Being an avid reader of international bestsellers from across the globe, it’s always very interesting to read something by an author belonging to your own hometown. With Skyfall, it soon became doubly intriguing, as the initial half of the book is set in Lahore, a place I have lived more than half my life in now.
What took me by surprise, however, was the fact I had never seen Lahore through such a lens in my entire life. Having lived in the secure and posh surroundings of DHA, I had only visited the other side of the city to either eat the famously cooked food, or to shamelessly take Instagram pictures in front of the many great architectural masterpieces from an era bygone.
As we are introduced to the city by Rania, the lead protagonist of the story, we find Lahore to not be just a place for eating out and having a good old time. From the shady streets of the Shahi Mohalla, to bootleg snacks being sold at every street corner, we constantly switch from falling in love, and simultaneously despising Lahore. Rania lives with her mother, Jahan-e-Rumi, and her father Sherji. Jahan-e-Rumi is a woman of the night on the streets of the red light district in Lahore, and Sherji pimps her out ruthlessly, many a time via abuse and harassment. “The client must be satisfied 100%” is something Sherji repeats multiple times during the book, no matter what it might be thatsatisfies them. Jahaan-e-Rumi’s role is one of complexity, as she has to sell her body to disgusting men at Sherji’s command, but encourages her daughters to read the works of Chughtai and Faiz.
There is also Rania’s sibling Ujala, who Sherji treats quitedifferently than Rania, yet she still is a beacon of light chasing love and supporting Rania in her endeavors.
While working her job as a tour guide in Lahore, she is met with Asher, a type of man she didn’t know even existed, and soon finds herself in the deep surrenders of love. He even encourages her to try out for a talent competition to escape the toxic and abusive regime under Sherji.
There are several other characters within the story too, like Ruhi, Honey, and Marzi, all serving roles to help and guide our troublemaking Rania away from Sherji and his cruelty. The beauty in these characters lies in a very unique manner. Even though they may not have the biggest roles throughout the book, they serve memorable purposes that make the reader want to know more about them, and in one way or another assume the kind of people they might have been.
Skyfall lays bare in front of the reader the already existing truths of religious extremism all over the world. Rape, public harassment, acid attacks, these are things that have existed for eons of time now, unfortunately. To be a woman and get justice is not just a singular obstacle Rania is faced with, but little wars, that she has to overcome one by one in hopes of a better time to come.
Overall, Skyfall is a book that has made me realize of the great sacrifice women all over the world have to go through to survive, let alone achieve greatness. It has made me to a great extent, fall in love with reading about local stories so much more, and I hope to one day (soon) read more work from Saba.
By all accounts, the world at this time needs Saba Karim to write more.