Title: Fib of a Dreamer
Author: Junaid Altaf
Publisher: Lieper Publications
Price: Rs 220
Fib of a Dreamer is the debut novel of Junaid Altaf, who hails from Pulwama and is a student at Govt Degree College Pulwama. The main theme of the novel is love, casteism, drug addiction, and failure. It also talks about the fringe benefits of failure – how it makes us responsible towards our life and the purpose of life. The novel starts with Ayan and Zara, the protagonists, studying together in a school and falling in love with each other. They start seeing each other more often, especially when they move to Srinagar for coaching. Both of them get a little derailed from their mission of becoming doctors. Zara’s friend, Zarnain, knows everything about the two of them. However, Maleeha, another friend of Zara, doesn’t know anything about it. When she comes to know, the jealousy in her plots to unsettle the whole thing.
Maleeha informs her mother, who in turn tells, in a hyperbolic fashion, the same to Zara’s family. Hell breaks loose. Zara is called back home and Ayan’s father, who has borrowed a lot of money from Zara’s father, suffers a cardiac arrest. Ayan is distraught. He takes recourse to smoking and becomes a chain smoker. Soon, he tries his hands at alcohol and completely loses the plot. The whole family is ruined. Ayan seems not to care. Zara, on the other hand, is sent to London to study medicine and she becomes a doctor.
All this while, the spark of love in her keeps burning within. A few telephone calls with Ayan do nothing to soothe her nerves. When she comes back, she is married off to someone else. Ayan is doubly distraught. A few words of Zara to mend his life bring a change in Ayan’s ways. He trudges back onto the right path. Though they don’t unite in the end as a happy couple, yet they seem to have made peace with their lot. This is the most pragmatic aspect of the book. How could the two live together after all the bickering between their families, thanks to Maleeha who played spoilsport? Thankfully, this doesn’t give the readers a heartache. Ayan goes on to become a successful Chemistry teacher in a university while Zara becomes a renowned cardiologist.
The novel is replete with themes that concern us as a society. Elitism, which is fast eating up the fabric of our society, is dealt with in the book. Sulaiman’s tactics of lending money to Rehman, Ayan’s father, in order to grab his land is something that most people would find common. The elite Sulaiman still believes in looting the hard-earned money of the subaltern Rehman. Allama Iqbal is right when he calls modern (Muslim) man still preoccupied with the capitalist ways, replicating his old ‘masters’. A great trait of Junaid’s writing is his usage of simple diction. There aren’t many words that one needs to look up in a dictionary. He has surely kept his target readership in mind while writing the novel. Every now and then, you get a Pamukian flavour in the text: “It was the time of Spring, it was the time of love.” Similarly, when Ayan describes his emotions to Zara in a letter of his, he tells her: “Dear Zara, I love your earlobes that outshine your huge earrings…. I love your scent that makes me forget the scent of heaven.” The editor could have, however, done a better job by checking some minor grammatical errors. The use of double past in some sentences takes away the beauty of the text. However, this being the writer’s debut novel, the errors on part of the editor should be kept aside to enjoy the story that is beautifully told in a hundred odd pages.
The native district of the writer, Pulwama, shouldn’t be stereotyped for violence and danger. From my personal experience, there are more people in Pulwama who are into academics than anywhere in Kashmir.
The writer is Assistant Professor of Functional English at GDC Pulwama