Thursday, 20 February 2014

Haveli by Zeenat Mahal

A charming little romance which is set in the recent past.    Pakistan in the seventies, to be precise.  Chandni has been somewhat over-protected by her maternal grandmother in the crumbling haveli (palace) which is their family’s ancestral home.  They are, as you might have guessed, erstwhile Indo-Pak royalty.  Young, beautiful and extremely well read and educated due to rigorous home tutoring, Chandni longs for the love and affection of the father she has never known.  He seems, her father, to have been something of a heartbreaker, a life destroyer even.  Even before Chandni’s late mother died when she was a baby, pining for the man she had loved and been abandoned by, the same man had already loved and left the mother of Chandni’s elder brother Zafar to a similar fate.  Zafar’s mother had had the wherewithal to deposit her child in the home of her successor before succumbing to her fate.

Chandni’s overpowering grandmother has planned out her life and even chosen her husband, but Chandni, with the candid innocence (or is it ignorance?) that is the characteristic of the young and naive, fails to see that her grandmother works  only out of love and concern for her granddaughter.  The old lady doesn’t do less for Zafar either, although he’s not her grandson.  So when Chandni’s father appears out of the blue, protesting his helplessness in the past and his true love for his daughter, Chandni is thoroughly charmed.  It doesn’t seem to occur strange to her that her father shows absolutely no concern for her brother.  As the reader and other members of Chandni’s circle look on helplessly, Chandni seems to be drawn to her father’s love, affection and approval as a moth is drawn to a flame.  She even mindlessly accepts the rather shallow fiancé her father has produced for her, as a magician produces a rabbit out of a hat.

I enjoyed this unusual story, which kept me guessing right up to the end.  A sweet romance with sparkling dialogue and a gallant hero.  Just my favourite type of read.  I look forward to more from this worthy author.

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