Of a lost era in Lahore

Of a lost era in Lahore

The tall and slender Ali Sethi, with a confident and pleasing personality was in the City to promote his debut novel The Wish Maker. The book was conceived in March 2006 and since then there has been no looking back for the young author.

The author, who is barely 25 years old, introduced the novel by taking the audience back in time to his childhood days growing up in Lahore with his journalist parents. Due to his constant exposure to the world of Pakistani politics, he was much aware of the nuances and undercurrents that prevailed. This awareness laid the foundation for his work.

“My parents taught me a lot, and there were many incidents in my growing up years including the time that they were arrested for publishing certain articles in the newspaper that influenced me deeply,” he said as he narrated several anecdotes that made a deep impression on him.

The Wish Maker captures the moods and colour of Pakistan in the 1990s, in an easy prose that is very readable. Focusing on a family with two children and the people and the places they come to know and love, it paints a picture of everyday life in Pakistan with interesting twists and turns.

It is also a story about Lahore, a City which changes over time, about Benazir Bhutto and the heady promise of democracy. The novel also talks about making wishes and the burning desire of wanting more, describing a fractured world torn apart by materialism and political undercurrents.

 Sethi had a lot of background material to work with in the book and he uses it effectively to tell a story.

“My background helped me immensely in writing the novel, which criss-crosses between the present and the past,” he said reading out extracts from the book that veered between episodes involving Bollywood movie stars and the recurring nightmare of military intervention.

 The launch was followed by a brief discussion with Anjum Hasan who described it as “a book rich in substance and material”.

 Sethi also talked about his time in America as a student, feeling overwhelmed by a rush of images from his childhood and his country that really moved him to writing the novel.
Like most developing nations, he found that Lahore had changed considerably on his return and by writing this novel he hoped to preserve some of its lost flavour before it vanished completely, he explained.

Sethi is currently working on his second novel We do have a lot to celebrate.

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