Any keen reader who searches novels revolving around the themes of warfare, love, nature, survival of the fittest, soldiery, romanticism, idealism, realism, individualism and friendship must get his hands on the novel called Where Clouds Meet written by Tahir Mehmood.
Set against the backdrop of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the novel covers the post-invasion conditions throughout 1980s and out of that, weaves a beautiful love story of a young solider named Ali. Tahir creates an engaging plot for the readers, adeptly incorporating all the above-mentioned themes in it and associating each with the plethora of characters he has developed. In one line, it is a ‘novel of happenings’ narrated beautifully, the title representing the concept of eternal love, one which goes beyond the stereotypical, worldly notions of the human emotion.
Where Clouds Meet opens with a breath-taking nature imagery of a lake in Naran Valley, introducing a young soldier named Ali who is found enjoying the green lush valley amidst high raised mountains. The first protagonist of the novel, Ali remains in the main plot till his martyrdom. His is a character intoxicated with love for his motherland, carrying a sense of patriotism that nurtures the true soldier’s soul in him.
One finds in the character of Ali a wonderful description of individualism, a literary movement from the 18th and 19th centuries that propagates an ideal version of humans, who realizes his or her worth and is able to utilize the given potentials to the best. Ali has all the morals and ideals of Individualism. Being a young soldier, he is well aware of all the skills that he has been endowed with. He performs all the assigned tasks well. He forwards the instructions to the officers under command promptly. Simultaneously, he is there to take as well as implement all the orders from the the CO, 2IC and Adjutant. He is smart enough to maintain communication with all of them. He is highly vigilant about everything, from taking care of his soldiers’ meals to building the most intimidating observation posts for the enemies at the Neelam Valley during the sporadic exchange of shelling at the LOC. There are details when the cross border shelling injures and martyrs the innocent locals. Then Ali comes with a delicate heart that bleeds from such barbaric acts, yet appearing as impeccable in making the calculations for his last post at Point 4777 before finally being martyred.
To the surprise of many, the second protagonist of the novel is not a human but a high-altitude bird which the author has named as Tutu Titu. His part in the plot focuses on the two themes of ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘individualism’. He descends from the mountains to know about the world of ‘homingoes’ (humans) which he thinks is the strangest species alive. Tutu, upon descending, embarks on a journey of seeking learning, research and wisdom via many errands and encounters. He sets off as a free bird from the river, travelling from one ice rock to another to reach the mountainous village and finally the city. He has an unending thirst for knowledge on account of his great thinking capability. However, the inquisitiveness often makes him fall prey to danger but he is tactful enough to make it through the perilous situation. His fights with the snake and later on with the falcon, demonstrating the fact in real that this world is for the one who knows how to survive. Throughout his journey, he is in a spell-bound state to study humans. He becomes an ardent observant in this regard. The two words, ‘use’ and ‘work’ help Tutu grow and be acquiescent with the idea that humans are way more skilful in leading their lives. Tutu represents what we call a ‘free soul’. The details of his first flight in a unique and outstanding manner tell clearly that he enjoys freedom, be it in the form of spending a wayward life or in the form of flying.
The leading female characters in the novel are three; Serena, Natasha and Rahmeen. Serena and Natasha are two bosom friends who share the same major subjects as well as a room in a university. Rahmeen is a young and dedicated journalist who works for humanity in particular.
The author has dedicated a great part of discussion on warfare and soldiery as well. There are many pages included with the purpose of sharing military-based details. Many readers will find it much interesting to read about the intricacies of transit camp, patrolling, reconnaissance, command post and command bunker. One gets to know so much about the military service in real as well in the action i.e. planning, reporting and then immediate response action for the enemy.
It is through the character of Professor NKK that the theme of love seems to have been glorified. Carrying a nomadic soul, he is filled with wisdom and intellect. Despite the fact that life has been horribly cruel to him, he manages to give love to his fellow humans – times and circumstances having transformed him into a personification of love. Now, he has become a philosopher who interprets life and seeks his meaning and purpose. NKK’s mantra for love is, “Love is a Divine manifestation which has put a halo around the universe.”
This book is definitely a stand-out among many other contemporary books, as it has a lot to offer to its readers. For any young officer, it is a complete guide for learning soldiery. For any history student, it brings out concrete details. For any common individual, it is a useful read to fit in the society for survival. For students of peace and conflict, it reveals that war is sacred and actually comes in the field to maintain the prevalence of good over evil. It is definitely right to say here that Tahir has written a literary piece of the classical kind. With his gripping narration, he amps up the reader’s mind while creating irresistible pictures through vivid imagery. Tahir Mehmood proves that he knows the art of storytelling very well, making his narrative in line with the quote:
“We humans are the storytelling creatures in life, so make it an interesting read.”
Asma ishaq zindabad…..
You’ve explained it so greatly that I think I don’t need to read the book…..I think you should give reviews about literature as well that would be really helpful to the students…
A lot of love and respect for you….
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