Book Review: Abhi Tou Maat Baqi Hai by Umera Ahmed

Non-Review Rant

I read this story when it was published in monthly women magazine Pakeeza Aanchal. We were still living in my grandfather’s house, so it was certainly before 2001. My elder sister was doing her graduation, so it was some time between 1996 to 1999. Boy, that is a long time back. Let’s just say that I had first read it almost two decades ago. I still remember the story; even without revising it for this review.

Enough chit chat, let’s get started.

Characters

Hassan Daniyal

A captain in Pakistani Army

Babar Kareem

A General in Pakistani Army

Sumbul Jaafer

A nurse in Pakistani Army who works at MCH, Lahore. Hassan falls for her, head over heels. Initially, she resists his advances but falls prey to it eventually. Hassan and Sumbul get married secretly.

Rabeel Hassan

Sumbul’s daughter, the rebel one

Javeria Hassan

Sumbul’s daughter, the timid one

Omer Jaafer

Sumbul’s brother

Plot Summary

First Act

Hassan Daniyal is a captain. He belongs to a family whose two generations have been in the Pakistani Army. Their roots are deep and they have all the bad habits that money and power can bring – drinking, womanizing, abusing their power. Hassan is no different.

Until one day, he runs into a nurse named Sumbul. He likes her and Sumbul’s discouragement only makes him more adamant to ‘get’ her. He meets her frequently and brainwashes her into believing that he truly loves her and she should marry him. Having lost all objectivity, Sumbul fights with her mother and brother and insists that she wants to marry Hassan. She even blames them that they’d never want her to marry as she is the bread-earner of the household.

They get married and Hassan insists to keep their marriage a secret. Sumbul gives birth to twin daughters, despite Hassan’s advice to abort it.

Second Act

Their marriage does remain a secret for long. Soon after the babies are born, General Babar Kareem finds out, and forces him to leave Sumbul. He agrees.

It is Sumbul who finds it difficult to deal with. Babar has initiated an enquiry against Sumbul. She tried to get in touch with Hassan, failing which she visits his house and meets Babar Kareem.

Babar Kareem has destroyed all documentary evidence that Hassan and Sumbul were ever married. He blackmails her into accepting the divorce and hide her marriage, lest she wants an enquiry for her brother as well. He gives her only 10 minutes to think. Sumbul concedes and Babar promises that he will stop the enquiry.

He doesn’t keep his promise. She is demoted from Major to Captain. Sumbul struggles to raise her girls alone as a single parent.

Javeria and Sumbul are very different. Javeria is timid, quiet and calm. Rabeel takes after her father. She looks and behaves like Hassan. She is aggressive, dominating and bold, that often scares Sumbul.

Javeria is now a doctor. One day, she meets a family with surname Jaafer. One thing leads to other, and soon the truth is unraveled. Javeria and Rabeel find out about their father Hassan, and their maternal uncle Jaafer. Upon confrontation, Sumbul reveals all her wounds. Javeria is still with her mother. However, Rabeel seems distant and aloof; claiming she needs time to find out the truth on her own.

Final Act

Rabeel meets Retired General Babar Kareem, pretending to be a fan and discusses his books. She talks to him about his upcoming autobiography, in which he plans to cover the contributions of impressive and record-worthy family towards Pakistani Army.

Rabeel next meets Hassan; who outright disowns her saying he had only one daughter Sharmeen. Rabeel announces that her mother would file a case against him. He asks for proof.

She still doesn’t have the Nikaah Nama, but

  1. knows the Nikaah-KhwaaN
  2. has some photographs from their Nikaah
  3. knows the 4 witnesses from their Nikaah
  4. holds the hotel records where Hassan and Sumbul had stayed during their honeymoon.
  5. has more records about their vacations etc

And, finally, the paternity test would certainly find out the truth, right?

Now, Hassan has two choices.

  1. Take early retirement and burry Babar’s dream of “three generations of General”
  2. Rabeel would leak everything to the media.

Rabeel gives him 10 minutes, just like Babar did to Sumbul. At the end of it, Hassan agrees to take early retirement.

Hassan retires, and Rabeel meets his family along with all the proofs of his first marriage.

Review

The story opens and closes with Rabeel’s family – her husband Osman, her son Osama and her daughter Ayeza. They are out with the kids when she spots her father. That one look of old and frail Hassan Daniyal triggers the flashback.

I remember it was a phenomenon back then, just like Alif is today. From Umera’s name (Ahmed was unheard of with a girl’s name, at least in India) to her rebel and strong heroine to the intense drama and her writing style; everything was so new and fresh. I recall this story being discussed in various social circles. I was part of many, and had heard nothing but praises.

I used to watch movies and read novels where hero does the most impossible tasks and I felt the adrenaline rush, wanting to be as badass as the hero. This story changed the perception – A girl can be a hero, too. I will always remember this story as one that instill self-confidence in me.

However, it had a very serious revenge undertone. True, what happened with Sumbul wasn’t fair. But is it really upto humans to fix things? I don’t know.

Umera Ahmed’s Writing Style

I remember it was a phenomenon back then, just like Alif is today. From Umera’s name (Ahmed was unheard of with a girl’s name, at least in India) to her rebel and strong heroine to the intense drama and her writing style; everything was so new and fresh. I recall this story being discussed in various social circles. I was part of many, and had heard nothing but praises. There are a few things that are worth noticing as you read more of her novels.

  • Her heroines are the hero.
  • In the initial few years, all the stories had army background, to the point that it got boring and repetitive.
  • Her narration is dramatic and intense.
  • Her characters are bold – in terms of their choices, their words and their actions.
  • Her ability to weave spirituality in the narration.

As time passed, Umera had moved away from the army background but her characters are still a bit on the extreme side. I’m not sure if that’s the thought you’d want leave the readers with.

I know, this demands a separate post of its own. All in good time, my friends. I will try to post something for Umera Ahmed, soon, insha’allah.

Parting Thoughts

Do read this book as this is one of the first few stories of Umera. Her writing was mature and is getting more refined one novel after the other.

Until next review, Allah Hafiz.

Shabana Mukhtar

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