The plot of Nimra Ahmed’s novel Namal (From Surah Namal meaning Ants) revolves around a murder! No wait, it revolves around the relationship between a boy and his family! Umm…wait, it revolves around money and its evil. Ok I give up, Namal’s plot has all this and much more substance beautifully weaved and exceptionally narrated into a single story.
Umera Ahmed set the trend of integrating religion into stories in the modern history of Urdu popular fiction. I don’t know anything about Nimra Ahmed, but if she is inspired by Umera, she is definitely going to surpass her mentor in near future. The way she seamlessly puts Islamic teachings in her stories makes me fall in love with her writing every time. Umera Ahmed’s stories are more on a spiritual side, divine love and most of all how people repent for their sins. Nimra brings this all to everyday life and common settings.
Namal’s story is a complex matrix and summarizing it can do injustice to it. But to get a gist, here it goes. Faris Ghazi (an intelligence officer) is convicted for the murder of his step-brother and wife and attempted murder of his relative Zumar Yousuf. His nephew (bhanja) Saadi Yousuf is convinced of his innocence and ultimately gets him out of the jail. On the other hand, Saadi’s aunt (Phupho) Zumar who also happens to be a district attorney lost her kidneys in the assault and is convinced that Faris is guilty, mostly because of a fake telephone call in Faris’s voice to Zumar prior to the attack. The actual guilty one is Hashim Kardaar (Faris’s first cousin) who, apart from being an accomplished lawyer, owns an inherited oil cartel. Hashim murdered Faris’s brother Waris in order to hide his corruption cases and in order to cover his tracks created the scenario in which Zumar was shot and Faris’s wife was murdered.
Saadi’s younger sister Haneen is super genius and makes a friend in USA. This friend Alicia who is later revealed to be half-sister of Hashim has introduced us to the motto of this novel “Ants Everafter”.
“Aik bachi k salgirah ko black aur gold ka touch de kar woh log sirf dunya ko apnay mazboot asaab dikhana chahtay hain. Siyah aur sunehra yani koila aur tail(oil).”
The Misunderstandings and Conspiracies
A basic theme of this novel is the conspiracies woven and the misunderstandings they create. The cunning lawyer Hashim and his devil of a mother Jawahirat manipulate reality in such a way that people like Zumar also believe this alternate reality and misunderstandings spawn.
“’I am sorry main ap kay pas nahi tha. Mera test tha phupho aur main fail hona nahi chahte tha.’ HAneen ko laga Saadi ki ankhon mein ansoo hain, ya shayad uski apni ankhen namm theen.”
Pace (4 out of 5)
The pace of the story is going fine. Although we keep revisiting the past, but every time Nimra tells a backstory we get to know some untold happenings that add to the depth of the plot. The way Haneen’s ‘sin’, Zartasha Ghazi’s murder and Naushervan’s fake abduction were shown, they added more to the ‘present’ as we know it.
Powerful Character Building (5 out 5)
Be it the scheming & queen-like Jawahirat Kardaar, the genius/ evil genius Haneen, the sweet and caring Saadi, the brute but honest Faris Ghazi, the sharp but stubborn Zumar, the cunning Hashim or the envious Naushervan, every character is carefully etched and has depth in it. I have given maximum rating because every major character is portrayed not in complete black or white, but in shades of grey; also because equal exposure is given to the characters.
Anticipation (4.5 out of 5)
There is always a blast in every episode that keeps you on the edge of your seats and makes you look forward to the next issue of Khawateen digest eagerly. I was totally not expecting the act of cheating by Haneen and was definitely taken off-guard by the brutal murder of Aurangzeb Kardaar. The revelation that Saadi burnt his phupho’s jahez stuff was shocking too. These twists are the reason that you crave for more.
Humour (2 out of 5)
Namal is an intense story involving brutal murders and devious deceptions, but it is not totally devoid of comic relief. We have been getting a lighter side in the form of quarrels between Haneen and Sam for example.
The Best Scene So Far
As I am covering 10 episodes, I have chosen three scenes from the previous episodes that have moved me the most. First was the scene when Naushervan faked his own abduction and Haneen burst her secret in front of everyone. I confess I did not suspect Naushervan to be stooping this low to get money. The whole scheme was kind of funny and written beautifully.
The second scene is basically in two parts: one is the letter from Alicia to Haneen and second is Haneen’s confession in front of her brother. The way Saadi comforted her in the 10th episode is also a mark of his good nature. I used to wonder why Haneen was allowed to watch dramas and movies day and night, the answer was that the writer had its consequence in mind and wanted to relate it to ‘addiction’. I also liked the way Haneen opted to quit her dream of engineering to offer kaffara.
“Baray gunahon kay baray kaffaray hotay hain, khaali khooli guilt aur dukh jaey bhaar me”
What to Expect
The writer has teased that Saadi might be killed in the next episode. If this is true, Haneen might have to take responsibility of exposing Hashim’s hand in Waris’s murder, as Saadi gave her the data she has to crack. But since Haneen has a crush on Hashim, it is not going to be soon. As for Zumar and Faris’s nikah, it will get more interesting to see Zumar try and put blame on Faris for her ‘murder’. I think this will be the point where Zumar will finally be convinced of his husband’s innocence. It looks like Jawahirat’s secret is about to be revealed and very minute details will play a crucial role in exposing her husband’s murder. But let us see what Nimra has in store for us :-)
I will not recommend this novel for light reading but if you can take ‘episodic suspense’ it is a good read, although I have some reservation on the too-perfect-to-be-true scenarios for criminals and the brutality involved. The novel is probably getting the highest following currently. I think there will not be any issues in making a drama serial out of it because it would not involve expensive locations and a lot of fantasy.
This is it from my side. I have tried to write a critical review and not to summarize the story. If my opinion differs from someone else’s, I beg pardon beforehand :-)