Author: Mohammed Hanif
Genre: Political Satire,Humorous
Publisher: Random House India
Publication Date: 2009
Paperback: 377 Pages
Intrigue and subterfuge combine with bad luck and good in this darkly comic debut about love, betrayal, tyranny, family, and a conspiracy trying its damnedest to happen.
Ali Shigri, Pakistan Air Force pilot and Silent Drill Commander of the Fury Squadron, is on a mission to avenge his father’s suspicious death, which the government calls a suicide. Ali’s target is none other than General Zia ul-Haq, dictator of Pakistani. Enlisting a rag-tag group of conspirators, including his cologne-bathed roommate, a hash-smoking American lieutenant, and a mango-besotted crow, Ali sets his elaborate plan in motion. There’s only one problem: the line of would-be Zia assassins is longer than he could have possibly known
A Case of Exploding Mangoes is based on the plane crash that killed Mohammed Zia ul-Haq. The story is narrated by Ali Shigri, who plots the assassination to seek revenge for his father’s death. Ali is confident that although his father’s death is taken for suicide, it was ordered by General Zia. The story kicks start when Obaid, called as Baby O in the story, goes missing with an airplane. Ali was arrested and tortured because of Baby Os act. Ali with his friend and lover Baby O and Uncle Starchy’s snake venom plots Zia’s death. And Ali achieves his plan with his intelligence, dumbness and ability to kiss ass.
A Case of Exploding Mangoes is a very captivating read. You may find the book wobbly in start but I think that is because Hanif has an eye for detail. Though Hanif takes time to build up his story with details, he tends to rush in the end which leaves a feeling of incomplete story. I personally enjoyed the detail as it is sprinkled with witty one-liners making this book a dark satire on Pakistan’s military and political elite.
Hanif exudes these tongue-in-cheek one-liners one at a time throughout. Like in prologue, when Hanif talks about after-crash event, he talks about uniform’s dilemma.
But if you are in uniform, you salute. That’s all there is to it.
And at the end of prologue he leaves us with another one
You can blame our men in uniform for anything, but you can never blame them for being imaginative.
Hanif uses a lot of raw language in the story and obviously did not care to polish or work on it more. It just added to the sarcasm and tone of the book.Like when he write
God’s glory, god’s glory. For every monkey there is a houri
As we all know, Pakistan’s religious views are very strong and they hold to it. Hanif does not try to hide that. He portrays General Zia as a religious protagonist and that Zia had got several omen of his death due to his spiritual orientation. You can see how Zia strongly believes in his religion when he says
My dear general,let’s get one thing clear before we hear your protests and suggestions. There is no God but Allah. And since Allah himself says there is no God,lets abolish the word. Lets stop pretending God is Allah
You can see this bias when a Hindu soldier , Tony Singh, in Pakistan Air force Academy was drummed out. And how less are Christian’s trusted.
The story briefly touches on topics like love affair between cadets (or should I bluntly say,homosexuality) , cultural oppositions, rape cases under Muslim laws, etc. Some of these were shocking or should I say eye-openers.
If you are looking for deep insight into Pakistan’s political alliance or a very strong educated read, then this is not the book for you.
I highly recommend A Case of Exploding Mangoes for its farcical wit and impressive story-telling making it a dark satire on Pakistan’s military and politics.