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Book Review: Tamiz Ud Din Von Elephant: The Phoenix Rider (A Political Comment Couched in Fiction)

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Ali Abbas: Tamiz Ud Din Von Elephant: The Phoenix Rider

Published by: Zrematt Press 2013, Islamabad.

Pages: 282

Ali Abbas, the writer, has a law degree and is a practicing lawyer. The book is an incredible journey with strange creatures in a strange world, fighting for rights of strange creatures. Tamiz Ud Din, the central character, hails from a family of aristocrats, now fallen; half human and half elephant with one damaged tusk which brings his prestige even lower in the eyes of other creatures. Tamiz Ud Din is a lawyer who does not get hired owing to his fallen status. Well off, he can afford to have an indifferent practice with his not- so-well-off assistant Woo Woo.

Tamiz Ud Din is approached by an 'Appointed Representative' who has been searching for him for thousands of years- as 'the' leader. His address to Tamiz Ud Din the Von Elephant is very interesting--an excerpt is shared here, "All you need is some training and you can be the First Ruler of the United Universe. First, we will take over the Earth and the Solar System. We'll do away with the Empire and its Failed System. Then the Galaxy, then the Universe, then all the known Universes. No one will be able to stop us. We will be invincible."

Tamiz Ud Din finds himself drawn into a rebellion. There is a severe fight within him. He is torn between his loyalty to the Solar King; the Ultimate Sovereign and the rebel within who always questions injustices. The story races, it twists and turns involving werewolves, witches, coercive State agencies, mixed-breeds and pare-breeds. He is the honorable creature, fighting for the rights of other creatures. The difficult path of revolution.

This is a work of fiction. Yet it is not fiction. Every turning page is a political comment. It makes one pause and reflect. It makes one pause and question the system and injustices within our country. Wrapped in the web woven, Ali Abbas makes a powerful political comment through the characters in  his book. They make sense in our given political environment. It makes attitudes of rulers and the powerful reassert itself, making weaknesses within glaring obvious.

Then there is the Phoenix. Legend had it that only one Phoenix could exist at a time. A legendary bird, a huge being that poured out fire, daring anyone to come near so that Tamiz Ud Din could escape on its back on his many judicious adventures. The legend stated only the next Universal Monarch or the next Emperor of the Seven Worlds would ride the Phoenix, no ordinary mortal.

The glimpse of the corruption rotting the innards of the system is interestingly stated (page 250, chapter 38), "The Secretary of Finance will then send the file to the Chairman of the Revenue Board. The Chairman will repeat the process of ladder walking the file up and down the bureaucratic hierarchy and then if he thinks fit will send the file to a department called, "The Alternative Approval Board of Anything Significant or Insignificant to be Done in the Solar Empire. (AABASINDSE) The AABASINDSE are considered a group of chickens not because they lay eggs but because they sit for days on a stretch thinking them to be eggs! So they will then sit on the file for a few weeks just in order to make sure it doesn't hatch!"

The book draws a laugh from the reader on many an occasion and an 'ouch' on others. The story builds up to an unbearable climax before ending on a happy personal note for Tamiz Ud Din but not before he has the opportunity to question Aristotle, the Writer of Fate, "You are the Writer of the Fate, why didn't you just write me as a conformist?" Aristotle's reply is profound, "It isn't that simple. My contract gives me certain powers as the Writer of the Fate, yet everyone still has a degree of free will, and some have more than others. If I interfere in that too much I get grilled in the 'Annual Board Meeting' and the new Chairperson really doesn't like me."

One thing is very certain. This book is not one to be missed. It's different. It's tongue-in-cheek. Its unstoppable reading!

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled "A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.' She tweets at @yasmeen_9                                                                      

Yasmeen Ali
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Lawyer,Writer,University Professor based in Lahore Pakistan. View my blog:
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