Publisher: Random House India
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Catastrophe. It’s the phenomenon that has the power to bring a city together or take a city apart. Cities, like people, have their own ways of dealing with the crisis at hand. Some just shut themselves down from the pain and anguish and a few form steel-like resolve and fight the menacing intrusion. The Scatter Here is Too Great talks about Karachi, dealing with a crisis, combining its fight or flight mechanisms to piece back a city that has been too far chiselled at and eroded away.
The book begins with a little boy’s transition to manhood, characterised by him colourfully and vituperatively abusing a classmate. This angers his father and shocks his mother. As they come to terms with his teenage phase and the boy learns to handle his hot head, the story divulges other stories set in Karachi. The book is a coalescence of stories of love, strained relationships, reprieves, epiphanies and all other emotions that form a city. A city has two faces – its hard, perennial infrastructure and the warmth and life of its people. The people and their emotions infuse the city with life. Mutually exclusive existence is not possible, the city depends on its people and the people depend on their city. So when this tenuous thread of dependence and delicate yet strong status quo is shaken, rocked and destroyed by a bomb, what happens? The spirals just tumble to the abyss.
The initial chapters tell us the beginnings of this intricate web of interconnected stories. The boy who learnt new abuses, the boyfriend who misses his ex, the girl who is taunted because she denigrated her family’s name, the communist grandfather who believes that his former glory will be restored are a few among such stories of the book. All the stories are interconnected somewhere, which provides ground to the saying ‘the world is a small place.’ It restores your belief in that one momentary daydream that all of us are somehow, somewhere connected. That we never really are alone. And that is the underlying tone of the book.
The author draws a strikingly beautiful comparison between a bullet-shot windscreen and a city rocked with a bomb blast. He describes his city, Karachi, as ‘beautiful, broken and born of tremendous violence.’
The final chapters tie up the loose ends and clear up confusions that may have arisen in the reader’s mind. In some places, the narrative seems choppy and jumps from story to story, taking your attention with it. But the next story always makes you sit up straight and as you skim through and read the broken, mended and patched up pieces of a city destroyed and reformed, you feel rapture.
For more Karachi, check out Saba Imtiaz’s new release Karachi, You’re Killing Me!
We also have a great review of The Smoke Is Rising, which tells the story of Mysore through its citizens’ tales.