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ISLAMABAD: The Haro River flows on one side of Margalla Hills. The banks of this river are the setting for a recently published novel by Akhtar Raza Saleemi ‘Jaage Hain Khawab Mein’.

“All over the world, rivers have destroyed civilisations and villages but the River Haro is unique for never killing a single person,” said writer and critic Dr Iqbal Afaqi, while addressing participants at the book launch organised by Inheraaf and Idara Adab-o-Saqafat at Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) on Tuesday.

He said that Saleemi’s novel which centres around a man named Zaman, who lives at the banks of the Haro River and can travel through time, lacks the basic characteristics of a novel but is a great work because it negates metanarratives.

Another interesting aspect of the book is that renowned painter Wasi Haider has painted 1,001 unique covers for this edition, setting a record.

Talking about the novel, Mr Afaqi said the Haro River used to flow along the village of Gautam Buddha and the residents of the villages would take water from this river.

Painter and actor Jamal Shah inaugurated the exhibition of the titles before the book launching ceremony.

Regarding the novel, he said: “So many of us have been living in fear for over three decades because of the security issues plaguing our country. Our cultural narrative is being destroyed and people are becoming less patient each day. Such books help society in becoming more tolerant and encourage members of society to start listening to one another.”

Jamal Shah said Wasi Haider has accomplished a great task by painting a different title for each copy of the book.

“Every painting is related to the content of the novel and depicts a dream,” he said.

The author, Akhtar Raza Saleemi, said that it took him two years to complete the novel.

“While writing the novel I became Zaman, the protagonist, in my imaginations and spent two years in that state so it was a unique experience,” he said.

PAL Chairman Professor Dr Muhammad Qasim Bughio said that a novel is the mirror of the whole society and writing such a novel is a great task which Saleemi has successfully accomplished.

Adviser to the Azad Kashmir Prime Minister Malik Meherban Ali said: “Poets, writers and artists are the most sensitive segment of society.

They represent society in their art as they observe it. The way Saleemi has seen and represented society in his novel is admirable.”

Painter Wasi Haider said after he proposed the idea of painting unique covers for each copy of the edition, it took him six months to complete the task.

Literary critic Dr Waheed Ahmed said time travel is an old dream for humanity and the author uses the concept to raise questions which everyone thinks about but no one asks.

Writer Dr Salahuddin Darwesh said the plot was compact and lively and has been carefully crafted.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2015

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