Friday, February 23, 2018

Little Maryam by Hamid Baig

“Not every man with a heart is understanding, not every man with ears is a listener, and not every man with eyes is able to see.” Imam Ali

Saadiq Haider, renowned gene therapist, comes across as a brusque, impatient man, as he shares his life story with Anne Miller, an intrepid journalist with ‘The Daily’ who is eager to interview him after his nomination for the Nobel Prize. Not for nothing is he known as the bad boy of bioengineering and cancer research, even as the world acknowledges him as a genius who had featured on the cover of Time magazine.

Luckily, Anne and he are on the same flight, and as the ride turns turbulent, Dr. Haider decides to unveil the grand canvas of his life story on the enthusiastic journalist. As he says to her, “The beginning is Maryam.”

Saadiq and Maryam share a magical relationship from the moment he meets her. Her father, the Colonel, owns the garden on which Saadiq’s father, Haji, works.  Saadiq turns into her protector, but it is not until much later that they both realise the depth of their feelings for each other. Kalpavriksha, the huge banyan tree, plays a significant role in their lives, right till the very end.

The reader understands the intensity of Saadiq’s love for Maryam when he reveals it to his father. “Have you ever felt so empty, so devoid of hope, that death would be a welcomed reprieve? That would be my life, without Maryam in it.”

Saadiq has an uncanny intelligence and the death of his mother lights a fire within him, even as he vows to become a doctor and find a cure for the cancer that had taken her life. He graduates from senior secondary school with top honours, but makes a powerful enemy of the corrupt politician, Aashish Bhiduri. He shares a stormy relationship with the latter’s son, Ritesh, which lands him in trouble later on in life.

The only thing certain about life is its uncertainty, as Saadiq discovers. Years after he and Maryam have been separated, each living their own lives, he receives a phone call that makes him rush to her side. He is now a world-renowned Nobel laureate. From then on, they live for each other, till Maryam discovers a shocking truth about her life.

Hamid Baig is a storyteller with a heart. His book moves on at its own momentum, pulling the reader in, and its ending is so unexpected that it leaves one with an ache in the heart. Journalist Anne Miller is the one person who knows the story from Saadiq’s angle and from Maryam’s, and she takes it upon herself to tell the story of her unlikely friend, the “sarcastic, quick-witted, amazingly intelligent, perpetually trenchant, handsome, and acerbically honest” Saadiq Haider, and his beautiful Maryam, a story that stays in one’s heart long after it has been read.

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