Book Review: Call Me Al
Bling-bling goes the phone. I open the text. It’s an unlisted number with the message: ‘I’m coming to save you from yourself.’
And this is what Altamaash’s mass, i.e. his mind is made of. A savior, a messiah, a leader for the world, a God beneath the God! And this what he claims, the forgotten & exiled politician of Pakistan. The Leader for the immigrants. An entertainer who misstepped on to history’s stage to become a politician and to create a lifetime’s worth of chaos and destruction in Pakistan.
GGGJ – George Gary Gregory Jaffar is a young reporter with Guardian who is Half White and Half Pakistani with his strong views and a determined motive against Altamaash.
Edwin Ned Steinberg – A middle class man who is a bouncer by his will ready to take bullets for the people he works for, aspires to get hired by Altamaash without knowing what future has in store for him.
Phil – The bouncer, the safety jacket, the media network for Altamaash serving him since 20 years and for the future too.
The story begins in London, where GGGJ meets Altamaash at a pub to write about his story. What follows next, is all planned by Altamaash or the God himself. ‘Altamaash Bhai’ as he is called by his party members is once again on a journey to reclaim his throne and what he believes to be a fair governance. A perfect double murder with a single bullet takes the elites in Pakistan by surprise and the journey of fear and chaos begins. Pakistan witnesses the largest seen countrywide riot against it leaders all orchestrated by Altamaash from London. Will Altamaash Bhai adorn the blood-stained crown of Pakistan? Will Altamaash’s leadership pave way for peaceful and equal Pakistan? Is Altamaash ready enough to pay a personal price to claim this blood-shed kingdom?
The narration of the story is in 3 timelines all running in parallel. On the way to Heaven, our first victim from the double murder is able to glance through the PAST complex situations in Altamaash’s life. The days from his childhood, his youth and his entry into the Pakistani Politics is described to us. Altamaash’s past choices, his beliefs and his decisions are all established with various perspectives. His only inspirations in life are his Late Granpda Pir & his Ammi.
The second timeline is from Altamaash himself. Now exiled to a London mansion, abandoned even by sycophants, he yearns to relive the glory days of his rise to power. He lives his life kingsize with his Ammi, wife and his daughter – Fatima(Pinky), surrounded by his bodyguards and running a political party in Pakistan. The PRESENT, which comprises of his thoughts & actions are depicted in such a way that despite Altamaash being a villian, we the readers want him to triumph. And now, he likes to call himself AL.
The third timeline is from our 2nd victim from the double murder who never had any aspirations except to be a bodyguard/bouncer, now for Al. His desires to get himself hired by Al, irrespective of knowing about the heinous crimes of Al paves his way to hell. Here we have various instances from Al’s future life. We get a glimpse of how is future might emerge for all. His health, his powers and his will to live all are glanced upon. As the 2nd victim disintegrates, he is granted a wish. What will he wish for and will it alter Al’s future is all for the readers to read and enjoy!
This book CALL ME AL has been my first Pakistani Fiction read. The author Sheheryar B Sheikh has a very strong writing and the political satire has been penned down really very well. Initially, the book has a slow start with some tough vocabularies to set up the facade of the book. But as you read on, the pace is up and the plot is intriguing, entertaining and makes you smile at certain instances. The book is enriched with dark humor depicting the political satire in Pakistan. The narration and the writing style is impeccable and keeps the readers hooked. The characters are well portrayed, each having their strong beliefs and repercussions. This one of the best books I have read where an After-Life angle is blended-in perfectly, making the story undauntedly the best. The author brings his characters alive by making his readers sympathize, love, hate, pity and rejoice his characters.
A word of advice for the beginners would be to have a dictionary by side and continue to read till the second section, because once you start with the 2nd Section, it is impossible to put the book down.
Overall, this book has been a thrilling experience and shows us the political scenarios in Pakistan.
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers India
I would like to thank Harper Collins Publishers India and The Readers Tribe for sending me this wonderful book.
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