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FICTION: A SENSE OF WONDER

October 07, 2018

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Being a parent is one of life’s most wonderful experiences. Watching your children grow brings you thousands of little joys that you may not have known before. Just observing your children play, eat, laugh, dance or even sleep can make for a fulfilling existence. Probably the most satisfying part of being a parent is knowing that you are playing a role in the nurturing process of a being that will grow up to become a responsible citizen someday.

Parenting is also a process of learning — every moment spent with your child teaches you something new as you try to answer all those endless and impossible questions your child asks. Anwar Abro has not only experienced these joys, but has shared them with us in his new book Nandhro Chand [The Small Moon].

Abro is a novelist, poet, short story writer, scriptwriter and essayist. A prolific writer, he has to his credit 13 books of various genres. After two novels, Bhagal Randeeko [The Broken Toy] and Mehman Chhokree [A Guest Girl], Nandhro Chand is his third ‘novel’, though I will come back to this classification later.

Although called a novel, this book is based upon real experiences the author shared with his young son and is a celebration of parenting

The story revolves around a young boy, Aneeq, from his birth to his fifth year of age. While both Aneeq’s parents — Sarmad and Koonj — and other family members rejoice at the birth of the little boy in their family, it is the doting father who especially cherishes every small moment in his child’s life.

Aneeq grows up to be quite an inquisitive child, having endless questions about almost everything. His father Sarmad tries to answer all the questions as best as he can and, unlike many other parents, never tries to stifle the boy’s natural curiosity.

Sarmad also has a vision for his son. He wants to make his son an educated, responsible and conscious citizen. To this end, he has his child admitted into a good school and also spends quality time with the boy to educate and familiarise him with his surroundings, his environment, and instil in him a love for nature and animals. Living in a big city, Sarmad is very conscious that his son should not become alienated from his heritage, language and culture. For this purpose, he arranges for his son to learn his mother tongue and often takes him to their native village so that Aneeq can be closer to nature and be connected to his own language and culture. The ruins of Moenjodaro lie close to their village and Sarmad takes Aneeq there to teach him about the history of the great, ancient civilisation. The family tours various other historical sites in Sindh just so the child learns to take pride in his ancient heritage, and so the book narrates the numerous adventures, incidents, observations and visits of the family.

In the introduction to his book, Abro writes that “the character of this novel, Aneeq, is the unique little moon whom I have been closely observing since his birth. I have seen his pranks and have heard his innocent talk. ... All these incredible things compelled me to write about them. I jotted them down randomly, never knowing what shape they would take.” Abro’s observations ultimately took shape in the form of this book — perhaps the first of its kind in the Sindhi language that focuses solely on a small child. It lets us have a glimpse inside the workings of the innocent world that children inhabit and through myriad episodes in the life of a child, the author creates a world that in itself is not only fascinating, but also very instructive.

Perhaps the first of its kind in the Sindhi language that focuses solely on a small child, the book lets us have a glimpse inside the innocent world that children inhabit and is not only fascinating, but also very instructive.

Abro shows that parenting is a very serious and responsible undertaking, requiring patience and vision. Children are delicate beings that require constant care and nurturing. They also need intellectual nourishment to foster and enhance their mental capabilities. But this subtle labour requires creativity and an innovative approach. For this, one has to understand a child’s psychology and one has to come to the level of a child to understand his or her emotional needs and satisfy their innate curiosities. This book is, in a way, a manual for bringing up a sentient, sensitive and responsible being.

Though the author claims Nandhro Chand to be a novel, it is most definitely not a novel. A novel may be very vast in its scope and there may be numerous ways of narrating the story, but it is, after all, a piece of fiction. There should be something inventive and imaginative to separate it from non-fiction and merely changing the names of characters doesn’t make any non-fiction piece a work of fiction.

This book is not a work of fiction. It is based upon real experiences the author shared with his son and it is really a collection of various episodes from life, without any central plot or even a cohesive narrative to bind them together. There is nothing very imaginative or inventive about this book. And then there are the photographs; on almost every third or fourth page of the book is a picture of the child — Aneeq — with his family, at school, on some trip the family undertook. There are more than 60 photographs and they leave nothing to the imagination. It would have been far better had the author called Nandhro Chand a personal reminiscence instead of a novel.

At its heart, though, Nandhro Chand is a celebration of parenting. It is different in its theme from the other publications coming out and it is sensitive in treatment. The language is simple and easy to understand, which makes this book accessible to readers of all ages. However, a little imagination and a little more labour would have definitely enhanced the charm and impact of the book that took years to shape.

The reviewer is a short story writer and translator

Nandhro Chand
By Anwar Abro
Kavita Publications, Hyderabad
ISBN: 978-9699329913
263pp.

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, October 7th, 2018