Book Review: Deewar-e-Shab By Aliya Bukhari

Non Review Rant

I have been meaning to review Deewar-e-Shab, the novel, ever since I watched the first promo of Deewar-e-Shab, the HUM TV drama. Alas, my work and other activities, such as writing, reading and watching YouTube videos, didn’t leave me much time.

I read this novel in 2017. I was living under a rock, was new to the world of blogging and had never heard of GoodReads.

I don’t remember the complete story, but I do remember one thing. It breaks your heart. But then, Aliya Bukhari specializes in that. Doesn’t she?

Most of Urdu popular fiction authors ‘have allowed their work to be adapted for screen. However, very few of those remain in their original form. I intend to write a full-fledged post about it soon. I, therefore, wouldn’t indulge too much information on that. This review is about Deewar-e-Shab afterall.

I will summarize the complete story of Deewar-e-Shab. This review, therefore, will be filled with spoilers. If you want to read the book, or want to enjoy the drama without ruining the mystery, stop reading now.

There are a LOT of characters and every single one has something to add to the story. I don’t recall all of them, even though I just revised the novel for the sake of writing this review.

We will meet the characters – the main ones only. Let’s get started.

Characters

Sitara Jahan & the residents of Sitara Mahal

Sitara Jahan

The courtesan, famous Sitar-nawaz of yesteryears. She believes in art and keeping it pure. Even in the toughest of times, she doesn’t resort to flash trade. She is classy but doesn’t hesitate to take some tough decisions to make ends meet. She is a bit biased  and over protective towards her daughters. Despite her cautious behaviour, however, she is forever scarred by her own daughter Feroza.

Nageena Jahan

Negeena is Sitara Jahan’s elder daughter. She isn’t interested in learning the skills that are required to survive in her surrounding. She is inept at dancing and singing, completely unworthy to continue their ‘legacy’.

When circumstances change, however, she steps up and vows to earn for their survival. Widowed soon after marriage, she is tired, bitter and relentlessly waits for better time.

Feroza Jahan

Feroza is Sitara’s younger daughter. She’s the epitome of perfection. She is a terrific singer and skillful dancer. She’s the reason Sitara Jahan’s chaubara attracts a lot of clientele. She is kind hearted, positive and polite, even with the house help.

But there’s more to her beautiful persona than people know. On a dark and quiet night she runs away with Dildar’s help. She gets married to Yousuf. They have a son together – Khayyam. Yousuf, however, is forced to leave her for his family. Cliche!

Faiz Ali

Faiz Ali is a distant relative of Sitara, who lives at Sitara Mahal and helps to fix musical instruments. Nageena doesn’t like him, for no rational reason.

Later, when Nageena starts doing small roles in films. Sitara Jahan forces her to marry Faiz Ali. Initially upset, Nageena slowly realizes Faiz Ali’s true love. But, his happiness was short-lived. He passes away soon after his daughters are born.

Gaiti Aara

She’s Nageena’s daughter,Sitara Jahan’s granddaughter. and represents the third generation. She lives at Sitara Mahal. Although she doesn’t actively participate in learning dance and singing, she has accepted her fate and her surroundings.

She spends most of her time with Khayyam and is attracted to him.

Sandal

Sandal is Nageena’s daughter, Sitara Jahan’s granddaughter and Gaiti’s sister. She studies somewhere. But her true calling is showbiz.

Khayyam

Feroza’s son & Sitara Jahan’s grandson. Soon after Feroza passes away, Islam, who works for orphans, brings Khayyam to his family – Sitara Jahan. He finds himself a misfit and is uncomfortable by the surrounding where he hears musical instruments and sees girls learn to dance.

He grows up to despise his family, their profession and hates everything around him. He is selfish as he doesn’t care about anyone else’s feelings; He is a hypocrite, as he continues to stay in the same place despite hating every bit of it.

Is there anything he liked? Yes, Indeed. He likes Gaiti Aara and plans to marry her, once he finishes his education. However, he succumbs to the humiliation of being a courtesan’s child and runs away. Like mother, like son.

Dildar Jahan & Family

Dildar Jahan

Sitara’s sister and a vengeful rival. She is jealous of Sitara’s success followed by Feroza’s stardom of sorts. She plays a major role in persuading Feroza that she should leave the place to find true love.

Gul Naaz Jahan

Dildar’s daughter. She isn’t blessed with beautiful looks or skills to run the business. She’s bitter at times, but mostly happy, come what may.

Almas

Gul Naaz’s daughter

Shaama

the ever-so-loyal house-help. She is almost everywhere, takes care of almost everything and is confidante for almost everybody.

Ustaad Faraghat Baig

Dance teacher at Sitara Mahal. He is treated with respect, like a family member and acts like a fatherly figure at all times – good or bad. He is a pillar of support for Sitara Jahan.

Izhar & family

Izhar

Islam’s younger brother. He’s a clerk but doesn’t hesitate compromising his morales. Thanks to the bribes he openly and proudly accepts, they are well off.

In drama adaptation, he’s shown the elder step brother.

Shakera

Izhar’s wife. She has all the characteristics of a typical bwitch – mean, blunt, greedy. You name it.

Aapa Gul

Izhar’s eldest born. She takes after her mother, and

Salman Izhar

Joya Izhar

Izhar’s youngest daughter. She is generally timid but doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind, especiall when it comes to stand for her right.

Zoya Izhar

In drama adaptation, this character does not appear.

Islam & family

Daadi

Izhaar and Islam’s mother

Islam 

An honest at work and a socialist who works for orphan kids. 

Shaista

Islam’s wife

Maaz Islam

Islam’s son. He follows his father’s footsteps and is actively involved in social causes, primarily kids’ education and anti-child labour. He is engaged to Joya.

Ma’az who has a heart of gold when it comes to social causes and is willing to give up on his first love just to please his mother.

Rabiya Islam

Islam’s daughter. She’s the quintessential girl who takes care of everyone in her house whilst suppressing her own anguish. She was engaged to Salman and is heartbroken when he marries Zoobiya. Later, when Khayyam comes to live with them, he is attracted to her.

Salaar & people in his house

Mr Baig

Salaar’s father, a wealthy businessman. After his first wife passed away, he married Zartaj and Mani was born. He is now deceased.

Salaar

Baig’s son from his first marriage. When young, he was tortured and inevitably forced to keep out of his own house. Despite owning a huge business, he works at a radio station, having done many small jobs in the past.

He is now used to living away from the riches. Not for long, though. He occasionally visits his house. On one such visit, he meets Nabeel and doesn’t hesitate to humiliate him openly. Nabeel doesn’t like him. Frustrated and angry, Nabeel hires goons to shoot Salaar. Salaar survives though and is more determined to see Nabeel through.

Zartaj Begum

A rich woman who does charity and distributes food and stuff to poor every Thursday. She is arrogant, but is married to a younger man.

Nabeel

Salaar’s step-father of sort, even though he is a couple of years younger then Salaar.

Mannan

Zartaj’s son, Salaar’s step brother.

Azmat Bua

Zartaj’s most trusted maid, sort of her  right-hand. she manages the crowd that gathers every Thursday, who gets what and how much. Later, after Rozi disappears, she is too

Rozi

A young girl who works at Zartaj’s house. Nabeel lusts after her, rape her and she disappears mysteriously.

Raju

He likes Rozi and loses his mind when she disappears.

Yousuf Kamal & Family

Yousuf Kamal

Yousuf Kamal is a rich businessman. Once in love, he married Feroza and later abandoned her for his family. He’s Khayyam’s father and plays an important role in the later half of the novel.

Sameera Kamal

Yousuf’s second wife. She has a daughter from her first marriage, Zoobiya.

Zoobiya

She’s Sameera Kamal’s daughter. Yousuf treats her as his own daughter, though.

Show Biz

Shirazi

The guy who supplies extras in films and dramas. He has close ties with Nageena and Dildar Begum. He isn’t loyal, of course and tends to favour Dildar more.

Afsar Bhai

Afsar Bhai, a director, Salaar’s friend who give Sandal her break

People from the slums

Batool

Saeeda

Sajid

Zari

Saeeda’s sister in law. She looks after Saeeda’s kids and takes care of household chores when Saeeda goes to work as a maid. Saeeda still doesn’t appreciate her help. When Zari sees Ma’az, she falls for him, head over heels.

These characters don’t appear in drama adaptation.

Plot Summary

Multiple plotlines proceed in parallel and shit happens to almost everyone.

Sitara Jahan and family

They struggle to stay afloat. Sitara Jahan sells her jewellery one after the other, quietly mourns Feroza’s escape and then her death. Nageena works as extra in films and dramas. Gaiti is heartbroken but tries to stay positive.

Dildar Jahan and family

Dildar Jahan is having the best time as Almas is very popular. The tables have turned and now it is Nageena and Shaama who feel jealous of Almas’s success.

Khayyam goes through works a load of shit, too. The jewellery that he had stolen before running away, doesn’t stay with him for long. Babu Shaukat’s son steals it. Khayyamis forced to work in their hotel, where he cleans plates and even takes out trash. He realizes the irony, too. A day earlier, He was the guy who had his own crockery at Sitara Mahal, because everything else was just too filthy for him.

Izhar and family

Izhar and his family likes to boast about their money and do not hesitate to stoop low for money. Salman marries Zoobiya, only to be later sidelined. Aapa Gul interferes in her maika’s matters. Joya and Zoya are the only nice souls in that household. Joya’s life is a mess. Her engagement with Ma’az is called off, she is all set to marry another guy but she says no. Izhar threatens to divorce Shakera and refuses to even look at Joya. Things change, Izhar gets caught and they are left with nothing. Aapa Gul still plots to get Joya married to a rich guy for her own selfish motives. Joya eventually ends up at hospital, losing all hopes to get what she wants – Ma’az.

Islam and family

This is the ‘good family’. They suffers quietly. Rabiya realizes that Ma’az is hurting, but cannot help him. Shaista succumbs to years of bitterness and humiliation by Izhar and Shakera. She declares that she’d never let Ma’az marry Joya. Rabiya constantly attempts to change Shaista’s heart, but fails. She worries incessantly about her brother. They share the most beautiful sibling bond ever.

Salaar – Naam Hi Kaafi Hai

Salaar is the glue that brings the pieces together. 

  1. He is related to Yousuf Kamal, and is therefore related to Islam and family, too.
  2. Is responsible for finding Khayyam.
  3. He nurses the wounds of everybody at Sitara Mahal, especially Gaiti Aara, ahem!
  4. That’s not all. He is the reason Nabeel loses his mind.
  5. Could it be any better? Yep, he’s the one who saves Sandal and Nageena from impending humiliation.

The man’s awesome!

The Slums

Bitterness runs in their blood as they struggle to fill their stomachs every single day.

Some favourite lines

Deewar-e-Shab-Quote-1
Deewar-e-Shab-Quote-1
Deewar-e-Shab-Quote-2
Deewar-e-Shab-Quote-2

Review

When I sat down to write the review (before watching the drama), I was blank. All I remembered was that it was painful to read. Shit happened. Yep, that’s the overall feeling. These are also the words I used to describe Khuda Ki Basti. Shit happened to people, left right and centre.

Nobody’s happy.

And, marrying only once is so last year. Yousuf Kamal, Sameera, Zartaj all marry more than once.

People get hurt, kidnapped, raped and attacked. They lose their belongings, their loved ones and can do nothing about it.

It just breaks your heart. It just breaks your heart, so badly that recovery takes weeks.

That brings me to the next section – my commetary about author’s writing style.

Aliya Bukhari’s Writing Style

Aliya Bukhari doesn’t write novels. She writes epics and creates a million characters. There are parallel plots and storylines that develop with each scene. She brings them together, eventually. Her narrative engages you so well that it takes a few days to detach yourself from that universe. It breaks your heart.

Okay, so one may argue that Umera Ahmed and Nemrah Ahmed also do that well. Breaking Readers’ Heart is one of the elements included in Nemrah’s outline of an episode. But Aliya goes a step ahead. She will crush your hopes and positivity and you stop believing in humanity. It takes forever to get over the trauma. In the meantime, you cry, you mourn and curse yourself for letting yourself through such pain.

I would say that’s her art of storytelling. Kudos!

The only problem (No offence)

There is something I struggle with when I read Aliya Bukhari. I strongly feel that the pain and anguish her characters endure are more memorable than the characters themselves. For instance, when I read a story written by Umera Ahmed, her characters leave an everlasting impression. I vividly remember the first Umera Ahmed story I read – Abhi Tou Maat Baaqi Hai. I remember some dialogues, majority of the scenes and all the characters.

Even though her characters are just as powerful – from Ma’az or Salaar who stay optimistic in the worst of situations; to selfish Khayyam who lives in an idealistic world; or Gaiti Aara who is brave and accept the reality on as-is basis, we empathize with those characters and understand their point of view, without necessarily agreeing to it.

Conclusion

The narration, the characters, the universe will completely engage you and make you one of them. I lived, breathed and suffered with each of them. Aliya’s writing is one of the most engrossing reads and more engaging experiences ever.

Despite all of that, there is a happily ever after for all three couples – Salaar and Gaiti, Rabiya and Khayyam, Ma’az and Joya. Things do get resolves towards the end. Although, until then, I was so exhausted that I stopped caring. When Islam talks about meeting Izhar to finalize the dates for Ma’az and Joya’s weddings, I was like, ‘meh’.

Do read it. It takes you to another universe. It will be better if you’re emotionally strong and have ability to detach yourself from fiction. I cannot do that easily, my bad.

And, finally

Thanks for reading this really long review. Please leave your comments below.

If you liked this, you might as well read my stories. Check my books on Amazon  🙂

Or, buy me a cup of tea and Samosa.

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Happy watching! 

Shabana Mukhtar

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