Rohzin: A monologue to soul
By Moid Rasheedi
It is quite difficult to differentiate between outer and inner phenomenon in any creative piece of literature due to interwoven textual complexities. If a novel discusses history, religion, culture and society in specific perspectives, it means writer is not going to open secrets hidden in the ontology of the text. ‘Rohzin’ is ready for dialogue through monologue.
Rohzin is one of the most discussing novels, written in Urdu by a young Mumbai-based novelist Rahman Abbas, recently got published. This is his fourth novel but really poles apart from previous. Now, he has appeared with some new tools, techniques, treatments, and approaches before fiction lovers. He was under heated discussion in October 2015 on award returning issue. He returned his Maharashtra State Urdu Sahitya Academy Award, which he won in 2011 for his third novel Khuda Ke Saaye Mein Aankh Micholi (Hide-and Seek in the Shadow of God) protesting the ‘climate of intolerance’ in the country.
Rohzin is, indeed, a city novel. Here, we perceive the city as a metaphor. There are numberless short stories on Mumbai, written by distinguished and legendary Urdu writers, but no novel was under this theme. This is a first novel focused on Mumbai in Urdu, touches the soul references from within and without the history, culture, religion, custom, wisdom, and dogma in the atmosphere of fiction. Rahman has always been attracted by forbidden love stories. He knows secrets of love. The novel encompasses reality to fantasy, crowd to solitude, and compares sex to affection and love, reveals intercultural to interlingual situations. Love is a central trope for seeking spiritual satisfaction.
Rahman starts the novel with immense metaphorical gimmick to attract readers and finishes it with the same treatment. The novel begins with the roaring ocean and weeping sky, and ends with the same for Asrar and Hina. The first paragraph foretells the end of the story and the splashing waves in it are nothing but sweetest songs of love and grief. This scenario gets us felt mysterious and mythological situations in the whole journey of the novel. Asrar and Hina are the main characters. Author has chosen the name for the protagonist ‘Asrar’ as a pun. Lexical meaning of ‘Asrar’ (plural) is mysteries, and somewhere, he has made this character uncanny. He has articulated the entire text with proper associations.
There are eight chapters in the novel and every chapter is a second line of a ghazal by an accomplished Urdu poet Baani. The novel describes the life of Mumbai and its suburbs. Kokan, a rugged section of the western coastline, has played a major role to link the tale. Its climate, landscape, and culture have been woven as basic atmosphere to create base of the novel. Author narrates a village and calls it Mabaad-e-Morpho (Post-Morpho). He has coined the term for village to show post modern effects and day after day changes in the society. He uses three key words; ocean, boat, and fish, to depict the life of the village, and puts in words the ocean’s boon and bane.
The life turns in the tale entering to the city. The past kept coming in dreams, the present was very complicated to face, and the target was still a secret. Rahman draws a creative outline of Mumbai; its pain, poverty, prosperity, crowd, loneliness, hate, and love. He fills appropriate colors in every bit of the tale to represent actual nature of the city of dreams. He truly depicted “the city of seven islands”, and fascinated readers having created metaphysical surroundings. He hangs readers between fact and fiction.
“The city of dreams” has been narrated with great potential through imagination and portrayed in detail: Skyscrapers, match box housing, terror attack, communal violence, natural disaster, political muscle, hustle and bustle, business, street begging, illegal practices, shopping mall culture etc. Author emphasizes on Muslim society; its language, literature, culture, trade, food habits, religious practices, educational and social backwardness, and overall life style.
Rahman describes about the business of diamonds and other precious stones in Mumbai through the protagonist. It seems that he has a command over the stones. He revisits prostitution, the oldest profession of the world, and subverts the meaning. He weaves Satanism, with its rituals, as a parallel narrative in the novel to differentiate true love from lust. Readers praise the close reading of life in every event and admire him for his spiritual approach towards life. In fact, this is an indelible piece of fiction in Urdu on the city of contrast. Rohzin is nothing but a journey within and a monologue to soul.
Moid Rasheedi is an Assistant Professor, Department of Urdu, AMU