This House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Forbidden Love – A diktat in itself, unleashed on unsuspecting hearts like an ouroboros where forbidden swallows love and yet appears whole, showing no signs of damage. No one knows the pain except the latter that is now usurped by the former. But it is when the opposite happens, that the tale transcends its meagre form and turns one for the generations.

Nida comes from a sophisticated family of high-ranking politicians and is married too, to one from this fraternity, but none of that sophistication and power has healed her wounds inflicted by her little daughter’s death.

Life is exacting and cruel. Death is calm oblivion. Life betrays everyone while death, without fail, always finds us.

Sasha is trying hard to break the shackles of her middle class drudgery by seeking out pleasures outside her marriage, even as she protects her pretty daughter, Alina, from the preying eyes of the society and dismisses the state of her other daughter, Zoya, who thankfully is too plain to draw any attention.

Morality, especially with regards to sex, was just primitive. No one had morals these days, it was far too inconvenient. It was like carrying liquids in your handbag at airport security-checks. One simply knew not to have them.

Bhanggi is an outcast hijra (eunuch) who, sitting under a tree in the Daata Sahab mosque, blesses and prays for worshippers at one hand, and is constantly at war with self and Allah, on the other.

I cannot rid myself of the affliction called hope. I scoop up its broken shards within the cups of my hands. I hold it fast to my heart every time it shatters against the monolithic reality that looms at every turn, in every human eye.

When these three imperfect and burdened souls cross each other’s paths, nothing ever remains the same.

This is a tale of merging and separating, stereotyping and rebelling, patriarchy and equality, suppression and freedom, violation and redemption, cowardice and courage. But above all, this is a tale of love – A love that blooms at an unconventional junction and between two people who are far, far removed from each other when it comes to their past experiences.

Does a love without proximity carry the curse of disintegration? Or the curse of disintegration is a must as eternity is simply a mirage? Who decides the forbidden line when every heart is tainted? Can’t love simply be, without the prying eyes of society labelling it legitimate or not? Does such a label add gravitas to the love or crush it under its weight?

Mansab extends the sprawling sky of Lahore, across crimson days and indigo nights, and nurtures the love of her protagonists with tenderness and purity, subtlety and sincerity. Her lovers are not the typical rebels or self-discoverers who make up their minds and go for the kill; they are the little children who retreat to their shelters when the rain falls hard and yet, they venture out again when it subsides, on slippery grounds, to collect its wet elixir on their souls. They step out and step in, forever toying with the line, not knowing when to cross and when to contain, but always knowing, to not malign the other’s heart. While the author does beautiful justice in sculpting the interlocked arms of ambition and failure, keeping the backdrop authentic and non-intrusive, it is her love story that brings a staggering element of poignancy, bordering on being impregnable.

Upon reading the final line, I felt a prick in my heart. No, I didn’t know either of the lovers. However, they paraded in my world for three full days and their sharp, passionate pleas punctured my heart. But I didn’t bleed. Instead, I breathed in long, content breaths, as if a window of my heart was suddenly opened and a fresh breeze came rushing in from a land that invalidated ‘forbidden love’.


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