“A vivid portrait of contemporary young Pakistani life, where frustration and insecurity feed not only the snobbery, decadence and aspirations of the rich, but also the resentment of the poor”


Moths are attracted to the flame of a candle. They move closer and then away until they come too near and get burnt, leaving moth smoke lingering.
Daru(short for Darashikoh Shezad), likens this to the dance between himself and his best friend Ozi’s(short for Aurangzeb) wife,Mumtaz though he doesn’t know who the moth is and who is the candle.

Ozi and Mumtaz have returned to Lahore with their son after many years in America. Ozi’s childhood friend, Daru is struggling with his bank job which he soon loses. Struggling to keep up appearances as he slowly falls into a spiral of misery with the failure of his air-conditioning and then electricity itself symbolising his fall into decline, he can’t help but envy his rich friend who has everything.
The son of a moneyed father, Ozi has money, connections,a palatial house and the power that all these things afford him.

In a Pakistan increasingly entrenched in corruption, where money plays a key role,Ozi is all powerful. Intoxicated with power and the confidence his father’s position gives him, he is too busy in social climbing and partying to care about anything or anyone else.

Daru becomes increasingly dependent on the joints he smokes, his only goal his next hit. In his drug filled haze, fuelled by his need for money, with no job prospects, he is ready to indulge in criminal activity in partnership with a very eloquent rickshaw driver, Murad.

Mumtaz is a free spirited woman, feeling trapped in a situation not of her making. No longer able to recognise herself, she rebels against the constraints of being a wife and mother. Spending more and more time with Daru, boxing and sharing smokes with him and sharing her secrets, she has no clue what she wants even as he begins to see a future with her.

The book begins with Daru accused of a crime and a judge about to pronounce his judgement. Each of these three people tell their version of the story, the way they see it, trying to present the situation from their own points of view.

The writing deals with the themes of hunger, poverty, unemployment and crime in a country whose governing authorities have decided that proving nuclear ability is of utmost importance. It shows the frustration that leads to ordinary people considering unlawful lives to be their only option while the elite live their lives driving around in luxury cars and partying with drugs and alcohol. It portrays through its principal characters, the Lahore society of the late nineties.

An engaging read though the themes it deals with being so depressing mean that it isn’t a novel with much positivity.


Reviewed by:

Priya Prakash

Added 28th August 2020

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Priya Prakash