Cynthia Rodrigues Manchekar's Reviews > Sakoon

Sakoon by Nishith Vasavada
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jan 06, 2015

really liked it

For Full and Detailed review, see

Sakoon, Arabic for Peace, by Nishith Vasavada deftly marries history and fiction to create a mesmerizing tale about a nation in deep unrest that touches you with its intensity and honesty. From the beginning, one gets a sense of tumult and turmoil, and yet in the midst of these, Sakeena Husain, whose name means tranquility, lives life as a privileged college student who has a crush on her brother Anwar’s best friend, Rohan Qureshi.

The setting is liberal, fashionable Karachi but it is the early ‘80s, when General Zia-ul-Haq is in power. A strict interpretation of Islam is slowly coming into focus, changing the dynamics of life for the people, especially women, and changing, for the worse, the face of modern Pakistan.

The chapters are told from randomly alternating first person viewpoints of Sakeena, Rohan and Munir Qureshi, Rohan’s grandfather. The characterization is realistic and true to detail. I must make a mention about the plot development. At the beginning of the book, both Sakeena and Rohan are carefree, wealthy teenagers. Naïve about life, Sakeena knows nothing about the other Karachi, one of deprivation, filth and misery that lies carefully hidden from her life of privilege. Through the course of the novel, they both discover the other side of Pakistan, and realize firsthand the turbulence that pervades the land that their ancestors have made their own. Their characters make radical choices that shape their own destinies and alter their circumstances forever.

The similarities, both good and bad that Pakistan shares with India, strike you immediately. There are of course the basic similarities of food and colour and the raucousness and chaos of life that strike the Westerner more often than they do us. It makes one wonder why we don’t get along when we have so much in common. But there is the other side to it. Like India, Pakistan is mired in divisions of caste, creed and region, unable to embrace its own people, unable to live and let live. We are both deeply entrenched in the shackles of patriarchy.

Reading Sakoon, I felt a tinge of sadness for all those whose lives were uprooted in the wake of the Partition. It helped me understand the sense of betrayal they feel at how the idea that had once captured their imagination has let them down. Vasavada offers a critique on the crumbling state of Pakistan, hemmed as it was in the ‘80s between the Soviet Union which occupies neighbouring Afghanistan, and its nemesis, India.

At school, we learn hardly anything about the history of the subcontinent and how it relates to the world, and even when we do, we reduce it to a banal memorization of facts and dates. Historical fiction is an effective tool for teaching history and making it come alive.

Sakoon is the kind of story that seems made for celluloid. If that happens, I’d still say, read the book.
1 like · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Sakoon.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

January 6, 2015 – Started Reading
January 6, 2015 – Shelved
January 18, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Nishith (new) - added it

Nishith Vasavada Thanks for you honest feedback and glad you enjoyed the book. Your suggestion for editing is a good point. I had hired one. Plus my daughters, born in the USA, helped. Still, I own the quality of the final product.

back to top