Book Review | SHIKAST-E-SHAB | Fareeda Ashfaq

Non-Review Rant

Want to understand the web of relationships of Shikast-e-Shab? You have arrived at the right place. Welcome to TOMU!

I had first read it when it was published in Pakeeza Aanchal in episodic form. I liked it. Us sisters had lengthy chats about how well the university life has been depicted, even though none of us had been to a university until then 😀

I had nice memories of this novel and had a small draft for review. My sister was reading it and offered to share the pdf. I thought why not reread to write a detailed review. And, now I regret it.

Boy is it annoying. As a young reader I didn’t know the nuances of storytelling nor could I tell a good hero from an annoying one. There would be episodic novels in the magazine and I would read them all. Period.

I still don’t know much about storytelling but this one is annoying AF, I assure you. Let’s begin with characters

NOTE: This is a spoiler filled review. Read at your own risk.

Characters

Tehreem & Family (Karachi Folks)

Tehreem Ehtesham Hassan aka Rani aka Anjum

Yep, she has many aliases and I just revealed one of the major mysteries of the plot. This technique was later adapted by Umera Ahmed in Aks. Chidiya, Aks, Fatima Murad Ali – all synonyms for the heroine. Aibak and Sherdil facades of two identities for the hero. Remember Aks? I will remind about that in a detailed review. Let me add that to a never-ending list.

Rani is our protagonist. And possibly one of the most annoying ones. She is the epitome of beauty and grace; her family and friends love her enough to give their lives for Rani.

She is constantly sulking and self-pitying for something that happened a few years ago. Hold on until Plot Summary.

Ehtesham Hassan

Rani’s father

Rehana Begum

Mrs Ehtesham, but also phuphozad cousin of Ehtesham. Uff. God forgive me. Rani’s mother. The eternal optimist who can not utter a bad word for anybody; not even the woman who nearly ruined Rani’s future,

Asif Ehtesham Hassan

Rani’s handsome and extremely caring and supremely funny brother. He is studying medicine and apparently can read her sister like a book. I like his jokes very much.

Ana bi

Old bua who has worked with Hassan family all her life. Almost like a mother to Rani.

Irfan Chacha

Rani’s uncle. Rifat’s father but also very close to Ehtesham Hassan and neighbour.

Safiya bhabhi

Irfan’s wife, Rifat’s mom

Farhat aapi

Rifat’s elder sister

Mursaleen bhai

Farhat’s husband

Habeeb bhai

Rifat’s brother

Faiza bhabhi

Habeeb’s wife

Shahid bhai

Rifat’s brother and Rani’s confidante in many matters

Arshiya

Rifat’s cousin

Arooba

Rifat’s cousin

Rizwana Khala

Rani’s aunt

Saifi Hassan

Not my favourite Saifi Hassan. Rani’s cousin. Also, her candidate, who isn’t?

Shahzeb & Family (Lahore Folks)

Shahzeb Inseram Hassan

The male lead. The living embodiment of Apollo, apparently that greek dude was very handsome. I have googled him and not much impressed. But, hey, I did not come up with that metaphor.

He’s Rani’s cousin, too, and more. Read the whole review to find details. but first, understand these characters. Don’t you dare jump to Plot Summary just yet.

Inseram Hassan

Shahzeb’s father and Ehtesham’s younger brother. He was married to Saleha, courtesy some nosy and evil relatives. Saleha and family,

Habeeb ur Rehman aka bade mamu

Shahzeb’s uncle, the most sensible one.

Badi mumani

Mrs Habeeb, generally well-meaning, but is easily influenced by bullies

Aliya Aapi

Haseeb’s daughter, married, has little to do with the plot except for describing the family tree.

Suhaila Aapi

Also married, and has a character much like Aliya.

Iftekhar Bhai

Habeeb’s son. He likes Sobia although that is not revealed until quite late in the novel. Serious, sincere, calm, composed, understanding, caring; think of all the adjectives for a good hero and Iftekhar has it. Something that Shahzeb lacks tremendously.

Badi Khala

Shahzeb’s nameless aunt.

Saad

Badi khala’s son

Fahad

Badi khala’s son

Uzma

Badi khala’s daughter

Asjad

Badi khala’s son

Waseem Ur Rehman aka manjhle mamu

The antagonist, really. All things bad lead to him or come from him. He strives hard to gets hold of Shahzeb’s business. Greed is at play here.

Farah

Waseem’s daughter. She wants to marry some political guy Farooq Awan but Waseem wants her to marry Iftekhar. She also has ego so despite liking Farooq, she insists to marry Iftekhar. What sort of crooked mentality do these people possess, is beyond me.

Maera

Waseem’s daughter who he plans to marry to Shahzeb.

Hira

The youngest daughter of Waseem. I am sure he has some plans for her as well.

Chhote mamu

Shahzeb’s uncle

Khurram

Chhote Mamu’s son, likes Saba.

Nida

Khurram’s sister

Sadeqe Begum aka Choti khala

Shahzeb’s aunt

Sobia

The best female character. Sadeqa Begum’s daughter.

Samia aka Mimi

Sadeqa Begum’s daughter.

Three unnamed brothers

Saleha Begum

Rani’s tayi jaan / chachi jan. The salutation is used interchangeably.

Kaleem Ur Rehman mamu

Shahzeb’s uncle

Saba

Kaleem’s daughter

Aleem Ur Rehman Mamu

Shahzeb’s uncle

Hamad

Aleem’s son

Sajad

Aleem’s son

University Friends & Fellows

Rifat (Friend)

her brother Shahid bhai likes Tehreem. Engaged to Zafar her phupozad

Talat (Friend)

Yasmeen (Friend)

Shehla (Friend)

Shaheda (Friend)

Arjumand (Friend): engaged

Najmul Hassan aka Najmi

Literature committee head, a senior in college.

Dr Tayyab

The best professor there ever will be, very methodical teacher, kind and fun, knows every student by name. Sir Abrar in Zindagi Gulzar Hai?

Kaif Alam

lit committee chairman

Naveeda

poisonous bitch.She appears everytime Rani and Shahzeb are in conversation, clears her throat loudly and goes away. That’s her only purpose in life.

Tauseef

One of the many victims of Rani’s beauty and grace. She’s so dignified that he still cannot stop praising her. Just read the Huzaifa scene to know what I am talking about.

Ashraf, Waqar, Javed, Zafar bhai

Other university fellows.

Lahore wali chachi amma

the connecting link between two families

sitwat jahan

Her daughter .

Shakeel

Sitwat son Shakeel married to massarat. He once wanted to marry Tehreem ,

ishrat jahan

daughter,

Sohail

son,

sabahat

daughter , Asif’s candidate

Also Rani’s mamu’s babu Iram is also related to Lahore folks. Another source of information.

Plot Summary

Karachi track

The novel begins when Tehreem spots shahzeb in her university and the whole day she remains upset despite her friends’ concerns.
The other track is

Lahore track

Initially shahzeb doesn’t know her and her rude behaviour confuses him but then he sees her with Asif and he remembers Asif for some strange reasons. He still doesn’t get it. Every scene in college has the same theme – shahzeb is friendly as is he with others but Rani’s unusually mean behaviour not just irks him but also highlights this in the group.

Review

Let’s begin. I shall try to keep my rants to a minimum.

Shikast-e-Shab is a romantic drama based in college.
No, it is the most clichéd dewrani jethani drama.
No, it is about friendship.
It is about halal mohabbat.
ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Too much drama around Rani as though her friends have nothing better to do. Especially after bazm e shayar.

How come he didn’t know her name? Nikahkhwan must have mentioned names no? Or did he say Anjum or Rani?

How come she knows him by face but he doesn’t?

Rani was old enough that she had another alliance, that of Shakeel before she was married to shahzeb.

Overall no plot, lot of plot holes and yet reader is confused because a swarm of new characters and their twisted intertwined relations are unraveled on every few pages.

This book is a quarter of info dump, a quarter of university scenes, a lot of poetry, too much brooding of shahzeb and Rani and some good funny scenes.

Too weak and annoying leads and the whole heavy lifting done by others, literally. Rifat Shahid Asif saifi from Rani’s side and Sobia and Saba from shahzeb’s side.

Age old story of conflict between dewrani jethani. They don’t get along, some misunderstanding about business and the ties are cut.

But the kids are married and apparently still attracted to each other. The fact they study in the same university same department adds spice to this mix and they realize just how much they care for each other. The friends circle just knows there is something cooking between them. Yep, it is that obvious.

There is one nicely kept mystery about Rani, Tehreem and Anjum – all the same girl. Just like Jihan, Abdul Rahman Pasha and Major Ahmed in Jannat Key Pattay.

Oh, my elder sister just finished reading jkp and she asked: ARP Jihan ka bhai hai kya?

Very little plot

Apart from the main conflict that shahzeb and Rani were married and now neither want to continue their relation even though they have fallen in love with each other, there are several subplots. Sobia and Iftekhar’s love story was good because both could take a stand for their lives, Khurram and Saba the best pair because they were funny, never brooding like shahzeb and Rani.

Annoying leads

Rani is undoubtedly one of the most annoying fictional characters. Remember Hamna from Ishqiya? Almost the same. Always brooding, sulking, stoic, never sharing a thing with anyone.

Saba is young but bold and can read between lines pretty well and she is singlehandedly responsible for making iftekhar Sobia a reality.

Then there is Asif sabahat alliance that Lahore wali chachi wants. Failing which she taunts Ehtesham to death (not literally).

Info Dump

Info dump littered through the whole novel. Every time. Anew characters is introduced the conversation will show yet another extremely complex web of relations. Pages long dialogues full of exposition ruin the reading experience.

Narration

Half of the novel is Rani scolding herself in her head for her own rude behaviour that she should not have exhibited in first place. Or Asif’s head-talk when he tries to guess the reason behind Rani’s sudden mood change and she doesn’t tell him a thing.

Very pretty frequently the author used full names for characters much like Ushna Kausar Sardar does these days.

A Bit Too Much

Too many characters: I mean, seriously, just look at the list. I have not even included every single character, especially the mulazims.

Too many relationships to remember.

Too much poetry, it’s as if there is a contest to show how much poetry the writer has collected over years.

That’ll Be All

Look at that. 1800+ words and I am not even done yet. But, as I promised, that is all the rant I have for now.

Until next time…

Shabana Mukhtar

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