After reading, ‘Another Gulmohar Tree’ by Aamer Hussein, I was convinced that no one could write better about relationships than him and he yet again proved me right, as I turned the last page of ‘The Cloud Messenger’ with a lingering sadness in my heart. Aamer Hussein knows how to tug at those heart-strings and he does it with a magic so wonderfully woven that it becomes very difficult for the reader to not be under its spell.
The Cloud Messenger takes place in London – the distant rainy place that Mehran finds himself in after leaving Karachi in his teens. It is in London that most of his adult life unfolds – his loves, his work, his love for poetry and his hours spent dreaming, sending ‘cloud messages’ to other places and other lands.
Mehran does not seem to belong anywhere, no matter how hard he tries. He moves from lover to lover and from city to city, but no avail. What I loved about the book was the conflict, the deep-set insecurities that haunt us all and yet we do not admit to them – the book opened that window for me.
‘The Cloud Messenger’ is as much about the creative writing process as it is about lost love. Hussein is at his best when describing the hesitancy and doubts that assail Mehran as he tries to record certain memories from childhood. I suspect these passages may be partly autobiographical. Marvi, now Mehran’s lover, is dismissive, calling Mehran’s work ‘bourgeois indulgence that doesn’t take the reader anywhere”.
Mehran realises that he is not yet equipped to transform himself from a translator of poetry into a writer: ‘one day he would have to be a messenger to himself, carrying stories from the places of his past to his present place … to find himself a form, build a vehicle for his longing … not yet though. He isn’t ready.”
There is a lyrical quality to Hussein’s novel, and the snippets of love poetry he weaves into the narrative resonate with Mehran’s spiritual journey and his rites of passage as a writer. For me this was similar to Another Gulmohar Tree and highly entertaining without getting sentimental about love and its outcomes. There is no fixed ending to the book. It hangs without any structure – almost like love and poetry intermingling and no conclusion found. That was also one of the factors that drove me to think about the book and its characters at a deeper level. Read the book. Get transported to a different land. Of dreams and messages, and of love and its nature.