Title : A Beautiful Lie
Author : Irfan Master
Publisher : Bloomsbury
ISBN : 978-1-4088-0575-6
When I read the review of this book on SaffronTree, I knew I have to read this book very soon. Being born in a family where the bedtime stories ranged from mythology, highlighting the glorious past of India, the freedom struggle, to the first hand experience of the turmoil of partition, it was inevitable to harbour a deep desire to know more about that time and the incidents which led to the unfortunate time of division of a great nation. And to satisfy that craving, what better way than books. So whenever I got a chance, I read many books (fiction or non fiction) on freedom struggle and partition of India written by stalwarts of literature like Khushwant Singh, Amrita Pritam, Gulzar, Gurchanran Das and likes of these. This summer, while having some relaxed time in my native place, I overheard my mother narrating her personal experience of the partition to my children on their request. It was hard for them to comprehend the country as a colony of Britain, the hardships that freedom fighters underwent but most of all how one day some people were told to leave their homes all of a sudden by just drawing a line on the land where there was none.
‘A Beautiful Lie’ is a story set against the backdrop of extremely volatile situation of the months leading to the eventful midnight when India attained freedom which came with an exorbitant price of partition. The readers are introduced to deep friendship of five boys in their teens – Bilal, the protagonist, Manjeet, Chota and Saleem, all of them in their most cherubic selves enjoying their carefree school days.
What impressed me most about the story is that this is one of the few ones which bring out the special loving bond between a father and his son. Bilal’s world completely revolves around his dying father and he is determined to go to any lengths in order to shield/isolate him from the stark reality of that time if it could buy just a few more days for his father or reduce his father’s distress of seeing the country bleeding. To live this lie, Bilal finds himself in many sticky situations but his courage and grit to make even the impossible possible sees him through, even if it means involving many other people in the lie or publishing a customized newspaper for a certain pair of eyes, he does all.
The way Bilal’s character is etched, anyone will fall in love with him, a character sure to stay with readers for a long time. The parts where Bilal’s tryst with truth/lie are brought to the fore are admirable and will surely encourage the readers to introspect a little. As the story progresses, there are many strong characters along the way, who win the admiration of the readers – Bilal’s wise father – a voracious reader, the teacher Mr. Mukherjee, the Doctorji and all of Bilal’s friends.
The story is very well narrated till almost the three quarters of it but fails to carry it to the same scale till the end. The crispness that the tension of the final hour deserved is mired by the confusion created by many small incidents towards the end. But for me, the best part was a letter in the Epilogue of the story.