Mention the word “chinar” and one thinks romance or a quiet introspective walk with golden hued leaves rustling beneath one’s feet. It goes without saying that a book with the title The Whispering Chinar almost certainly invokes a certain romantic aura and mystique.
But this collection of interlinked stories by debut author Ali Rohila is anything but romantic. It comes laced with bristling male privilege and machismo, going full tilt into the domain of overbearing power and entitlement. There are several intriguing women characters, but their fate in terms of what they do in life and whom they marry is very much decided by the men around them.
The Charbagh connection
The first story introduces readers to Charbagh, where the might and reputation of the patriarch Khan Mohammad Usman, reverentially referred as Khan Sahab, reigns over everyone and everything. The physical setting of Charbagh is important to the scheme of things – it is located in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, a short detour from the Grand Trunk Road that leads towards Afghanistan.
Each of the stories has a Charbagh connection, even when the setting moves beyond the physicality of the location, thereby indicating the push and pull of one’s roots and influences. Or in some cases, the…