except that they didn’t go home nice and easy. It took four months. They planned, they schemed, they rose above and now they’re back. HOLY COW.

We should have seen this coming, it was all there. Saying this was clever would be the understatement of the year since everything about this book is clever and sneaky. I just didn’t expect it to hit me like it did. It was sad, man, made all the more strong and astonishing by the fact that for the first time in a long time, I felt myself warming up to Faateh. That poor soul.

My absolute favorite moments were the Taliyah Faateh moments: the scene in the prison cell, in the jungle right before they went through the Gate and at night in Sun Bao’s courtyard. It is indeed very lonely at the top.

The email he wrote to Adam was so full of emotion. I felt his desperation as he wrote those words, especially concerning Taliya. It was like a drowning man grasping for straws. He never would have admitted this otherwise but just on the verge of his impending loss, he let himself feel and admit. Strained and stilted personal relationships, lack of support from someone he needs the most, knowledge of Aryana’s gruesome death, keeping that secret from his wife, the burden of leadership, the struggle of achieving his goals, it all caught up as he confessed that yes, he does need someone with him, by his side and he wants it to be Taliya. The paper marriage wasn’t as easily breakable as he thought. Predictable, yeah, but not without meaning.

And I also felt his guilt towards Adam. He knew Adam had begun to have feelings for Taliya and so he kept himself a little distant from Adam. He tried to make it up to him by sending him the email and asking him to keep the two of them safe, just like he asked Taliya to do the same. This entire situation touched my heart and finally melted the ice around it when it came to Faateh. How long it will last, I don’t know.

It was a noble thing he did but it eventually served him too, like he said, he needs to forget all this if he’s to become KL’s present Bandhara.


This is my favorite quote in the whole episode because I feel strongly the truth of this, always have.

This was an episode full of emotion. It was heart-warming in a way it has never managed to be before. Taliya and Adam’s repartee, her personal moments with Faateh, all three together again, I loved it all. I obviously didn’t know that they were gonna go back but as it became imminent I realized the atmosphere was perfect and foreboding from the beginning.

No way do I believe that this is it. I’ve said it time and again, Nemrah Ahmed’s protagonists are inhumanly cunning. If there is a way to restore Faateh’s memories, Taliya will find it. They are going to back at some point for sure. Besides that, a man as tactical as Faateh will have thought of something. If he wrote an email to Adam, he had the whole night to himself, perhaps he wrote some to himself and timed them too? Also, and this just came back to me all of a sudden, Adam’s mother at one point said something about his Uncle having the gift of vision like Taliya? That will come up too.

It’s a testament to the glorious development in this episode or should I say, this story that despite hating everybody’s guts two episodes ago, I feel protective and fond of them all. I disliked Adam for the fool he was being, I ship him and Taliya now. I loathed Faateh and his attitude, I ship him and Taliya now AND I’ve begun to like him. It’s a 50/50. DAMN IT.

This episode made me connect with Faateh more than before. The extent to which high ambitions and dreams cost a person became painfully apparent. He had no one else to lean to for strength and support so he thought he had become impervious to it, Faateh needs no one else, he repeated it again and again and almost started believing it. Then he finally found someone strong and smart and willingly giving that support, only to lose them again.

Buddy, I’m here. I see you.

My Rating: 5/5


Posted in Book Reviews, Urdu Novels

Haalim Episode 10: صنم تراش – Review

I’m feelin’ it. Oh, YEAH BABY!

I was very nearly tired of this story, I was growing uninterested and indifferent. Mujhe naheen pata, jo karna hai karo, were my sentiments reading the last episode. This is so much of a step up, not only is my interest completely restored it’s also been multiplied tenfold. It’s a dhoop chaaon ka aalam, with me and this book so far.

The little things in this episode, man! It was eventful from the start and there was a generous helping of small-scale jaw-dropping moments throughout. I’m just so happy with where this episode went and how it went there. Several amazing developments, character-wise and plot-wise.

Okay, so first of all we learned why Adam doesn’t have the seal of time on the back of his neck: only the people who’ve used the key have that seal.

The undercurrent theme of the episode was the importance of having a strong sense of self-worth and self-esteem and that resonated with the title of the episode splendidly. Taliya and Adam had both idolized someone, had carved a statue of that person in their minds. The former used disguises to hide her true self and the latter always admired someone too deeply who had what he didn’t. Low self-esteem, both of them.

Faateh, however, was on the other side of this equation. He was always the one being admired. He was always the one people erected imposing statues of in their minds. And it was a HECK YEAH moment for me when Taliya responded to her making the change in Bangara Ya Malayo. The stuck-up peacock was so used to being idolized that it hurt his royal highness’s self-esteem when his credit was given to someone else.

There was theme also had Nemrah Ahmed talking about harassment, victim-shaming, the abuse of power and the usual political lessons like what an Economic Hitman is and how generation after generation of a country pays which were a touch more intriguing than usual. I’m learning more and more about politics through this book than I ever did.

Going to the more alarming side of things, I did not just see two things happening so fast, if at all:

  • Taliya and Faateh’s marriage. They’re going to come up with some insanely clever scheme to evade the situation, I kept thinking. The did not and it was with disturbing ease and lack of protest that it happened.
  • Adam’s warm fuzzy feelings for Taliya. Even though he didn’t say it aloud to himself for our benefit, it was loud and clear and I, who was a moderate Taliya and Faateh shipper, was horrified. I thought I didn’t care about Adam but I did.

Adam’s role was more prominent than usual. He wasn’t the resident fool in this, thank God. For once I enjoyed his and Taliya’s bickering.

I won’t say sinister, but definitely an unpleasant aspect of Faateh’s personality became clear: he’s selfish. He wants freedom, his freedom, above all else. Yes, he wants to free the slaves and yes, he wants the kingdom to not be indebted for generations but that’s the inherent leader in him talking. He has lived by basking in admiration and respect and that’s what he wants which is why he confronts Murad. He’ll never not think like a politician, always finding ways to bypass and navigate tough situations. This is why he seems so stiff and unlikable to me.

Who knew Murad cared about his daughter, eh? I certainly didn’t. And for the record, I’m not worrying about what Faateh said at the end. We know at this point that the history is different from what actually happened AND that Taliya goes back to the present. One curious thing, though. Since Adam is writing the book he has to be there to record everything. As such, how long are they going to stay in the past for his book to be complete? Like, OMG are they stuck for years or does some other Adam take over or is the book really short or something. It’s a school text book in the present day so it won’t be too bulky, I presume? We shall see.

Bless, Winona Ryder, her priceless reactions imitate my feelings about this episode to perfection:

Everything. Her face says everything.

My Rating: 5/5

Posted in Book Reviews, Urdu Novels

Haalim Episode 9: جہاں ملتے ہیں تین چاند – Review

I read this episode in two halves. The first half was read with extreme difficulty where I attempted to go back into the flow after an almost three month gap while struggling to stay awake. As a result, I was not having any of it.

My general summation of this first half reading experience is that I was past the point where I cared what anyone was doing, it sounded repetitive and I was sick with boredom. I still retain this notion, though less intensely now.

The second half was more exciting, more than fifty percent of the credit goes to the fact that I was wide awake. But seriously, the second half was much more fun than the first.

Now, the episode is called جہاں ملتے ہیں تین چاند (Where Three Moons Meet) and I found it a little counterproductive that this particular place isn’t the focus of this episode. There’s one dream and two or three mentions total concerning this “island”. Wouldn’t it have been more prudent to name an episode that where they actually go there? No? Okay.

I’m officially tired of NA’s writing style. This is practically treason but I can’t help how I feel. This has never happened before, not with her or any other (urdu) novelist and I don’t know why it’s happening now. But it is. I see the characters doing the same things, showing the same expressions, that is, I’m more irritated by the repetitive use of certain phrases. This is her unique style, I understand that, it’s how she writes. But, I just, can’t deal with it any longer.

For example, and this happens twice in this episode and innumerable times in the previous ones, when a characters ‘puts both hands on the table, leans forward, looks their opponent in the eye and say their next words while chewing each one’ I have to take a second to relax my annoyed nerves. See, things like that are very specific and they keep propping up! And they’re not even restricted to one person, everyone seems to do it. Everyone is smart, everyone is deceptive, everyone has tricks up their sleeves. It is A-nnoying.

By far, the most interesting thing to happen in this episode is Faateh’s reaction to the possibility of Taliya’s marriage to the Sultan. This was something I didn’t know I needed that bad but apparently I needed it badly. It was a HELL YEAH moment that happened deep inside the recesses of my soul.
I’m not particularly bothered by Taliya’s attraction to Faateh. It isn’t entirely uncommon or unheard of for a woman to fall in love with an older man/a married man/a married man with kids/an older man married with kids and vice versa. She isn’t even too young for this to be problematic. She’s nearing thirty for the love of God.

No, what’s stupid is that he let her fangirl crush and admiration turn into love. I have crushes on a wide range of celebrities, older, younger, married, unmarried, with or without kids, if I take it too far that will be a problem.
But even then, two things: a) she is keeping this to herself, so for all intents and purposes, it looks like only a crush. She isn’t all out forcing herself and her feeling upon the man which will be highly inappropriate. b) said ‘married man with kids’ doesn’t reciprocate, he has begun to care, that much has become crystal clear but it isn’t the same thing, he isn’t betraying his spouse. The position these people are in is as difficult as constipated shit.

The point is: this can go in any unpredictable direction, it is the most unusual pairing EVER, I find Faateh’s age and his married+kids status uncomfortable and that makes it all the more exciting. No idea where this is going but I like it a LOT.

It’s sad how a sensible and (apparently) wise character like Adam is becoming a resident fool. He exists so Taliya can make fun of him, he can take lame digs at her and we readers can be told things while Adam asks the grownups questions like a kindergartner. Except for when the taunting comes to “keun, tum kitaben naheen parhte kya?” the rest feels forced to me.


Yes, yes. Shut up, Faateh.

His Royal Highness will look down upon a compulsive liar, if said compulsive liar will, you know, lie, to him after promising very recently not to do so after a ‘lifetime’ of lying.

  • Yan SoFu (I KNOW I’m writing this wrong) and Taliya’s unexpected alliance was a nice and positive move.
  • The origins of the word ‘chai’, though. High Five.
  • Nidamat and Sharamsari are two separate things. That was interesting.
  • Taliya in the Sultan’s harem. Lol. Mazel Tov, Sultan.
  • Trivia about what “off-shore accounts” mean was appreciated.
  • I’m not worried about Murad discovering that other people have traveled with Taliya to the past. The reason being a) our heroes are absolute smart-asses and they can con even the most clever of all baddies (I say this with heavy sarcasm) and b) the extent of the baddie’s ruthlessness hasn’t been made clear to me. I don’t take him seriously.


If you’ve read this episode PLEASE I’d love to discuss it with you.


Posted in Urdu Novels

Haalim Episode 8: ہم قيدی وقت کے – Review

I think about this episode and all that comes to my mind is this phrase:

Power Di Game Hai Saari

Because, legit, it IS all about power in this world, whether you look at the past or the future, men have always hungered for it. I suspect we’ll be getting some very interesting lessons and takes on siyaasat in this book, if we haven’t already.

I liked and enjoyed this episode quite a bit. It was, as I like to call it, a “steady” one. Not as shocking and mind-bending as the last but a good one regardless.

Taliya/Tasha confronts her father (who literally has the emotional capacity of a tea spoon, apparently), Adam and Faateh realize who Taliya really is, Taliya’s genius plans lead her to recruiting Adam as a member of the palace household AND she manages to plant her feet in the king’s court. That girl is such an overachiever, honestly.

I was discussing this with a friend and she made me remember those old visions of hers that showed her Princess Tasha making the statue of Sun Bao and of her marrying some Chinese slave which we now know is Faateh at the moment. All three of them have a major role in Malaysia’s history, like I predicted thank you very much. Taliya is Tasha Pesona, Adam, shockingly, is the author of the major history textbooks kids of the 21st century read and Faateh is the man she’s going to marry. Probably. You know, since we’re very forcefully told every time how tawaana and mazboot looking Faateh is, I wonder or wish why he wasn’t written to be a few years younger? Like maybe 40? 38? Successful politicians can be that young. Exhibit One and Only:

Faateh, incidentally, reminds me of this guy and the fact that he is nearly 50 freaks me out. But I guess you can be that smart and strong at 50 too, Idk. I’m just used to every hero being young. Count on Nemrah Ahmed to break tradition. Khair.

The film-esque sequences are a fixture now. I should probably stop picking them out. This particular one was well-written, the message about positivity resonated with me and the Faateh/Tasha struggles in the background worked with the monologue. What didn’t resonate with me is the fact that Taliya Madam learned all of those 3487529384289 skills within 4 weeks. Talented, my butt. This is literally impossible and unbelievable. An overachieving, perfect-at-everything, cat-ninja na ho to.

And then there is Mr. Raamzal with his positive approach to everything. He recovers so fast it is inhuman. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like him. He repeatedly climbs past the relatability scale. It’s annoying as SHIT. The world would be ending and he’d be like:

But, I will give credit to Nemrah Ahmed for trying to send an important message to everyone. I guess with things like these to be taught, there has to be a certain amount of suspension of belief. Plus, this is fiction. If they can travel in time, they can be Mary Sue and Gary Stu a hundred percent. Truth is, I appreciate the messages, I really do.

And if I look at it rationally, he is a leader and leaders aren’t like ordinary people, they are special so I shouldn’t be worried about him not being relatable. It’s like I understand but don’t want to understand. Ugh.

I fully expect Taliya to be pissing people off left and right and to be at the top in no time. I also suspect her father will turn against her but that’s to be seen. Fateh and Taliya will make a dynamic pair (if that ever comes to pass), albeit an unconventional one.

I also hope to read more about the fantasy side of things which was almost entirely missing in this episode except for the vision about the treasure. Where do these time travelers come from? What mysterious treasure is this? The intrigue is real.

Quote of the Episode:

My Rating: 4.5/5

Posted in Book Reviews, Urdu Novels

Haalim Episode 7: تاشہ پسونا – Review

Tasha The Enchantress!


I threw every reservation out of the window while reading this! Every. Single. One. Taliya’s background, the oddness of the prose, the feeling of something being missing. LORD ALMIGHTY, it all went away. Nemrah Ahmed is unreservedly brilliant and this book is getting cleverer by the episode. Fantasy in Urdu was an unheard of idea and I had my qualms, sure. It even took me a while to acclimate myself to that but now I’m a hundred percent invested in the story because OH-EM-GOSH did you read this episode?!

The episode was a freaking spectacle. Taliya Murad is a force to be reckoned with. There’s woman who kicks ass and takes names. I was previously dissatisifed with her character in general. Her “Mary-Sue”-ness despite being explained does not seem believable, I said. Well, obviously Nemrah was hearing because she took Taliya a step further. Instead of being told, we were shown Taliya’s childhood and the events that led her to what she is now. It all comes together so perfectly I just want to take a moment and cry over the perfection, gimme a sec.

Ain’t that badass or ain’t that badass?! Talk about big dreams.

Slowly, we learned how she started thieving and how she came to learn all these skills and knowledge she now possesses. And I loved it!

Now, I remember speculating in my last review that since the book involves Time Travel, and Time Travel is ridiculously messy if nothing else, one of the three characters might turn out to be a historical figure. I had placed my bets on Faateh since Taliya couldn’t possibly be the princess (HA) but you know what? Reflecting back at what the HECK just happened, both Faateh and Adam have a strong probability of being one. Oh, yeah, TALIYA IS TASHA PESONA.

There’s a scene where the same filmy technique is applied, to great affect I might add, where Taliya realizes who she is while she remembers what the history books say about Princess Tasha and the writer simultaneously narrates the instances in her life which coordinate with those historical facts. It was BRILLIANT! And the first time I felt this technique was done full justice.

And I find it hilarious that the person Faateh has idealized all his life is actually Taliya. That’s definitely bringing him a notch or two down from his high-horse. Adam is like this annoying bug that Taliya mercilessly swats in the episode. It was priceless.

Can’t wait for the next one. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for the bia-monthly episodes to go back to one episode per month, haina? Just when I had started to enjoy things…Ugh. That was sarcasm by the way.

My Rating: 10/10

Quote of the Episode:

Posted in Book Reviews, Urdu Novels

Haalim Episode 6- “بازگشت دختر” Review

Shit has had the fan, yo. I repeat. SHITETH HAS HITETH THE FANETH.

Yeah, that was my FACE throughout this episode. It was filled with ASDFGHJKL upon ASDFGHJKL that had me short for breath. By far, THE BEST episode of Haalim and by the power of fangirling vested in me by Nemrah Ahmed’s brilliance, I promise you, your mind will be blown into smithereens.

What started off as a typical Urdu novel that promised to be different took an unorthodox direction when it involved the element of Fantasy in it, aka clairvoyance, but now, MAN! It’s gone up to another level entirely because, ladies ad gentleman, hear me clearly, this is HISTORICAL SCI-FI/FANTASY. There is frickin’ time travel in it. TIME TRAVEL.

Let that sink in. Go on.

Bless my Pakistani Women’s Digest reading heart. WHAT? I never thought I would live to see this pass.

Okay, so if I’m following this correctly, Taliya was born in the 15th century Melaka. She belonged to a clan of Pamboro or “hunters” in a village. The villagers were persecuted by princess Tasha so her father made a key that opened the door to a treasure. Only, that treasure was Time itself as the Pamboro clan could travel in Time with they key and the mark on their necks. Taliya’s father probably wanted to end whatever cruelty was being inflicted upon his people by herding through the Doors of Time into another period but before he could, his people were all caught and put to jail to be executed. Scared, the young Taliya ran away with the key and opened the doors herself. She was thrown into the 21st century and all her memories went kaput, until she found the key, that is.

The bits and pieces are missing, details like why Taliya’s people were being hunted even though they were the huntsmen, does the Pamboro people have different powers or just clairvoyance or even that Taliya was the only one with the power, etc. Obviously, now that the dream she saw in the very first episode, the beginning of this book to be exact, came to pass so unexpectedly quickly, the story will unravel meticulously.

You know, this episode reminds me of two books I’ve read recently. The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell which I legit just finished yesterday and the PathFinder series by Angie Sage. The former had a female protagonist that can travel in time and she and her people, the Mageus (people with magical powers) are persecuted by an organization known as the Order. She travels back in time, to the early 1900s to steal powerful artifacts from the Order in order to defeat them. Now you can see, the two are incredibly similar. Funny how coincidences work.

The PathFinder trilogy had the young Alice TodHunter Moon who belonged to the PathFinder clan. Only these people could traverse the Ancient Ways hidden beneath arches all over the world without getting lost. So there you have it.

The first shock of the episode came when we learned the truth about what happened with Aryana. That was heart-breaking and truly horrifying to read.

You’d me surprised at how quickly chain links fit together after that. That idiot Adam (yes, I retain Taliya’s opinion of him) wasted no time in coming to Melaka and confronting Taliya and after doubting and believing her/himself for the 56353th time, he went to Faateh. THAT led to an epic showdown between the three, Taliya’s first vision was fulfilled and the three entered the Door of Time to the past, that took them right back to the time and moment Taliya crossed her century for another. So now, a grown up Taliya returns to her home, thus the title “The Return of the Daughter”.

Welcome back to 1437. Enjoy your stay.

She comes clean about everything in front of the two men, exposing Asra in the process and frustratingly shuts down. No plan A,C,D. The Taliya that emerges into the rain forest with Faateh and Adam is dejected, depressed and guilty and she remains so right until the moment at the end of the episode when she has another vision about her people’s imprisonment by the princess.

There’s this thing that keeps bothering me about this book so far. It’s rather difficult to explain. Something feels off in the narrative. Like, there would be a dialogue or a scenario or a character moment that’d have me scoffing. I’m not sure I make sense but I think it’s have to do with the novelty of this story. Something like this has never been attempted before and seeing as I’m used to nothing more but talks of shaadi, marriage and wedding in novels, the narration, the unique situations coupled with Nemrah’s style is a bit of a struggle to take in.

That scene in this episode, for instance, where the trio is walking through the trapdoor to find the treasure on Taliya’s insistence and she remembers what Datin told her about Time Travel. It was so unbelievable. Datin cracked the whole mystery like an egg from an old book, legit figured everything out, believed it and casually informed Taliya much like a kid reciting ABC. There is so much strangeness in this interaction on so many levels: everyone knows everything, things happen too quickly, the prose feels odd, and I just … can’t explain it.

I’m also realizing now that Nemrah’s descriptions are a bit lifeless sometimes. That “aankhon ko sukerna”, “baal peeche karna”, “dil dharakna”, whatever. They get on my nerves and I don’t see as vivid a picture as I can even though the visual cues are all there. See what I mean? Probably not.
The film-esque sequences are in this as well but I didn’t find them repetitive as before so that’s a relief.

Just gonna throw a WILD speculation here. I’ve been proved wrong before, in the beginning I thought that Taliya was Faateh’s long lost daughter, BUT, that shouldn’t stop anyone, right? What I think is, since they are back in the past among actual historical figures, one of the three, most probably Faateh would have some form of connection/ties/relationship with the princess or her father, making HIM a historical figure. Get it? Stuff like that happens all the time when people travel in time. They have wine with Charles Dickens, a picnic with Vincent van Gogh, just watch Doctor Who. I first thought ALL three would have some significance in that manner but after Taliya’s vision of the princess, that clarifies that the two are not one and the same but different people. It’s WILD, I know.

Here we are about Faateh again. I concede to start warming up to him a little. My general opinion of him, however, stands: he is too perfect, too wise, too calm. I know he’s supposed to be this motivational character, this enigmatic figurehead all of us will look up to  but his demeanor rubs me the wrong way. He recuperates too fast for my taste, it’s a tad unnatural if you ask me. But I AM warming up to him so that’s something. He reminded me of Hugh Jackman so strongly in this episode, of Wolverine. They both face shit, albeit very differently, and come back up again.

ALL ABOARD THE HAALIM TRAIN!!! *peep peeeeeeeep*

Quote of the Episode:

My Rating: 9/10




Posted in Bookish Balderdash, Urdu Novels

Haalim Episode 5: تین خزینوں کا مسکن Review

The House of Three Treasures”, the fifth episode of Haalim was another steady episode. It was fun and quite straight-forward compared to the last one which was a roller coaster ride.

The people in this book put two and two together real fast. Taliya figured out her connection with the key, Adam figured out what Taliya’s after, Asra figured out that Taliya is a force to be reckoned with, it’s the fifth episode and already everything is moving quick. Which is a good thing, I guess but this “smarter-than-your-average-commoner” quality that all of Nemrah Ahmed’s characters possess does lend a certain unrealistic quality to them. All of them are perceptive, all of them are intelligent with excellent memories, meanwhile, I have trouble remembering what I had for dinner the previous day.

I also have trouble understanding why or how Taliya seems to be so enamored by Faateh. Sure, he’s charismatic, okay, he has this grand personality, but he’s a jerk, no matter how wise or sincere. He’s also a father of three and 45+, just saying. He was supposed to be this intriguing and charming character of the book in lieu of Hashim from Naml or even Faris but I have failed to see him as such. For me, he’s just another character in the story and I regard him with equal fascination as the rest, which is not considerable.

This makes me realize that none of the characters in Haalim stand out to me right now. I’m far more interested in the plot and the supernatural elements than the people.

There was this scene in this episode the likes of which we’ve read before in Naml. A character is narrating, he’s either speaking to himself or someone, while at the same time somewhere different, other character or characters are doing something else. This is quite a film-esque situation, one I’ve seen in multiple movies. What happens when it’s translated into a written scene is that the person’s narration becomes repetitive. It happened in Naml when Haneen was narrating her written letter to Aleesha and it happened here when Faateh was addressing the nation on national television. He kept prattling on and on about positivity (مثبت شعائیں for “positive vibes”, eh? Nice one, Nemrah, I liked that phrase) while Taliya and Datin focused on breaking into Ashar’s office. Maybe it’s inevitable given that the other scenario taking place has to be accommodated with the speech and since you’re only talking about one thing, “the need to develop a positive outlook towards life” in this case, you can only say so much.

Or maybe you can, I don’t know, it felt like he was saying the same thing over and over again.

So Faateh, Taliya and Adam are all about to come face to face with each other. Now THAT is going to go well. The biggest questions I have are Taliya’s past and Aryana’s kidnapping. I’ll bet Faateh’s fortune the two are connected. Asra has quite the venom in her, and some balls, if she had the gall to defend the same person she framed just so she could get back to her husband. Typical woman behavior, very disappointing.

Let’s see what this ancient house of Sun Bao does to our trio.

Quote of the Episode:

My Rating: 4/5

Posted in Book Reviews, Urdu Novels

Haalim Episode 4: “ميراث پدر من” Review

I could not get the time to read this when it was uploaded and even now I didn’t want to read it, con of reading novels with monthly episodes, but once you get started, there is no going back.
The episode is titled “Miraas-e-Pidr-Mann” or My Father’s Inheritance. Nemrah Ahmed has the habit of using both Urdu and Persian in her episode titles which is cool.

The first thing I feel like talking about is the overall pacing of the plot. It’s going forward and at a suitable speed at that. I don’t feel as if things are moving too fast for me to keep track of (the only thing that prevents me or rather, prevented me from keeping track is the 30 day distance between episodes which now is thankfully 15 days) or if they are too slow as to stop being interesting. I like the fact that there is new information to gobble up in each episode and so far I’m satisfied with what I’m getting.

Taliya’s visions told her a little bit about her father, the mysterious key and the ‘hunters’. There were also a few flashbacks where we get to know some of what Taliya was up to seven years ago. I understand that seven years is a long time but to me, her “master of all trades” story doesn’t ring with me. I’m still not convinced. There is something missing in the narrative. Also, she reminds me of Matt Bomer’s character from White Collar.

The Expected But Unexpected HOLY SHEET Nemrah Ahmed Moments (EBUHSNAM) were in this episode as well. It’s a duh at his point.

  • The kid that ‘predicted’ Asra’s future being an actor set up by Datin.
  • Adam discovering that Taliya was indeed a con.
  • Taliya knowing that Adam knew that she was a scam and then covering it up.
  • Adam’s uncle having true visions.

I like Faateh now. He’s talking like a human being and responding in related answers instead of fairytales which is a HUGE step up from Faateh of the first two episodes. His wife, however, has me in pickle. Like her or dislike her, you cannot decide. Ashar also makes much more sense. He’s not just some evil power-hungry bastard. He was nice once upon a time but the expectations and whispering of a parent do strange things to a person. Datin and Adam also had their retrospection moments.
Each character had a flashback of his/her own where we got to know more about them.

Okay, so this is something I’ve ignored in the past but find myself unable to do so now, it’s my number one Nemrah Ahmed pet peeve, one that became apparent in Naml: unnecessary, unrelatable and often uncalled for dialogue in situations that don’t demand it and that dialogue often feels so ridiculous and out of place that I cringe. One such instance was in this episode when the flashback Adam was trying to encourage the scared little girl up in the tree to remain calm:

I read the whole thing and I am a 100% certain that most of the garhey alfaaz and philosophical messages could have been easily filtered out to leave something like “Don’t worry, kid. I’ll get you out of here, you just have to stay calm.” Not the absolute balderdash that Adam sprouted.

I don’t care if it was an opportunity to preach about courage and resilience, I don’t care that the actual message was worth listening to, all I know that it was infuriatingly out of place and if I were ever put into a situation like that, I would not let my rivers of wisdom overflow in front of a kid. I would talk in simple sentences, ones that he/she would even understand. Like, GAH.

This episode was comparatively more interesting and entertaining so now I’m definitely on the Haalim train. It’s just that now that I’ve come out of the “blind adoration” phase when it comes to Nemrah, I’m going to encounter more problems. But that is okay, I guess. What’s bothering me might not bother somebody else so it’s all just relative. Point is, she is a phenomenal writer and I’d still read anything she writers.

Quote of the Episode:

My Rating: 4.25/5


Posted in Book Reviews, Urdu Novels

Review: Haalim Episode 3, “The Huntsman”

Okay, so “Shikaar-baaz” was considerably more intriguing and happening than the last one. There were a lot of surprises and sudden turns which are Nemrah Ahmed’s specialty. This, like the rest, began with a vision Haalim a.k.a Taliya was having about her and Adam being chased by “hunters”. The vision cuts to where the last episode ended, Taliya being recognized by Adam as Tungo Kamil’s former maid.

I still don’t have any clue where all of this is going and I can’t even begin to imagine. The characters of this book are supposedly darker than all of her previous ones. But I’m not sure I understand the depth of Taliya’s struggles, both her inner conflict about wanting to have a clean slate and the circumstances that lead her to become a con. Yes, she was used by her husband for money laundering, yes, she had a troubled childhood but it hardly screams dark and complex to me. I want more of an insight into her history because right now, none of this seems believable to me.

I’ve read characters with far more horrible pasts and when they battle their inner demons and go through the good vs bad dilemma inside their heads, it makes sense. Taliya’s, so far, does not. The conversation she and Datin had on the stairs where Datin summarized their entire criminal career was straight up convenient. Taliya did this and then she did that and then she became an expert and then moved on to something else and mastered that. PFHT, no. I don’t buy it.

Faateh Ramzal was also comparatively less insufferable. He gave straight answers, guys! And once, only once, he went into storytelling mode and it was admittedly very fitting in that situation. He’s still arrogant with that thou-shalt-bow-before-my-high-and-mightiness attitude but like I said, it was tolerable and seemed true to his persona.

Unexpected Things that Had Me Like WOAH:

  1. Taliya and Faateh. Eh? Er…but what about Adam the Pure and Clean?
  2. Taliya got the bracelet. HA! I did not expect that to happen so fast.
  3. Another clairvoyant? So there are more people like her. Interesting, VERY interesting, indeed. I hope this has something do with superhumans descended from aliens from another planet who want to take over Earth and WREAK DESTRUCTION AND DEA—
  4. She got the bracelet but failed to get the painting. I seriously thought she was gonna expose Ashar.
  5. Adam and his ‘noble’ quest to find the ‘truth’ about Taliya. There were so many backflips there.
  6. Something about Taliya’s birthmark. It had to do with hunters, I think? Dude, this is just begging for a super hero story line. PUH-lease let it be one.
  7. Adam and Taliya and the mysterious treasure of Tasha. WHAT? (*whispers*: alien tech treasure, shhh…)

Even thought there are so many tracks diverging from the episode, I feel that this one moved the story forward and was quite eventful. I got apprehensive after reading the second one but this one was really good!

Quote of the episode:

My rating:   4/5

Please, do share your thoughts below!

Posted in Book Reviews, Bookish Balderdash, Urdu Novels

Dil Ka Nagar – An early teens guilty pleasure

Since it’s in Urdu and was being published in episodes about 7 or 8 years ago, I’m 500% certain that absolutely NO ONE knows what this is. Good, let me enlighten you.

I talked about my childhood reading habits and the books/magazines I turned to when I wasn’t that much aware of English literature two posts back. I mentioned a local newspaper/magazine called Akhbar-e-Jahan? This particular story was published in that magazine and I was enamored by it. It’s a family saga by a writer called Salma Yonus and it ran for 21 weeks. Dil Ka Nagar translates to something like “where the heart lives”.

Anyone who knows anything about our culture knows that we practically inhale family sagas on a daily basis, through our television shows, through our books, it’s what we love and what we are used to. Being at that age, young, and not entirely exposed to the genre I would come to love in the later years (it’s fantasy btw), it was something that I stuck to like a leech and oh, how I enjoyed every second of it! Waiting every week for a new episode was equal parts agony and excitement.

Even though it’s a 400 page book now, I frustratingly did not find it on the Goodreads’ archives. Such is the curse of using that website, you don’t want to read anything you can’t brag about. So I thought, why not write about it here? I’ve been secretly wishing to write about this book for ages.

It’s a tad filmy, with characters dying or changing when it’s convenient and things happening for shock value. I’ll say it again, I LOVED it then and that love is alive even now after years and years. If I had read it now, I most probably would not have liked it that much.  Yes, I love family sagas but I like them to unfold with intelligence. Not that this was extremely stupid, but as I skim it now I see that some parts are just too cliched which is always a bad sign. Here’s what I remember:

The book had a Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham -esqued start where Jahanzeb and his family: his wife Mudhat and two grown-up daughters Zoya and Zoobya receive a letter from his estranged parents asking for a reconciliation. Jahanzeb was kicked out of the house for marrying the girl he loved instead of conceding to his father’s wishes and marrying his cousin, Safina. Now, years later, this ‘invitation’ reasonably shocks him but after his wife’s gentle persuasion, he agrees to return.

The have a warm welcome at the Aevaan Palace with all the previous squabbles apparently forgotten as they are accepted into the family once again with open arms. Mudhat is ecstatic. She’s finally found the love and respect she had always wanted from her in-laws.

However, three people are not particularly happy with Jahanzeb’s return; Safina, her nephew Shahdil and Baba Sahab.

Baba Sahab, Jahanzeb’s father, is the patriarch of Aevaan Palace. No decision is made without his royal majesty’s express consent and he is feared and respected as the head of the family. My thoughts on the guy were quite clear then and they remain so until now: he was an egotistical JERK with authority issues and some grand notions of his superiority above the rest. I refused to accept his I’m-so-high-and-mighty-bow-before-me bullshit and I hated how his actions were justified even though they were SO beyond wrong at times. No matter how the writer tried to spin it, he was a horrible, horrible man.

What’s worse is that he never realized the gravity of his arrogant and stupid mistakes. I’m pretty sure Amitabh Bachan’s character either apologized at the end or maybe admitted that he was wrong. Another character like this was seen in the form of Agha Jaan in Dayar-e-Dil and you have to appreciate how absolutely beautiful his arc was. He was ashamed of how harsh he had been and tried hard to rectify his mistakes. Not this guy, though.

So the Palace is home to not only Baba Sahab’s family but also his brother’s family; his brother’s daughter, Safina and his grandson Shahdil. Shahdil’s parents died when he was a kid and he has been brought up by his aunt. Baba Sahab’s family includes his wife, Bi Ji and his six children, three sons including Jahanzeb and three daughters. All are married and have their own grown up kids so you have a really big family with lots of good old melodrama.

Baba Sahab and Safina aren’t happy with his son’s return because of obvious reasons, he is rigid and doesn’t like sacrificing his stupid, nonsensical principles while Safina still carries heartbreak from all those years ago. Shahdil on the other hand holds a grudge on behalf of his beloved aunt and he is the one who shows the most resistance to this new arrival.

Aaah, Shahdil! This tall, dark and handsome (and very angry) young man holds a special place in my heart. You see, long before Jihan Sikandar, Faris Ghazi, Omar Jahangir and all other fictional men I drool over now, there was Shahdil. He was the reason I was always so excited about reading this. He seems to be ill-tempered and rude at first but really, he’s all mush inside. He was, quite honestly, one of my very first fictional crushes.

Zoya and Zoobya are already engaged to be married to their maternal cousins. Zoya and Ibaad are actually married but their parents are waiting for the girls to finish their education for a proper wedding ceremony. And so it is when Zoobya’s fiance secretly marries another and her world is in upheaval when our very own Lord High and Mighty Baba Sahab declares that Ibbad must divorce Zoya as well. His reason? Because he said so, and:

Zoya and Ibaad are devastated and while Zoya resists initially, she too gives up like a typical goody-two shoes bechari while her parents do the same. UGH. Only Zoobya and Ibaad refuse to accept this colossally idiotic pronouncement. Ibaad shows up with a lawyer I think and his father and takes Zoya away from Aevaan Palace without telling her about it first. There is uproar and outrage and Baba Sahab blames Zoya for encouraging Ibaad to do this and promptly breaks all ties with her.

There are other relationship threads in the story but Zoya, Zoobya, Ibaad and Shahdil make the main square so I’m only talking about them. Beware! Things are about to get frustratingly cliched and ridiculous:

  • Zoya and Ibaad’s marriage is riddled with angst and drama because in the beginning, she can’t stop moaning about how Ibaad took her away from her precious rishtey (family) and when that’s settled, she falls down the stairs while she’s pregnant and, you guessed it, becomes infertile.
  • Meanwhile, Zoobya and Shahdil are married on the insistence of their parents, no wait, sorry, on the order of Baba Sahab the Formiddable and the two cannot stand the sight of each other. It’s only when Shahdil realizes that his wife is with child that he slowly starts to soften.
  • Ibaad’s mother pushes him towards a second marriage to her niece. The family line must go on, she says and the men are unable to persuade her to give up.
  • Ibaad’s new mother-in-law conspires to throw Zoya out of the house and succeeds: she sends her out for medicine when nobody’s home and lies to Ibaad when he comes back about her having run away. Just the poor girl’s luck, it rains and her chappal breaks, HER CHAPPAL FREAKING BREAKS and, cherry on top, Shahdil shows up out of nowhere to drop her home. Ibaad after this brainwashing, takes one look at Zoya with Shahdil at the door and divorces her. LOL.
  • Zoobya dies in childbirth and Zoya is brought home. Zoya and Shahdil grow close to each other and fall in love. Well, Shahdil technically, had already fallen in love with her ages ago.
  • Ibaad has an accident and dies.

All the conveniences and absurdities aside, I admit that I had been secretly pining for Zoya and Shahdil and may have figuratively whooped when they got together. Oh, and Baba Sahab? He just had a smug smile plastered on his face, like he knew all this was going to happen and he was right all along. Die, bitch.

Well, that was fun. There are somethings you love unconditionally, no matter how daft or illogical they sometimes are. This book is one such thing for me. But the writing was good, I won’t deny that. It was nice to be able to share about it when previously I couldn’t. One of the many perks of having your very own blog. MUAHAHA.

Share your thoughts down below, peeps!