Saturday, 8 August 2020

Man Through Many Flights

Updated: April 7, 2012 11:18 am

Roopa Farooki tells a tale journeying into various quarters of life of a man. Awesomely penned by her The Flying Man is an evocative story weaving a human yarn with a subtle design of a man flying different flights in one single life time. It’s a a story paying homage to a roguishly loveable father. However roguish the central character of The Flying Man may be—a charlatan by trade, despite being better off—he is not loveable but a shallow, selfish charmer. Farooki creates a difficult, despicable anti-hero and attempts to shed light on different aspects of his personality.

The novel is picaresque with precariousness and magnetism oozing from every pore of it, Maqil ‘Sunny’ Karam (MSK), the first son from a Pakistani family, traipses blithely through life in an amazingly adventurous journey into three continents—while taking in the scores of people who fall victim to his wiles, an amoral, an unabashed devotee to the gospel of I-Me-Mine with being a great gambler. His erratic progress leaves wives and offspring, swindled friends, unpaid taxes, fortunes won and lost, and a slew of aliases—Mike in America, Mehmet in Cairo, Michel in France, Mikhail in Hong Kong and Miguel in Spain.

Farooki has done the piece of creating a despicable character and also making the reader love him. In part, this could be because she herself loves him—there is a revealing sentence in the acknowledgments that thanks her father, a gambler. Typical Londoner’s chaste English with fine, impeccable and subtle usages with immaculately juxtaposed alliterations make the reading intriguing and enjoyable, and touchingly a funny read by virtue of admirable chutzpah.

Farooki scales over the boundaries of Pakistan’s Lahore to Paris, Biarritz, London and New York with a blend and assimilation of different cultures. It is moving that his story should come to an end just as he is jotting down every fake name, identity, address, that has given this multicultural life its shape. He keeps taking any colour in the way and getting hued beyond an identifiable hue of any one in particular.

Roopa’s fifth novel, a shady entrepreneur, gambler, businessman, political activist, journalist, fornicator, thief, dilettante and sometime playwright from Pakistan. He is in Wandsworth prison where he is serving a six-month term for tax evasion. Released early on good behaviour, he will shed his life in London for another in Madrid, where he will become known as Miguel and try to wear a medallion, leaving Samira his wife and their twins to continue in the normality of his absence. Then he will go to Hong Kong and become Mikhail Lee to yet another wife who will be left behind.

Farooki experiences every single at close range. In this novel she takes her protagonist, a character inspired by her own father. In the vast mapping of his journey from birth in Lahore to his final days in a budget hotel on the south-west coast of France, also drawn a thin line between freedom and loneliness and how he lands himself in no man’s land. Maqil goes to study in 1950s New York, where he first reinvents himself as Mike, or more cryptically, MSK. After this he is seen in Egypt as Mehmet Khan, and lazily married to an ordinary woman named Carine whom he just as lazily abandons. Then he comes across Samira to regard her as a perfect match, the love of his life, dressed in an orange sari. The Flying Man speaks volumes about its main character, it suggests about Maqil, no matter how many times he takes off, how fancy free he remains, no matter how determined he is about never getting on but at last he cannot escape from growing wrinkles.

By Syed Wazid Ali

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