The journey of Aab-e-Hayat came to an end this Sunday. As many die-hard fans of Peer-e-Kamil (saw), I too was over the moon about its sequel. But did it satisfy us? Well, that is a tad bit complicated, so let’s break it down. I will try to be as concise as possible, without summarizing the story.
Things We Loved
- Like all the other fandoms, the return of our favourite protagonists was the first thing that attracted us. We wanted to see more of Salaar and Imama’s married life and we got what we wished for. Although, sometimes Imama got overboard with her ungratefulness, that was all part of the plan. It was Salaar’s azmaish in the form of his wife’s bad behaviour.
- The whole sood (riba/ interest) thing was beautifully integrated within the story. The concept of unlawful earning and its consequences was explicitly presented. Someone like Salaar whose whole carrier revolved around this economic system had to go through immense internal and external struggle to stand up to it.
- For me, the best part of the novel was the track of Ghulam Fareed and his family. Their part was perfectly relatable. The way riba was shown destroying lives seemed so painfully real. Ghulam Fareed, a man of average intelligence and meagre resources was driven mad by the devastating fruits of riba. It was touching to see that he came around and let go of his self-inflicted hatred by just seeing how well his daughter was raised by Salaar and his family.
- Family bonding was a main highlight of this novel. It is not necessary for a woman to make an outstanding carrier to make her family proud of her. Imama was a perfect example of this. Despite being a house-wife, she was the pride of her husband. She sacrificed a lot in order to support her husband and children which made her the nucleus of her family.
- The last episode marked some reunions. I loved the scene between Jibreel and Aisha. Their conversation radiated a deeper understanding of each other’s psyche. The scene reminded me of the relationship between Zaini and Karam from Man-o-Salwa. The air of suffering from the past and the promise of a better tomorrow was encompassing Jibreel and Aisha, just like Zaini and Karam.
Things We Didn’t
- For many of the readers, the plot seemed divided into chunks which they couldn’t put together. At times, it was hard to connect the tracks, especially the timeline was all jumbled up. I personally, do not complain about this. Some pieces of art challenge your mind, Aab-e-Hayat attempted the same. Those who are familiar with Umera Ahmed’s writing style will have less to complain about, she has done the same in many of her novels like Aks, La -Hasil and Man-o-Salwa.
- The use of superlatives was many a times overwhelming. Ok, we get the point that Salaar and his children had extraordinary brains, facing extraordinary situations, but did it need to be stressed so much? For a piece of writing in which all the other things are subtle (the message about riba, the relationship between characters, the adverse effects of religious hypocrisy) the constant use of ‘zaheen tareen’, ‘azeem tareen’, ‘behtareen’ was a little hard to digest.
- The inconsistent pace. Some parts of the story were elaborated in great details, like that of Salaar and Imama’s initial married life. While others seemed rushed and half-cooked. The readers couldn’t connect with Jibreel, Humain, Raeesa and others, as they did not experience their character development properly.
- One dimensional characters. Speaking about character development, I felt most of the characters to be categorically black or white. Salaar and his whole family are white, Saad and his whole family are black, so are the US government and the CIA (may be a darker shade even). We know it is a work of fantasy but greying out the characters might have been more realistic and relatable.
- Correct me if I missed something, but there was a point that the sniper (the one appointed to assassinate Humain) missing to shoot someone once, despite his expertise. It felt that we will get to know more about this missed chance, but we never heard of it again.