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My corner : The End of Innocence

Book Review

The End of Innocence
By Moni Mohsin

Almost immediately you will hurtle into a love story- one that is hectored by adult wisdom and succumbs to the inevitable consequences. This Bildungsroman nostalgically takes a peek into the affluent world of a curious eight- year -old Laila and her best friend Rani, the dreamy granddaughter of a maid. Rani is busy cavorting in her love story that gets briefly elevated to the cinematic kind by nothing else but the vehicle of her imagination.
A child herself, fifteen- year -old Rani plans her marriage and gets her dowry ready: “six glasses and a jug and four sets of new clothes. Oh, and shoes, golden and shiny, with heels-like brides wear-and maybe even some lipstick.” It is a secret that Laila promises to never reveal to the adult world further cemented by the fact that Laila and Rani are partners of a game called “Terrific Two”. Laila swears to never betray her partner. But in that innocence there lurks the hint of betrayal that is propelled by a childish selfishness to claim the sole proprietorship of a friend. Friendship being the space in childhood that is most precious and in this novel the eagerness to preserve the friendship unwittingly opens the door of evil.
The seemingly indolent narrative is delightfully interrupted by thoughts of George, Annie, Julian and Dick. This effortless migration of characters from Enid Blyton’s storybooks into Laila’s thoughts is charming. Laila constantly gauges how she would measure up to these characters often chiding herself, “Worse, she had failed as a detective. George would have found a way of giving Bua the slip.”
Set in the villages of Pakistan in the year 1971, the novel meanders through the atmosphere of ancient havelis and huge bungalows as the war with India looms in the horizon. While adults worry over the war, it is the children that think up innovative defensive contingencies to ward off the Indians. Says Rani, “I’ve hidden a bag of extra hot chilli powder by the door. If Indian soldiers come into our house, I’ll hurl fistfuls of chilli into their eyes until they run away screaming.”
Moni Mohsin’s “The End of Innocence” is the latest addition to the growing pile of literature from across the border. Effortlessly written it also gives their view of us and it is not that bad.
(First published by the Sunday express)


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