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Different Themes

Ella Datta

By Haroon Moghul
Penguin Books, Delhi, 2005, pp. 274, Rs. 250.00

By Rajeev Jacob
Lancers Books, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 217, Rs. 295.00


Ever since Islam has been on the dock following 9/11, there has been a spate of fiction located in west and south Asia and other regions where Islam dominates. The Order of Light is set in Cairo in Egypt, whereas The Lunatic of Multan is set in both Pakistan and India.   The two books are poles apart in their approach and the flavour of writing. The Order of Light is metaphysical in tone and dwells on an interface between the future and the present with shades of the past colouring the scenario. The Lunatic of Multan, on the other hand, is a fast-paced, cloak-and-dagger spy thriller. In the first book nothing much happens by way of plot. In the second, the plot is full of incidents and encounters that unfold with such dizzying speed that once even the author got a character’s name confused. Brigadier Bakhtiar Rana, a retired Pakistani army officer, is addressed as Zubin by his wife, seven pages after he first appears. The protagonist of The Order of Light is a young American of Pakistani origin. During a summer vacation, he decides to study Arabic language and Islam. The year is 2001 and the time a few months before 9/11. In Cairo, he meets Haris, an Indian Muslim, who has also come with the same purpose. The two young men share an apartment.   The protagonist who is the narrator describes the ennui that he feels with life in Cairo. Both the young men are confused, alienated and have serious questions about both their religious identity and the mercantile capitalism of the US. And yet the narrator is not prepared to reject Islam. The narrator’s only sense of release is when he runs far and long from his base, his apartment. During one such run at night, he comes across an esoteric sect in a dilapidated mosque led by Rojet Dahati. The members of the sect are of Kurdish origin and their lives belong to a future, but somehow they have travelled back in time to 2001. Their aim is to revive the glory of Islam as it had been at the time of Salah al –Din. So they plan a series of suicides in crowded areas of Cairo to become martyrs and proclaim their mission, the cause of Islam. Dahati’s followers are martyrs who kill themselves, unlike some misguided people who kill others.   Through the dialogues between the ...

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