- Paperback: 104 pages
- Publisher: Telegram Books; 1 edition (1 May 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1846590566
- ISBN-13: 978-1846590566
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 1 x 20.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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Another Gulmohar Tree Paperback – 1 May 2009
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'A lovely, strange and very moving novel. The colours and shape develop as you read while the couple's mutual understanding moves forward and upward over the years like two branches of blossom meeting at the top of the tree.' Ruth Padel 'In his splendid, dreamy Another Gulmohar Tree, Hussein gives us an indelible sense of two worlds - Karachi and London - in miniature, and the strong parable of a love story that endures over a lifetime.' Joseph Olshan 'Taut yet lush - like the flame-bright flowers of the gulmohar tree itself. At its heart it is a story of love, into which Aamer Hussein weaves all his remarkable skills of storytelling.' Kamila Shamsie 'We are lucky to have Hussein among us, telling us stories as few can, with his particular mixture of deep love, understanding, and sadness.' Amit Chaudhuri
About the Author
Aamer Hussein was born in Karachi in 1955 and moved to London in his teens. He is the author of Mirror to the Sun, This Other Salt, Turquoise and Insomnia, and the editor of Kahani. He reviews regularly for The Independent, lectures at the University of Southampton and the Institute of English Studies (University of London) and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The gulmohar tree is the name of the tree in India, Nepal and Pakistan – for Australians it is known as the flame tree (Delonix regia), and for others it is the royal Poinciana or the flamboyant tree. With large red (and yellow variety) flowers, when in bloom, the tree is strikingly beautiful.
The second, narrative chapter, Another Gulmohar Tree, describes Usman Ali Khan, a 19-year-old newly-married writer on a year’s secondment from Karachi to the foreign desk of The Daily Telegraph in London in 1950. Lydia Javashvili is a 30-year-old illustrator, the daughter of a half-Georgian émigré and a Catholic Scottish mother, awaiting finalization of her divorce. Usman and Lydia meet at a socialist seminar. There was no romance, only a promise to “keep in touch.”
Two years later, on an impulsive whim, Lydia travels by boat to Karachi to visit Usman. Usman’s wife had died, and he proposed to Lydia. At the “brief, unsentimental wedding ceremony” Lydia “in perfectly comprehensible Urdu, said, I, Rokeya, accept.” Usman couldn’t conceal his surprise at her Urdu, her new name, and “without asking” her conversion to Islam. Thus their life in Pakistan begins. Three children later, and with her at work, and Usman’s change from newspapers to writing stories, Rokeya too ventures from illustrating children’s stories to writing her own novel. This changes everything for Usman. “At night, he was again plagued by those odd dreams that had made him shake himself awake in his youth: he was climbing a ladder to the sky which ended in an empty space … and was left dangling in mid-air.”
He took to sleeping on a pallet on the veranda. “Companionship and inspiration, not dependency and duty, were what he wanted.” He leafed through Rokeya’s sketch book which she left on the veranda, “open and fluttering in the morning breeze,” and sees “her bright impressions” of their garden’s gulmohar tree in full flower. He walks barefoot towards it. It was not in flower. What is she noticing that he is not?
Gently written, it is a short novel of love that changes over time, beginning not from an abundance of passion and excitement, but gradually warming and evolving with its own memories of togetherness. Hussein explores togetherness as a couple with individual dreams and goals, and their convergence or divergence – layered with the love of two people from two different cultures, one who sacrificed all to live with the person she couldn’t forget, and the other coming to terms with the person he met with the person she’d become.