Last November, during SPELT ELT Conference, I got the chance of attending a session on Fiction writing, which was conducted by Sajjad Haider.There I got to know that he himself is a novelist and have written a couple of novella series “Cuckoo” aimed for kids as well as an adult audience. After the session, he gifted us a copy of his first novella Cuckoo and the escape of the little elephant. It was the first time an author gifted me his novella copy with his autograph wow! I am just attempting to write just a review as I have not enough skills to produce an in depth critique.
Cuckoo and the escape of the little elephant was a historical fictional novella , and at reaching the very last chapter, I discovered that the little elephant was Anarkali! our very own Anarkali, memories of whom still cherish us. The only elephant of the Karachi zoological garden, well the questions arise whether incidents and events that writer associated with Anarkali is true or fabricated? was it General Messervy that named Anarkali ? was Anarkali that old ? only the study of history can reply these questions. Otherwise Author has very artfully fabricated his plot with the history that they all seem real and true. Second achievement is creating animal characters both interesting and believable, believable in a sense that they appear lifelike and interesting to not only kids but to an adult reader like me.
Author during the fiction writing session claimed that his novella is for kids but also said that kids under 12 years will find difficulty in understanding the novella as it will be difficult for them to digest symbolism. My humble question was then why author insists to call his novella of kid’s literature ? and if he is associating it with kids then it should be for kids. The Ending of the novella was quite abrupt and ambiguous, as it has not shown the Will of the elephant whether she went to India or not ?.Well being a Pakistani or a Karachite reader may guess the end as we knows well about Anarkali but for a foreign reader and especially for a kid it is difficult to comprehend.
Apart from all this, the whole reading experience of this novella was an absolute pleasure, love the arguments between Myna and Cuckoo, her tantrums ,etc, enjoyed Professor Watayo’s character.In short the novella is among one of the finest novellas of Pakistani Contemporary fiction and is a treat for literature lovers. Hoping to see more exciting novellas and novels from the writer. More power to you Sajjad!