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January 29, 2015

Book Review - 183 : The Uncommon Memories of Zeenat Qureishi

Author : Veena Nagpal
Publisher : Tara Research Press

Traumatised in the aftermath of the London Tube bombing, the phobic 20-year-old Zeenat Querishi comes to India. Long before Zeenat was born, the eldest Qureishi brother, his wife, and six-year-old daughter Zainab were murdered.  Zeenat’s family believed the Mehras, their Hindu family friends, responsible and the friendship turned sour. Wild and impetuous Zeenat promptly falls in love with Ajay Mehra. Faced with proof that he was involved in the demolition of a mosque, she scorns him. Disturbed, Zeenat undergoes regression therapy in an atmosphere of paranoia and uncovers memories so powerful that she can project them. Communal bitterness that has simmered for centuries threatens to explode around her and Zeenat tries to find answers in the past that will help her understand and heal the present.

Set in the early 1990s, the book paces itself leisurely, at times a bit too much. The author wants to explore the communal lines in the wake of Ayodha riots and Babri demolition. One can already feel fatigued by these ideas as there has been so much written, talked, discussed and deliberated on these topics that it does not feel entirely fresh.  Problem is, all of this is lying under layers of detailing Hindu fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism. Material is dense, timelines are confusing and the jumps between the scenes in the narrative are not always seamless. Characters are introduced and conveniently forgotten in the narrative, only to question the motive of the writer. With multifaceted characters, it becomes boring after a while because you know none of them can think straight, they are just grey characters who will not appear what they are. It is also ironic that in a book which is trying so hard to please Muslim characters in the end make them complete jerks by the end. I am sure this was not the intention while writing this book.

I am going with 2/5 for Veena Nagpal's 'The Uncommon Memories of Zeenat Querishi'. The author has noble intentions and tries really hard to pack in a lot of things. But it left me exhausted as a reader, and i say that in the best form of the word. Try it, you may feel different.

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