Tahir Mehmood’s book A Lone Long Walk is a treat to all those readers who search the themes to read about Life, Love, Nature and Call of Duty. It is a collection of short stories written over a span of six years – from 2014 to 2010. Any avid reader will enjoy reading it till the last page in one-go.
Tahir chooses majority of his plotlines that are built around soldiery, the call of duty, nature, mystery and union and separation. As such, the 23 tales (and five poems) are essentially a product of his 30 years of service in the military. The 116-pages-book published by Pakistan’s leading Ferozsons fully serves for the pleasurable-leisure-reading. Other than a product of his long service years in the military, these stories are also result of his strong reading of the human-traits and interactions with fellow humans. He himself maintains reading habit religiously and there is an impact of the observant reading too. The title of his book will appeal to readers who believe in the adage, “life is nothing but a journey to walk all alone.”
Most of the stories are written in the third-person account and, in almost all of them-the author manages well to catch hold of the reader’s attention with engaging plots. Here, he uses the Gripping Narration-a famous genre of Literature well. Tahir has made some generous use of Literary Devices i.e. personification, metaphor and imagery to enhance his Imaginative Skill and two stories can be mentioned in particular, ‘A Cloud Above the Land’ and ‘A Town Beyond Sorrow.’ These two stories stand out as excellent examples of the powerful use of Imagination. In the first, the nomadic and vagabond Cloud professes his love for the immobile Land, and the author uses their conversation to depict the complexities of love in a long-term relationship. The Cloud is free with his love and bold in his assurances whereas the Land is more cautious and circumspect, symbolising a lover who seeks the comfort of stable companionship.
In the second story ‘A Town Beyond Sorrow’, a puppeteer and his marionette takes readers through the process of human evolution. After first giving her ‘life’ as a simple finger puppet, over time the puppeteer modifies and improves upon her, adding a head and limbs that are controlled by strings. Gradually he transforms the basic little doll into a more elaborate creation that, one day it becomes able to think, voices her curiosity and demands answers. The story is a parable for the human existence, evolving as it has from simply surviving to questioning the meaning of life itself.
One story ‘Love Across High Mountains’ is appropriate to be called ‘an ode to the mountains.’ In this tale of a wandering-traveller, the writer has shared an admiration of the high raised mountains as well for the love. Here, this traveller is found amazed by the awe-inspiring mountains in particular and life of inhabitants living there. For him, observing the mountains in solitude is enjoying a bliss to one’s heart and soul. His admiration of the mountains define them as metaphor of courage, survival-spirit and glory. Reading this story, one can’t avoid to be felt
among the impressive ambience of those gigantic-mountains of the Northern Areas of Pakistan. At one point-he also praises people living among those mountains when he writes,
“The people living amidst the high peaks know the actual meaning of life, loyalty, courage, survival and glory.”
The colour of love is also spread in this tale. The traveller falls in love with a tourist-girl and then he shares some beautiful lines on love,
“Love is more of giving than asking. Love only survives in trust and truth. Love is unconditional surrender to the goodness of human hearts and souls. Love breeds a deep rooted veneration that overcomes all evil germinating from human ego and vanity. Love is not an endowment on demand, it sprouts instinctively without spoken words in a language that needs no ornamentation. It often sows the seeds of all happiness in all the seasons of the year.”
The pleasure of love as well the pain of separation both is also well narrated in ‘The Remains.’ A short story of an aspiring young soldier and a vivacious young girl- both got separated after some moments of love. In the later days, the writer has shown a powerful impact of the love when the young girl is found observing the same ritual of gazing the stars in lone nights with the thought that her soldier would be gazing them at the same moment. This-the both lovers consider their moment of union transcending any physical distance between the two.
The majority of the stories in the collection — as explained by the author in the ‘Preface’ himself features soldiers as key characters. However, almost all are very much reminiscent of the Elizabethan Tragedy which mandates that the hero must die or meet an otherwise dreadful end. Tahir invariably requires the hero to sacrifice either his life or his love, often times both, and this the hero does with a stoic salute to the call of duty, whether in ‘From Piccadilly to Gatwick’ or ‘The Remains’ or in ‘He Chose to Die.’
Nature is an embedded theme running through majority of the stories. One reads these stories and would easily believe that author is a devotee to the Nature who finds it transmitting a solace to the human soul. Reading these stories, one envisions the green lush trees, blue-clear-sky, deep night, bright morning and the magnificent mountains.
Fiction is the most appealing form of Creative Writing. It becomes more attractive when the narration is compelling plus constructive. A Lone Long Walk is steeped in reflections on life and, although the writer’s style is eloquent, it is fairly esoteric as well. It might not be incorrect to say that Tahir’s philosophical interpretation of life is similar to that of Khalil Gibran; he appears to touch upon all the realms of human existence, including romance, courage and morals, while at the same time bringing into discussion all the dilemmas and miseries we face, such as poverty, injustice and violence. Tahir shares a good range of wisdom and knowledge on life and love in the greater perspective. One will learn about life, love, call of duty and Nature from this thin book in one-siting-read.
(Asma is a teacher)