THE STORY OF THE NOBLE ROT
AUTHOR- UZMA ASLAM KHAN
NO. OF PAGES- 217
FIRST PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN BOOKS INDIA 2001
SYNOPSIS: ‘The sweet taste of wine comes from the muscadelle grape, and the greyish mould that it attracts. The mould is lovingly called pourriture noble, noble rot’.
It is the careless abandon of wine-satiated afternoon that brings together the imperious Mrs.Masood and the humble carpenter’s wife, Malika. As she observes the wealthy woman whose family is responsible for all her troubles, a plan takes shape in Malika’s mind to recover the money Mrs. Masood owes her husband, and rescue her son from slow death in Mr. Masood’s carpet factory.
Unknown to both women, the moment marks the beginning of a relationship that is to change their lives forever.
Into the complex web of Malika’s plan are drawn Mr. Saeed, who dwells in his study with his ruby-studded armallido; the Pathan with the sun dappled eyes; Momin of the hennaed hands with his love for fish and birds; and Saima with her unpredictable affections and fabulous stories.
Vividly narrated and full of funny yet complex dilemmas this is a novel about the sweetness of life and about how we inexorably drive ourselves to our own doom. It marks the debut of a gifted storyteller from Pakistan.
EXCERPT: the carpenter Chaudry was polishing the table when Mrs. Masood walked into his store. A battered radio crackled: o Saqi! Pour me one more drink, just one more....He lowered the volume and bowed, ‘Good Morning. You’re right in time. I just finished it’.
‘Hmmm’, she replied, spreading her fingers over the sides of the table.
‘I did it all myself,, the carpenter beamed with pride. ‘Exactly as you requested, with no help from the young apprentice’, he pointed to his assistant in the corner. ‘How do you like it?’
ANUSHREE SAYS: This was my first book in the genre of Fiction and I surely was not disappointed. The title refers to a French wine or to be more precise the grey mould which is formed around the muscadelle grape during fermentation. The story involves three families- Masoods, Chaudry and Saeed. Malika and Mrs. Masood are the central characters of the novel. Both are doting mothers who want the best for their children, former is a servant while latter is a mistress. Malikas young son Momin works as a child labour in Mr.Masood’s carpet factory. As a mother she wants him to study, grow up to be a learned individual but her husband, an old carpenter, wants Momin to work so that they can accumulate wealth for their daughter Faikas wedding. On the other hand Laila, Mrs. Masoods daughter is all set to marry a French businessman; lavish preparations are being made to make it a memorable event. Malika wants to free her son from the clutches of the carpet owner and wants to teach the rich mistress a lesson. In the process she gets entangled in a vicious cycle of deceit which lead to various situations, some hilarious while some heart wrenching. The story has been written from Malika and Mrs.Masoods point of view.
We have often heard that human mind is very powerful and if we have proper co-ordination between our actions and imaginations, nothing is impossible. The story basically highlights this point. Mrs. Masood was brought up by a strict grandmother and even now she feels that the old lady keeps an eye on her, though she is dead. Whenever she does anything wrong, her conscience doesn’t let her stay in peace and she is haunted by her grandmother thoughts. Malika makes use of this weakness and tries to settle scores with her. While playing on others weaknesses we often stumble upon ours and some ugly realities show up. This is what happens with the poor servant and she finds herself helpless in many situations.
The novel has been beautifully written and maintains a flow. It makes the reader yearn for more. I personally loved the way she gave words to the complex human emotions that we as mortals go through. Some situations are real while some tinker our imagination and make us ponder.
MY RATING: 4/5